Wednesday 14 September 2022

Henbane - Refound in VC64

So this was exciting. The first record of Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) for VC64 for over 50 years, and only the forth record. It is a species that seems to be in widespread decline nationally.

It was doing rather well in a potato crop at Newthorpe, east of Leeds, with over 60 plants distributed between two field corners.

Monday 15 August 2022


The silver lining to this year's prolonged dry spell is that it is a great year for looking at the flora of the drawdown zone around Skelton Lake (VC63 and 64). Most years, summer rain raises water levels again before things have had long enough to develop to their full potential.

Of course, my first port of call was to have the annual check on Grass-poly (Lythrum hyssopifolium). I could only find one, perhaps too dry for germination, but it might have a late flush with a bit of rain.


It seems to be a really good year for Golden Dock (Rumex maritimus), and their are carpets of thousands of Mudwort (Limosella aquatica). Both present in the same corner of the lake as the Grass-poly as well as along the eastern shoreline.

Golden Dock

Carpet of Mudwort

Moving on, there was a cobble bar exposed in the river. In the absence of the usual dog walkers and swans it was worth an explore, and proved very rewarding. There were a surprising number of Tomato plants (Solanum lycopersicum), at least until considering the location downstream of the outfall for the Knostrop sewage works. Also, large numbers of Fig-leaved Goosefoot (Chenopodium ficifolium) growing with Red Goosefoot (Oxybasis rubra) and the best find Striped Goosefoot (Chenopodium strictum agg. - this would key to C. striatum using Sell & Murrell and is the prevailing form locally). Like most goosefoots, the development of the stripes and red coloration on the latter species seems a bit hit and miss in Yorkshire, I suspect we just don't get enough heat for long enough.


Striped Goosefoot

Another good find in the river was the riparian form of Pale Persicaria (Persicaria lapathifolia subsp. lapathifolia) - easily mistaken for a more exotic species if not aware of how different it looks from the typical arable field form (subsp. pallida). It comes up around Skelton Lake most years and it is always nice to meet this graceful plant again, with its drooping flower heads, spotty stems and 'knobbly knees'. Nearby there was an unusually pale form of Linseed (Linum usitatissimum), also well as a few Marsh Dock (Rumex palustris).

Pale Persicaria


Back over to the lake, there were two final treats. Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) and Grey Fat-hen (Chenopodium pseudoborbasii). The latter is a controversial Sell & Murrell segregate, but I've seen this small species a lot this year and it seems to be widespread, distinct/distinctive (more so than the widely accepted Swedish Fat-hen, Chenopodium suecicum) with its grey colouration and leaf shape, and relatively uniform in morphology. Albeit, in the latter case, its worth noting there are two forms - single stem (f. pseudoborbasii) and branching from the base (f. ramosa). The two forms often occur in isolation, but sometimes they can be found together.


Grey Fat-hen

Tuesday 19 July 2022

Knapweed Novelties

Shortly after completion of construction of the A1(M) east of Leeds in 1999, the verges and road junctions in the vicinity of Aberford and Hook Moor (VC64) became briefly notable for unusual flora. Most especially, for the knapweeds that established from the seed mixtures used to 'restore' the affected landscape. Chief amongst these was Panicled Knapweed (Centaurea rhenana), a delicate airy species from mainland Europe. Its had a name change since then and now goes by Centaurea stoebe subsp. stoebe. It only really came onto my radar when Mike Wilcox re-found it in 2019, a remarkable 20 year persistence for a species still not listed in Stace or any other British Flora. 

So finally, I made a conscious decision this weekend to pick an area of promising habitat near the motorway to see if I could find it. And I did. What was even better was that the location I chose to search is a new one. The plot has also recently thickened with Mike advising me that the true identity was likely to be a related subspecies that is widely known as an invasive species in Europe and North America. This is Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea stoebe subsp. micranthos), a species it runs down to nicely in a key I found online.

The verges of the A1(M) between Garforth and Aberford are also a dependable hunting ground for Brown Knapweed (Centaurea jacea), although it is vastly outnumbered by its hybrid with the native Slender Knapweed (Centaurea debeauxii subsp. nemoralis) i.e. Centaurea x monktonii. Based on the situation in West Yorkshire, this hybrid must be widely overlooked elsewhere within the core range of Slender Knapweed. One to look for in modified landscapes where knapweeds have been introduced in the past.

More unexpected after the above was a robust knapweed well off flowering but with well developed buds with feathery recurved phyllaries. This seems to be Centaurea oxylepis, which will have also derived from the original sowing some over 20 years ago.

The final good find was two new locations for an alien Greater Knapweed first found by Mike to the north of Aberford in 2021, which we came to the decision (based on limited online sources) was a good match for Centaurea scabiosa subsp. alpestris. This is a striking species with, when compared with the native subsp. scabiosa, very variably dissected yellow-green leaves, and larger capitula with a much more prominent (but variable, even on the same plant) black apex to the phyllaries.

Tuesday 19 April 2022

September Highlights

A few odds and ends in a post I never got round to finishing last year. Starting with these two unexpected finds by the stables at Royds Green (VC63) - Marrow (Cucurbita pepo) and Pumpkin (Cucurbita maxima).

On an uncultivated arable field at Aberford (VC64) Niger (Guizotia abyssinica). Also found by Mike Wilcox on river shingle at Apperley Bridge (VC64).

Also at Aberford, it was great to refind Wild Liquorice (Astragalus glycyphyllos). This is another rarity of the magnesian limestone that has not been reported for many years. Just a shame I missed it in flower.

Bringing some 'autumn joy' to the local bee population - Hylotelephium (Sedum) 'Herbstfreude' at Rothwell (VC63).

Arum 'Chameleon'

My serious plant hunting got off to a good start this weekend with this stunning Lords-and-Ladies cultivar emerging from a hedge in Ben Rhydding. Arum 'Chameleon' is a relatively new cultivar, so its not one that I would expect to be planted (this plant was emerging out of the church boundary hedge) or to self-seed true to form.

The consensus seems to be that this cultivar is likely to be derived from a cross between the native Arum maculatum and the non-native Arum italicum subsp. italicum (increasingly commonly naturalised). However, no one knows for sure.

Sunday 5 September 2021

Greater Musk-mallow

It was great to find Greater Musk-mallow (Malva alcea) again yesterday, still clinging on in the road verge at Newton (VC64) where I first found it in 2013. This relatively uncommon garden escape looks like it still has another month's worth of flowers yet to come. A welcome sight at a time of year when many other species have gone over.

Thursday 26 August 2021

Where there's muck,

there's goosefoots. Perhaps a bit harsh, but there is a fair chance of finding something interesting if you poke around the fringes of a muck heap. As was the case this week when I was rewarded with a strong colony of Grey Goosefoot (Chenopodium opulifolium) near the stables at Royds Green (VC63). Its one of those species that is relatively distinctive once known but very difficult to identify with confidence using a key. Handily, it is also a species that seems to have been collected widely in the past, so there are lots of good quality herbarium specimens to be found online (photographs on the other hand seem far less reliable).

Its seems to be a relatively short (to 30cm tall) and well-branched plant with small distinctively shaped leaves (with most about as wide as they are long). It was recorded widely in the past, but there are virtually no contemporary records. Lost or just overlooked?

A number of the plants had this yellow marbling to the leaves, contrasting with other species nearby. I'm not sure if its viral or a nutritional problem, but not something to otherwise pay too much regard to.