Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Eastern Parsnip Reaches Leeds

Eastern Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa subsp. urens) is a recent edition to the British list and appears to be spreading rapidly. The only positive of my taxi ride home today due to the inadequacies of the British rail network is that it allowed me to spot it in a number of locations on the road network. Definitely one to watch out for elsewhere in the region, it seems to favour road margins and the central reservation. See Stace 4 for the distinguishing features (once known it can be told at a glance), and check out its current distribution here. Currently Leeds is its most northerly outpost.

Photo by Emmanuel Stratmains (www.tela-botanica.org via Wikimedia Commons)

Photo by Mathieu Menand (www.tela-botanica.org via Wikimedia Commons)

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Cicerbita at Clapham

Friday was the last day of the BSBI Summer Meeting and the rain finally returned. On route home I thought I would stop in Clapham to check out a Pirri-pirri-bur (Acaena) record that need a second look. Perhaps more on that later.

I had not visited Clapham in summer before, so I thought it a good opportunity to poke around the village for other plants of interest. Of course the Common Blue-sowthistle was in full bloom, so an easy tick for Cicerbita macrophylla subsp. uralensis. After all, all the Floras will tell you that this is our plant.



Cicerbia macrophylla subsp. uralensis

A little further on I found a new stand, but it didn't sit right. Huge plants towering over my head, stupidly large terminal lobes on the basal leaves and altogether too robust. It was also very glandular in the inflorescence which I did not remember noticing before in this species. So back again I went to the first stand for a second look, and yes half the height, more flimsy, smaller foliage and scarcely hairy in the inflorescence. Quite a different jizz. So what was it?

I was expecting one of the other naturalised species, but the leaves were wrong. So next stop with an alien is to visit the excellent Alien Plants of Belgium website, and lucky for me I was straight to an answer. Cicerbita macrophylla subsp. macrophylla. Key below.


  • Terminal lobe of basal leaves up to 40 cm long. Lowermost inflorescence branches 2-3,5 mm wide at base. Glandular hairs in inflorescence very dense, unequal in length (0,5-2 mm long). Stem up to 300(-350) cm tall === subsp. macrophylla
  • Terminal lobe of basal leaves up to 25 cm long (often less). Lowermost inflorescence branches 1-2(-2,5) mm wide at base. Glandular hairs in inflorescence often less dense, subequal in length (ca. 1 mm long). Stem up to 200 cm tall === subsp. uralensis

This seems to be the first record for Britain. Is it likely to prove more widespread? Perhaps. It is probably no coincidence that it is naturalised in Clapham, given it was the home of legendary plant hunter and collector Reginald Farrer. Still, one to look out for elsewhere regardless of received wisdom.



Cicerbita macrophylla subsp. macrophylla

Friday, 19 July 2019

New for Yorkshire

Just back from an enjoyable week at Malham for the BSBI Summer Meeting. More on this to follow soon, but also see the daily accounts on the main BSBI blog.

The first good find of the week didn't take very long. With a little time to kill on the first day, while I waited for everyone else to arrive, I had a stroll round the grounds of Malham Tarn House. Examining the rock cutting by the driveway I found what looked a very odd Caucasian-stonecrop (Sedum spurium - conscious use of the old name here as the database is yet to catch up with Stace 4). The plant looked far too delicate, and the leaves a little too petiolate. So into the pocket it went to look at later.


It didn't take too much effort later to get it to Lesser Caucasian-stonecrop (Sedum stolonifera). The obscurely* papillose leaf margins providing the final confirmation. A first for VC64 and Yorkshire. Surely a species to actively search for elsewhere, as it is probably overlooked.


*correction from original post, stolonifera is obscurely papillose i.e. small raised bumps. In comparison spurium is obviously papillose with long papillae (longer than wide). You can feel them with your finger towards the tip of the leaf.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Ivy Broomrape - Another Huntingdonshire Site

Barry Dickerson has just found a new location for Ivy Broomrape (Orobanche hederae) on Cambridge Street, St Neots. Based on the photo provided it seems well established. This is only the second record for the county, and it must surely be a deliberate introduction. This a species that is well known around Cambridge in VC29, but the nearest and only other VC31 record is from Godmanchester.


