Tuesday, 21 February 2017

February Highlights (VC31)

Brian Laney has sent the first records for 2017, following a recent botanising session at Peterborough Services of all places. However, as I know from my own experience, it is such places that often turn up the goods. Brian definitely did.

Brian's best find was Knotted Clover (Trifolium striatum), spotting it in its vegetative state. He sent this photo.

He also found several rosettes of Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera), offering the promise of flowers to come.

Other good finds for this part of the county were Spotted Medick (Medicago arabica) and Knotted Hedge-parsley (Torilis nodosa).

Knotted Hedge-parsley (photo by Pancrat, Wikimedia Commons)

Friday, 17 February 2017

Snowdrop Time

Its that time of year again when everyone should find some time to stop and enjoy the snowdrops. I had convinced myself they were late this year, but looking back to last year's post I see that they are about on track. Hopefully the cooler weather this year will keep them in bloom for as long as possible.

My regular spot for snowdrops is Oulton churchyard (VC63), and I've described the species present in more detail previously. So I'll stick to the photos this time.

Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis f. nivalis)

flore pleno Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis f. pleniflorus)

Green Snowdrop (Galanthus woronowii)

Elsewhere at Mickletown this charming dwarf (note sycamore leaf for scale) Snowdrop with tiny flowers was just coming into bloom.

Back in the churchyard there were a few plants of Crocus x luteus 'Golden Yellow' (syn 'Dutch Yellow') to add some zing to the late winter scene.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Fenugreek at Aberford (VC64)

I make no claims that the following is a wild plant, at least at this location, but it caused me much confusion and stretched the brain cells. So I post now in case it is of interest to others.

I found this cover crop of Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) sown around an arable field back in the summer. Its a short plant, less than 30cm tall with distinctive leaves and rather apologetic flowers. Its the kind of plant that might persist for a few years as a casual after sowing, very much as Phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia) is increasingly doing.



Sunday, 29 January 2017

Hybrid Woundwort

Its that time of year when I need to delve back into the archives to keep the blog ticking over. Here is a nice find from back in July at Clumpcliffe (VC63). If only all hybrids were so satisfyingly intermediate.

Hybrid Woundwort (Stachys x ambigua) is the cross between Hedge Woundwort (Stachys sylvatica) and Marsh Woundwort (Stachys palustris) and can maintain itself through vegetative spread. This clone has the flowers of the former, and the foliage of the latter BUT with petioles of intermediate length. The foliage has some of the pungency of Hedge Woundwort, but this trait is much reduced,

It is a widespread hybrid (see BSBI Distribution Database) so is worth keeping an eye out for in damp places.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

A Magnificence of Mulleins (VC31)

Sarah Lambert has recently provided an exciting list of plants found on the old Conington dump (no public access), which she has been studying for a number of years. This really is a botanical hotspot and supports a variety of species more typical of the chalk, no doubt arriving with imported substrate. This includes Wild Candytuft (Iberis amara), Wall Bedstraw (Galium parisiense) and an exciting number of Mulleins (Verbascum species). Many of the latter are known no where else in the county.

See Sarah's blog for an account in her own words and from which I have borrowed a photo (below) of Hoary Mullein (Verbascum pulverulentum).

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Invasion of the False Natives

Lookalikes (species similar to and planted in mistake for native species) and false natives (infraspecific taxa of foreign origin) have slowly been growing in profile over recent years following Peter Sell bringing these to a wider audience, and then the inclusion of a number of such plants in Edition 3 of Clive Stace's New Flora of the British Isles. But there is still some way to go in understanding the true distribution of these taxa, and the long term implications of 30 years zealous tree and shrub planting as quick fix habitat mitigation and creation.

Southern Dogwood (Cornus australis or Cornus sanguinea subsp. australis) is one good case in point, with the following map showing a rash of dots across central England. This species is almost ubiquitous in recent plantings in VC31, and is increasingly being found bird sown. A similar picture is building in VC64. My personal view is that this isn't a trivial matter. Southern Dogwood seems to grow more vigorously and forms a much denser bush, so I can see it being a problem for habitat managers in the future. It is obvious why horticulturists have favoured it as it has larger flowers and leaves than the native plant, produces a neater denser bush and has brilliant autumn colour.

The characters used in keys to distinguish it from Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea) are subtle and based on the number of leaf veins and the morphology of leaf hairs, but this belies the genuine differences between the two species. The leaf hair differences, visible with a hand lens, are well illustrated on the Manual of the Alien Plants of Belgium website. Once known the two species can usually be told at a glance with very high accuracy, but it always advisable to check the hairs. More recorders need to be looking for and distinguishing the two species if we are to have a representative picture of their true range in time for the next Atlas.

The typical large and rounded foliage of Southern Dogwood

The hybrid hawthorn Crataegus x subsphaerica is the subject of a separate post which can be found here. But I just wanted to show the current map of is distribution in VC63 and 64 following targeted searches this autumn. Note the two new locations well to the north of the Leeds cluster. It will be interesting to see how many new dots are added in 2017, I suspect it is going to prove very widespread and abundant.

What is interesting about my find at Moor Monkton (VC64) is that the original planted trees appear to have produced new trees much closer to Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) than the original stock. This suggests backcrossing, and this will add to identification difficulties in the future. Similar backcrossed bushes were found bird sown at Knostrop where there is a hedgerow dominated by the hybrid and estimated to be 30 years old. Clearly the hybrid has been with us for a while and has had plenty of time for birds to spread it around, so hybrids could potentially turn up anywhere.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Where There's Muck - Part II

So the visits to sewage works have continued and, despite the lateness of the season, so have the nice finds. They really are fascinating sites and a lesson in the resilience of seeds. At one site there was a veritable fruit salad with the mandatory Fig (Ficus carica) and Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) being joined by Cape Gooseberry (Physalis peruviana), Strawberry (Fragaria ananassa) and even a well established Grape Vine (Vitis vinifera).

Life behind bars! - Fig tree making its way into the light(?) of autumnal Dewsbury (VC63)

This one has really got its roots down, that's one happy Fig - Knostrop (VC64)

Cape Gooseberry at Harrogate (VC64) - where else, Tomatos are so last year

Or how about this as an oddity, no idea what this says about the diet of people in Dewsbury!

Orange Bladder-senna (Colutea x media) - Dewsbury (VC63)

However, the best find for me of the last few weeks had to be the huge population (1000's) of Musk Stork's-bill (Erodium moschatum) at Knostrop (VC64). Nothing to do with the sewage treatment process, but it obviously liked the management regime at the site.

Photo by Dick Culbert from Wikimedia Commons