There have been many times in my years of nature watching when I just knew I was a real amateur; I have no real eye for detail and I am just too impatient. Happily though I have been privileged to meet, and in some cases, to get to know quite well some real experts. These are people to whom little details are important and who will spend a considerable time looking and examining a specimen, be it an insect, a flower, a fungi, even a lichen or a moss. Experts usually have a specific interest in a subject matter that they become experts in. Me, I am a jack of all trades and a master of none!
So it was with this little plant, the smooth catsear (Hypochaeris glabra). I was leading a walk at Arne doing my bit with birds and common flowers and insects when John Wright, sadly no longer with us, suddenly stopped and stooped down while the rest of continued walking. After a little way I noticed John on his knees looking at something and I knew we should be there and not where we were so I took the group back! Sure enough, John had spotted this small, insignificant little flower and, after close examination pronounced it as smooth catsear, a nationally scarce plant and one more often associated with south eastern England and this was one of the few records ever for Dorset. That is what makes an expert.
Just to make identification even harder with this plant is that it only opens fully in bright sunshine and on the day in question it was bright but cloudy and so it was not fully open. I can only marvel at the ability of the experts.Smooth Catsear: bring me sunshine