Monday, 24 June 2019

Patch Update

I've previously extolled the virtues of patch botanising. Carbon neutral, never failing to deliver something new or interesting, as well as being a chance to reconnect with 'old friends'.

So walking distance from home this weekend ... Well the big news is that Grass-poly (Lythrum hyssopifolia) is back and in bloom at Skelton Lake.


Dipping my toe into hawkweeds thanks to Vince Jones' excellent book (sadly out of print again, time for a braver print run Yorkshire Naturalists' Union?), I am happy with these two from Skelton Lake. The first is Anglian Hawkweed (Hieracium anglorum), which I first found a couple of years ago and misnamed as festinum, but I came to the conclusion that if the stellate hairs on the phyllaries were that difficult to find and required a microscope they were probably not numerous and I should probably try a different route through the key. A handsome plant when well grown. I found this species again on waste ground in Woodlesford.



Much more delicate in comparison, Southern Hawkweed (Hieracium argillaceum).




We are blessed locally with lots of Sweet-briar (Rosa rubiginosa), which fills the air with scent on a warm day.


But this beauty in Rothwell Country Park must surely be a candidate for Glaucous Dog-rose x Sweet-briar (Rosa vosagiaca x rubiginosa). The same scent, but with acicles patchily distributed and note those folded leaflets with a glaucous underside and red petioles.




Up next, two handsome garden escapes at Newsam Green. Opium Poppy (Papaver somniferum 'Laciniatum Group') and a semi-double form of Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium). Sell and Murrell published names for some of the variants of the latter species but unfortunately plants like this, while commonly encountered, fall through the gaps.



At this location and down by the canal in Woodlesford, I found these dinky little plants of Field Pansy (Viola arvensis var. derelicta). I'm giving the Sell and Murrell classification a fair go. Its tempting to suggest these are underfed plants, but it wasn't overly bothering the Garden Pansy and Heartsease cultivars nearby. This variety is notable for its very small flowers on near erect pedicels and single unbranched vertical stem, almost like a little soldier standing to attention.





Then some interesting trees near the canal in Woodlesford. First this stunning form of Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus f. erythrocarpum). Like its purple-leaved cousin the best forms always seem to be planted, but it does occur spontaneously as well. I'm not sure of the origin of this tree, but its looking good.


Then Green Alder (Alnus viridis), and self-sown Red Alder (Alnus rubra).



And then another alder, but which one? This is a shrubby species with small leaves that left me scratching my head. I eventually came down on the North American form of Grey Alder (Alnus incana subsp. rugosa) that looks nothing like the tree from this side of the 'pond'. It seems quite variable across its range, as indicated by the number of varieties in Sell and Murrell, but I found enough images online to provide confidence that my ID was likely to be correct (unless anyone knows better?).


Not a bad haul for the price of a bit of shoe leather. Lets end with the handsome bramble Rubus x pseudoidaeus which is frequent hereabouts but annoyingly not crossing the river into my VC!









Monday, 3 June 2019

Honeywort New to VC64

News just in from Howard Beck of the finding of Honeywort (Cerinthe major) on the road verge of Neps Lane at Newsholme. This species is widely grown in gardens as the cultivar 'Purpurascens'. This appears to be the first record for Mid-West Yorkshire. The following photographs were taken by Howard.





Monday, 27 May 2019

Small-flowered Buttercup New to VC64

This had to be the highlight of last weekend. Nothing better than walking my well trodden route from Woodlesford to Temple Newsam and back only to spot something completely unexpected. Surprisingly, this is the first record of Small-flowered Buttercup (Ranunculus parviflorus) for VC64, even acknowledging this is mainly a southern species. Even more surprising, based on the BSBI database (a great resource if you want a species list or distribution map), this seems to be just the second record for the whole of the historic West Riding (a vast chunk of Yorkshire) and the first since at least 1870.