The Wild Flower Society
ACTIVITIES of the Society and REGULATIONS
These are the current activities and regulations which apply to Wild Society Members in general and those wishing to submit records in the Field Botanist’s Record Book. The content was updated in 2017.
The Wild Flower Society was founded in 1886 to encourage an appreciation of wild flowers and an interest in their accurate identification, initially among children. It soon expanded to include adults as well. Its formal aims are to:
• promote a greater knowledge of field botany among the general public and in particular among young people,
• advance education in matters relating to the conservation of wild flowers and the countryside,
• promote the conservation of the British flora.
The Society has a regional branch structure, field meetings in all parts of Britain, Ireland and the Channel Islands and communicates with members through its magazine, web site and Face book page.
A unique feature of the Wild Flower Society is its publication of the Field Botanists Record Book which members are encouraged to use to record their observations of wild flowers.
In the past members who submitted records in their diaries now called the Field Botanist’s Record Book, could eventually be admitted to a branch called Valhalla. The name comes from Norse mythology and is a huge majestic hall ruled by the god Odin.
Eventually members could aspire to join the elite band of botanists who have submitted records for very many wild plants, in the branch called Parnassus. Parnassus refers to Greek mythology and the mountain, still known as Mount Parnassus, which was known to be sacred to the Greek God Apollo. The city of Delphi was built for the Oracle part way up its slopes.
Ruins of Delphi and the temple to Apollo are still there to be seen as a tourist attraction. Moreover it has many interesting plants growing among the ruins. Mount Parnassus is one of the highest mountains in Greece and so to attain the status of botanist in Parnassus, you must have scaled the heights of field botany.
On joining the Society, adult members are allocated to regional branches. Under 18s join the Juniors Branch. Junior members turning 18 on or before 31 August move into a regional branch for the following calendar year.
Parnassus is a branch for those members who have recorded over 2000 wild plants in the British Isles and Ireland and wish to continue to record and report their plant finds. Each branch has a Branch Secretary whose role is to encourage members and help them with their field botany. Most Branch Secretaries welcome correspondence during the year and will respond to identification queries. A list of branches and secretaries appears on the Wild Flower Society’s web site and in each winter issue of the magazine.
There has been a long tradition in the Wild Flower Society of an annual Tea Party associated with the Annual General Meeting. In recent years the AGM and Tea Party have been part of an autumn Members’ Weekend with associated field meetings, a photographic competition, plant ID quiz and other activities.
An annual programme of field meetings takes place, mostly in spring and summer. Details of these are given in the magazine and on Wild Flower Society’s web site. Members may bring guests to any meeting. All persons attending meetings do so at their own risk. Members are encouraged to volunteer to lead field meetings.
The Society may also promote wild flowers and publicise its activities at public events. Any members interested in attending and helping at such an event should contact the Publicity Secretary.
The Field botanist’s record book and the Beginner’s diary
The main yearly activity for members is keeping the Field botanist’s record book (formerly known as, and still often called the WFS diary). The record book lists the names of 1000 of the commoner (and a few rarer) plants of the British Isles likely to be readily identified by amateurs and blank pages on which to enter additional taxa (species, sub-species or hybrids). The Beginner’s diary includes nearly 160 of the commonest wild flowers, giving habitat information for each species and identification tips. Members may, of course, use their record book or diary however they like but if they want their plant recording to be monitored and reported on in the Wild Flower Magazine they should follow the regulations below.
Regulations for completion of the Field Botanist’s Record Book
Every plant entered in the record book must be wild, i.e. unplanted and uncultivated, and must have been seen growing in the British Isles (including the Channel islands) by the member on the date shown in the record book. It is appreciated that it may not always be easy to tell whether an individual plant has been planted or not! Branch Secretaries should be able to offer advice.
A plant may only be entered if it appears as a numbered or lettered plant in the latest edition of Clive Stace’s New Flora of the British Isles (currently the 3rd ed., 2010) or be listed in D.H. Kent’s List of vascular plants of the British Isles (1992) with its supplements, published by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. The Wild Flower Society’s Web site has a list of British and Irish plants provided by the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. List of all plants
When first using the record book members should record only plants in flower i.e. plants must have at least one flower or floret fully developed on the date when seen and entered in the record book. Exceptions to this rule are clubmosses, quillworts, horsetails, ferns, hornworts, elms, poplars, willows, German Ivy, Chinese Mugwort and duckweeds, all of which may be counted in leaf, Drooping Saxifrage and alliums with bulbils only, and docks, rushes, sedges and grasses in fruit.
Where possible the identification of difficult species, especially any additional ones written in on the blank pages, should be confirmed by a more competent botanist whose name should be recorded. The Introduction to the record book contains further advice about using the book.
Some plants are listed in the record book as “agg.” (an aggregate or group of similar plants). An aggregate may not be recorded if an individual taxon (species, sub-species, microspecies or hybrid) within that aggregate is recorded. Similarly a species may not be recorded if one or more of its sub-species is recorded.
