1st February 2021 – Sun-lover and the Surveys

The banks on the east side of our local rail station are carpeted with the round fresh green leaves of Winter Heliotrope. A few frothy pink flower spikes have appeared in the sun, with a warm unmistakeably almond scent, despite my Rose’s guide saying they smell of vanilla.

I read that all the naturalised plants of this Mediterranean species in the UK are male, so it has spread across this bank I’m looking at by growing underground horizontal stems or rhizomes.

While I’m at the station I nose into all of the green areas around this suburban station and wonder if Network Rail would ever be persuaded to let me come and practice my field surveying skills here. However unlikely there’s no harm in asking I suppose and I’m going to be thinking a lot about field surveys this month. My lockdown botany learning is currently a mix of pavement weed identification and plant id photo flashcards. I’ve also been sharing pictures of plant assemblages with other botanists-in-learning on social media so we can practice our identification skills on each others turf, as it were. So my field identification skills are getting rusty.

I’ve just applied to take on a quadrat with the National Plant Monitoring Scheme but haven’t yet heard back whether my application was successful. The nearest available quadrat is just outside of Walton on Thames in Surrey, so an hour’s drive or the same by train but it does have the River Mole going through it. Anyway, I’m crossing my fingers.

I’ve also offered to do some research on possible plant surveying approaches for the steering group of my local nature reserve. I’m looking forward to digging into this and would welcome suggestions of things to read.


  1. Have you seen any pollinators on the winter heliotrope? Down here, weather and sun permitting, bumblebees take advantage of the flowers.

    1. Amanda Tuke · · Reply

      Not that visit but I’ve seen a bumblebee in the garden over the last 2 weeks so I’ll be keeping an eye out Philip 🙂

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