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The New Flora of Bedfordshire

The new Flora of Bedfordshire has now been published, following years of recording by members of the Society.

Painting of Grass-of-Parnassus Grass-of-Parnassus painted by Caroline Gaye in 1844

County Floras have been and still are an important feature of Britain's botanical scene. The Flora of Bedfordshire will provide an up-to-date account of the status and distribution of the flowering plants and mosses of the county, and place their occurrence in the context of over 400 years of study of the local flora.

For Bedfordshire it follows in a long line of such works, from Charles Abbot's Flora Bedfordiensis in 1798, to James Saunder's Field Flowers of Bedfordshire of 1911 and, more recently John Dony's masterly Flora of Bedfordshire of 1953 and Bedfordshire Plant Atlas of 1976.

The authors, Chris Boon for the flowering plants, and Alan Outen for the mosses, have each spent many years studying their fields of natural history, and are not only recorders for the county, but are also involved with their respective national societies. The flora is the culmination of more than 20 years of a comprehensive programme of recording in the county by the BNHS.

There are introductory chapters on many aspects pertaining to the flora of the county including geology, soils, conservation of the countryside and changes in the flora over the last 50 years. Also given are accounts of the history of botany in Bedfordshire, and an overview of the botanical hotspots.

Significant records are listed, and the distribution maps for each of the 2,250 species that have ever been recorded in the county show their presence in areas of 2x2km. A unique feature is the indication on the maps of the distribution data from an earlier survey in the 1970s by John Dony, the distinguished former county botanist, showing clearly the changes that have taken place.

Distribution of Bee Orchid

Bee Orchid's map shows a nearly 3-fold increase in distribution since Dony's 1976 Atlas
Distribution of Sharp-leaved Fluellen

The distribution map of Sharp-leaved Fluellen shows a 30% decrease over the same period. Many such arable weeds have shown a significant decrease
Photograph of Burnt Orchid Burnt Orchid Neotinea ustulata ©Richard Revels

The flora is richly illustrated with photographs by Richard Revels FRPS, renowned wildlife photographer, and a member of the BNHS, together with stunning paintings by Caroline Gaye, from the 1830s. Photographs of the mosses are taken by the author, Alan Outen.

Society engagement

Recording for the main flora has been ongoing since 1987, led by the BNHS county recorder Chris Boon. A Flora Group was established in the 1990s to focus on the targeted recording of plants across the county, including seeking out previous locations of rarer plants. About 100 people have contributed records, many of whom are members of the BNHS, with 10 core volunteers who have carried out much of the recording. About 400,000 records have been generated enabling a production of a comprehensive atlas of the presence and distribution of plants across the county. Recording for the mosses has been ongoing from 1970 - 2010.

Contribution to conservation

The botanical records are invaluable to conservation and wildlife management. All the individual records gained have been sent to national and local biological record centres to ensure that they are available to be used in national atlases, national research projects, identification of key wildlife sites and for conservation and management.