Record books should be sent to Branch Secretaries by 31 January. When sending in your record book, please
• count the number of taxa (species, subspecies, microspecies or hybrids) that you have recorded;
• enclose a covering letter reporting highlights of your botanical year;
• enclose a stamped addressed envelope for return of your record book. Alternatively you may send a list of your records electronically by arrangement with your Branch Secretary.
In their second year of using the record book members start again making a new list recording all the plants they see, as above.
In recognition of their increasing competence in the identification of wild plants members may, with the agreement of their Branch Secretary be granted Valhalla status. The initiative could come either from the member or Branch Secretary.
Valhalla status is accorded to members who have a good knowledge of the commoner plants of their home area. To qualify for Valhalla status members must have submitted at least two annual record books (or equivalent lists) and have demonstrated their knowledge to their Branch Secretary.
(Formerly Valhalla was a separate branch with several divisions but now members remain in their regional branch.)
On commencement of Valhalla recording, members may
• start cumulative recording, adding only newly recorded plants each year;
• carry forward all accepted earlier records;
• record plants not in flower
Those members maintaining a cumulative list of plants they have seen need only send a list of additions each year. This may be submitted as an e-mail attachment.
With the agreement of their Branch Secretary, members who are competent botanists and who don’t have time to do two annual record books or achieve large totals, might be able to record plants in flower cumulatively from the outset, with the option of seeking approval for moving on to Valhalla later. Exceptionally competent botanists may be allowed to record plants not in flower from the outset.
Recording by junior members
Junior members may keep either an annual Beginner’s diary or a Field botanist’s’s record book (or equivalent electronic list). These should be submitted by 31 January. After one or more years, at their Branch Secretary’s discretion, juniors may keep a cumulative record book. The Dent Prize, a sum of money or book token to be spent on a book or books on flowers, is awarded if merited at the end of the calendar year to the most promising junior member aged between 11 and 18 inclusive on 31 August of that year. This may be awarded based on a Field Botanist’s Record Book or other botanical project. Other small prizes may be given in this branch.
Recording in Parnassus
On recording 2000 taxa (species, sub-species or hybrids) members may join Parnassus where they need not confine their records to those detailed in Stace’s New flora or Kent’s List but may count any taxon (species, sub-species, hybrid, named variety, cultivated variety or forma) found wild in the British Isles. Members in regional branches may note such taxa for retrospective counting upon entry to Parnassus. Records of taxa not in Stace or Kent should be submitted with a literature reference, and any which are difficult to identify should be confirmed by a competent expert botanist.
Members not in Parnassus finding plants wild in the British Isles which are not in Stace’s New Flora or Kent’s List may report them to the Exotics Secretary who will also report them in the Magazine.
Seasonal Recording Activities
The Spring Week Hunt is for plants found in flower during the first seven days of March.
The Autumn Week Hunt is for plants found in flower during the last seven days of October.
The Autumn One Day Hunt is for plants in flower on any one of the last seven days of October.
The Winter Months Hunt is for plants found in flower during December, January and February.
All plants counted for these seasonal activities must be in Clive Stace’s New Flora or D.H. Kent’s List. Analysis of plant records from these hunts has contributed data towards climate change studies.
The Ten Kilometre Square Study is for recording all plants found growing wild in a 10 km square of the national grid. It is cumulative, i.e. only new plants found are added each year. All wild plants may be recorded, irrespective of whether or not they appear in Stace’s New flora or Kent’s List but as in Parnassus confirmation of identification should be provided for difficult to identify plants and a literature reference given for plants not in Stace or Kent. Some members may prefer to record in 1 x 1 km (monad) squares rather than the much larger 10 x 10 km. The same rules apply.
A photographic competition is held annually in association with the Annual General Meeting.
The Wild Flower Magazine is published four times a year, in spring, summer, autumn and winter. The magazine contains reports on field meetings and members’ record books, articles about specific plant species and places of botanical interest, means to aid identification and articles of general botanical interest. All members are encouraged to contribute articles, photos or illustrations. lf two members wish to share a copy of the magazine, one may pay a reduced subscription.
The Web site
The Wild Flower Society’s web site provides up-to-date information about the society including the programme of forthcoming field meetings, reports of past meetings and other activities, a downloadable version of the Field botanist’s record book and another illustrated with photographs. There is a complete list of British and Irish wild flowering plants and ferns with information about recent name changes. This is based on the list maintained by the Botanical Society of the British Isles and used with their permission. There are also useful links to other web sites of botanical interest. The Society may also use social media accounts such as Face book to promote its activities
The Executive Committee approves grants to other organisations and individuals to further the society’s aims. In particular these grants support the running of identification training courses, the attendance of young people at such courses, the production of publications on wild flowers and ferns and fieldwork recording wild plants. The amount available for grants is determined under the reserves policy set by the Executive Committee. Guidance about applying for grants may be sought from the General Secretary or Treasurer.
Regulations before 2017
These Regulations were agreed at the Annual General Meeting on 2nd September 2017 and supersede all earlier versions.