Sunday, 13 June 2021

Chickweed-Wintergreen and Tree Heather

I popped over to Ilkley Moor this weekend to check out the large stand of Chickweed-wintergreen (Trientalis europaea) after hearing from Peter Kerr that it was looking good this year. It is a plant I last saw on an undergraduate trip to Scotland (shockingly that was nearly 30 years ago now), so long overdue a reacquaintance. It really was looking good, but more on that in a moment.

On the way to the Chickweed-wintergreen, I climbed up the Cow and Calf onto the ridge above to get my bearings. I could of course just tracked straight to my target using a GPS, but where is the fun in that? Half the pleasure is in the exploring and seeing what you find on route, and in my view it is always more satisfying to find the right spot the old fashioned way with a map and (hopefully) a good sense of direction.

So, up on the ridge a flash of gold caught my eye. This turned out to be, rather surprisingly, the golden cultivar of Tree Heather (Erica arborea 'Estrella Gold'). I can't believe that it has seeded itself all the way up here, so I assume it was planted by someone at some point in the past. Perhaps as a memorial to a loved one. It seems well established now though.

Cow and Calf

Tree Heather


Wednesday, 5 May 2021

(Slightly Less) Rare Spring-Sedge

Rare Spring Sedge (Carex ericetorum) is an early flowering and easily overlooked sedge of short, species-rich calcareous grassland, often growing with the similar looking Spring Sedge (C. caryophyllea). In Britain it is mainly confined to East Anglia (Breckland), limestones around Morecambe Bay and the ‘upland’ limestones of Westmorland and Teesdale (Walker and Stroh, 2015).

Photo by Mick Lacey (

There are a scatter of records for this species from relicts of species-rich grassland along the ridge of magnesian limestone that passes through Yorkshire to the east of Leeds. Many of these records are old and even the more recent ones have relatively poor grid references (quite hopeless really for informing searches for this little species). So it has been great that Kevin Walker has been working his way around many of these sites over the last 10 years or so, doing much to improve the records in the BSBI database. His latest find, made last year but only just reported, is from Hetchell Wood Nature Reserve where it was last seen in 1959. Kevin has searched here several times before, underlying the challenge in finding this plant when you don't know exactly where to look.

Breaking News - and adding to the above Kevin and Kay McDowell found 130 plants of 5th May at Ledsham Banks. A great count.

Monday, 3 May 2021


This is becoming an annual spring obsession now but its amazing how many you can clock up over the period March to May (none are in flower in February in Leeds, not even 'February Gold'). I only concern myself with those found in woods, on river banks, areas of waste ground, unmanaged churchyards and similar situations, deliberately steering clear of urban road verge plantings. Accordingly, I tend to find mainly the old tried and true cultivars that are tough as old boots, so largely pre-1940's or exceptionally pre-1970's. 'Oxford Gold' with a registration date of 2007 was a complete surprise this year, popping up in an obscure part of the churchyard after last years clearance of brambles.

Highlights from this years haul (with date of registration) include:

Actaea (<1919)                                            Aranjuez (1932)

                                                                                             Barrett Browning (1945)                           Bath's Flame (1913)

Beersheba (1923)                                        Dick Wilden (1962)

Carlton (1927)                                            Conspicuus (1869)

Delibes (1950)                                            Double Sir Watkin (1916)

Dutch Master (1948)                                   Emperor (1869)

Empress (1869)                                           Feu de Joie (1927)

Flower Drift (1966)                                    Flower Record (1943)

Fortissimo (1964)                                       Glenfarclas (1976)

Golden Harvest (1920)                               Gulliver (1927)

Ice Follies (1953)                                        Itzim (1982)

Jenny (1943)                                               Jetfire (1966)

Magnet (1931)                                            Maximus (1576)

Mount Hood (1938)                                    Oxford Gold (2007)

Pomona (1930)                                           Princeps (<1830)

Ptolemy (1921)                                           Sempre Avanti (1938)

Sir Watkin (<1868)                                     Spellbinder (1944)

Stella (<1869)                                             Sulphur Star (<1869)

White Lady (<1897)                                   White Lion (<1949)

Sunday, 18 April 2021

Alpine Cotula Expands its Range

Bruce Brown has been busy over the last few months processing an exceptional number of records collected by the Wharfedale Naturalist's in 2020, a very large number of which are directly attributable to Bruce and Carmen Horner. I have only just started to look in detail at what they found, but one record that immediately jumped out as interesting was a new location for Alpine Cotula (Cotula alpina).

Photo by G. Richards, Assynt Field Club website

Alpine Cotula is a native of Australia and was added to the British List as recently as 2009. It shows a strong affinity with grouse moors and is widely established in the North York Moors, and the moors of Nidderdale to the north of Pateley Bridge. Linda Robinson provides an account of the discovery of this species here, and further images can be found here.

Bruce and Carmen have now extended this species distribution to the grouse moors of Wharfedale, having found it August 2020 on Burley Moor (VC64). Time will tell how established it is in that area, one to look out for as it is probably more widely established.

Monday, 5 April 2021

Hedera algeriensis 'Ravensholst'

A trip over to Temple Newsam (VC64) yesterday for a bit of daffodil spotting (beats dandelions for me at this time of year!) gave an opportunity to check back in with this ivy in North Plantation, where a large stand has established across the woodland floor and climbing trees.

This has to be the most impressive of the naturalised ivies, the leaves are absolutely enormous. But this does leave it a little vulnerable to our up and down climate. The last time I saw it a couple of years back it had been badly hit by a late frost. But this year it was in perfect condition.

Algerian Ivy (Hedera algeriensis), usually in its smaller leaved forms, is not uncommon as a garden escape but possibly remains overlooked. Perhaps in some cases it is passed over as 'Irish Ivy' (Hedera hibernica 'Hibernica'). The variegated 'Gloire de Marengo' is particularly frequent.