Sunday, 14 June 2015

Surprises in Stilton, Huntingdonshire

I popped back to Stilton Church last Sunday to check on a plant first seen at the end of winter 2014 naturalised on a grave in the churchyard. At this time I thought it was Fish-plant (Houttuynia cordata) but as it had not put on much growth I was not 100% certain of the ID. This time the plant was in full growth and romping over two graves and the space between, and I was pleased to confirm the ID as it is the first record for the county.

The wall surrounding the churchyard is notable for its large population of Wall-rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria), perhaps our best location for this county rarity.

Even rarer, and nice to re-find, is the small colony of Rustyback (Asplenium ceterach). Two mature plants were found along with a small more-recently established plant. Currently this species is only known from two locations in Huntingdonshire - Stilton and Model Farm, Old Weston.

However, the best find was left till last. When photographing the ferns I caught a glimpse of red and yellow on the other side of the wall and was surprised to see a Columbine. This is Long-spurred Columbine (Aquilegia x cultorum), a name covering numerous hybrids derived in cultivation from crosses between various Columbine species. In this instance there seems little value in trying to assign the plant to a cultivar given it is self-sown and has probably not come true. A great find to end the day and new to the county.

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