Every plant on your own doorsteps.
In this age of tweets and curtailed messages what a delight it was this week when a 'proper' book came my way.
The Flora of Birmingham and the Black Country is a landmark publication for the natural environment in the conurbation. It provides a detailed account of the wildflowers and other plants found from Brownhills in the north to Longbridge in the south, and from Kingswinford in the west to Walmley in the east. In the pioneering spirit of the locality it is the first such book dedicated to an urban area, and is the culmination of years of dedicated recording by local botanists, ably led by Professor Ian Trueman of Wolverhampton University, Mike Poulton and Paul Reade The book gives the lie to those who persist in their 'nature blindness' where urban areas are concerned. It shows that nearly half - 43 per cent to be precise - of the 1,500 or so plants found in Britain are growing right here among our houses, parks and shopping centres.
The first third of the 488 pages are taken up with information about walks, why different species are found where they are, our local geology and climate, gardens, and local history. It is clearly shown how nature both reflects and tells our story.
Some plants, such as Ploughman's Spikenard, remind us of past agriculture, others thrive because of canals, railways and roads, such as Danish Scurvygrass, a salt loving coastal plant found on many central reservations, and Buddleia, a lover of railway land. Like a lot of local people many of our plants and wildflowers have arrived here with roots in other parts of the world.
Native plants of course are everywhere too, some denoting ancient woodlands or the remains of heathland or old grassland. Different species are increasing or decreasing because of habitat loss, climate change or natural fluctuations. There is even a trifid - Trifid Burmarigold - which likes the edges of canals. Other names to conjure with include Sticky Mouse-ear, Wurzell's Mugwort, and Scarlet Pimpernel.
The Flora will be published on July 12.
Peter Shirley is a nature conservationist with interests from neighbourhood to global ecological issues