Studying Plants on the Doorstep by Phillip Pratt

  • My resolution in January 2019 was to learn more about our wild plants.  As part of this I decided to try and identify and list as many plant species as I could find in roughly a 15 mile radius of my home in High Wycombe.  Mostly this meant in and around High Wycombe, West Wycombe, Princes Risborough, Marlow, Bourne End and Freith. I only included plants listed in The Wild Flower Key by Francis Rose.

    Not surprisingly, the greatest number of species were found on chalk grassland sites, like Homefield Wood near Marlow and Sands Bank in Wycombe.  We are also fortunate to have some wonderful woods, both on chalk and also on more neutral and acidic soils, such as at Marlow Common.  Other habitats include the banks of the Thames and the Wye, roadside verges, hedgerows and field margins.  Churchyards are also very good, having a variety of types of stone used in memorials, and areas of grass that have not been sprayed. In more urban areas, I was surprised how many species grow in the gap between path and kerb stones, on tarmac, on bridges and walls, in car parks and on industrial estates.  Plants in urban areas often flower weeks before the same species in the countryside. Ground recently disturbed by building and road works yielded some interesting plants, including some that I did not see anywhere else.  Urban plant spotting has some added extras, such as receiving strange looks from passers-by, and the frustration of returning to a good site to find that it has been strimmed or sprayed or flattened and churned up by parked cars.

    Taking the time to look carefully, I saw plants that I had never noticed before, including Swine Cresses, Pepperworts and Pearlworts.  It was also interesting to see plants after they had finished flowering, with fruits ranging from the attractive to the surprisingly bizarre in appearance.

    Between January 2019 and December 2020 I saw the following:

    Woody perennials. Trees, Shrubs, Ivy, Honeysuckle etc.


    Grasses, Sedges and Rushes


    Mosses and Liverworts




    Other herbaceous plants, annuals, biennials and perennials






    For those of you interested in such things, the plant families that had 10 or more species were:

    Asteracea, the Daisy family


    Poaceae, the Grass family


    Fabaceae, the Pea family


    Roseaceae, the Rose family


    Scrophulariaceae, the Figwort family


    Lamiaceae, the Deadnettle family


    Brassicaceae, the Cabbage family


    Polygonaceae, the Dock family


    Apiaceae, the Carrot family


    Orchidaceae, the Orchid family


    Ranunculaceae, the Buttercup family


    Caryophyllaceae, the Campion family


    Boraginaceae, the Borage family


    There were also 47 plant families for which, so far, I have found only one species.

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