Salad burnet Seedlings 700

Our meadow establishment trial has no steps forward – and one back

I expect that you’ve all been getting stressed, waiting for a progress update on the meadow establishment trial that we started running last Autumn.  I had expected to be faced with the challenge of finding an interesting way to write around ‘not a lot’, but in actuality I do have something to report.  Unfortunately, however, it concerns ‘progress’ in a backwards direction. (Anyone who is curious about what this trial is trying to achieve can bone up on it here.)

We successfully sowed the seed into the trial plots last October, and I also sowed some seed into seed trays, to act as a ‘control’ germination test.  In this control test one species, Burnet saxifrage, germinated within a couple of weeks, and these seedlings have continued to grow healthily.

Over the winter, precisely nothing else happened.  As Spring evolved I had one or two exciting moments when I thought I could see tiny evidence of the other three species germinating in the seed trays, but these turned out to be false alarms / wishful thinking.  Needless to say, therefore, there was absolutely nothing to see in the plots themselves.

Whilst so much was failing to happen in the ground, one development was that The Woodland Trust (who are providing the land on which the trial is taking place) kindly agreed to design and fund an interpretative sign, to inform passing walkers what we are doing, and why.  I have provided them with text and images and am looking forward to seeing their design.

I’ve also confirmed with our contractor, Duncan Ford, which plots are to receive their first mow at the end of May.

Last weekend Richard Jefferson, the ecological brains behind the trial, came to stay, partly so that he could review the plots.  The first thing I showed him was the seed trays containing the germination trials, with the burgeoning Burnet saxifrage seedlings – and nothing else. ‘Hang on’, he said, ‘they look like Salad burnet’.  I shall not trouble you with what I said in response.  We went out to the trial plots and, sure enough, the only indications of action he could see were tiny seedlings of Burnet saxifrage / Salad burnet.  To be sure, he needed to check a seedling against a botanical identification key, which he did once back home.  This confirmed the diagnosis:

leaves smell of cucumber.

petiole (leaf stalk) solid and lacking white latex, with long hairs.

leaflets shortly stalked.

leaflets tipped with reddish teeth/projections.

As, perhaps, you can see in this photo. (Or, to be fair, perhaps not!)

Salad burnet Seedlings 700

Sod’s Law dictates, of course, that Salad burnet is irrelevant to our trial as it is not one of the species that previous work has identified as being ‘difficult’ to establish.

So it looks as if a) three of the four species we sowed in October have not germinated yet, and b) the one that has is irrelevant.  I’ve notified the seed supplier involved, and await their response with interest.  I shall report developments in a future post.

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