Friday, 31 July 2015

More Burdocks

Breaking news on the burdock front, just found this stunning species at Highroyds Wood, Micklefield (VC64).

Woolly Burdock (Arctium tomentosum) is a rare introduction but it may be overlooked. It is supposedly a grain casual but this does not obviously fit with this location. To my embarrassment, I had this species in Bramham Park (VC64) a few years ago but did not manage to put a name to it.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The Hanging Gardens of Fountains Abbey

Midway through my week off work I thought it about time that I did something that was not botany orientated (or at least not entirely botany, you've got to keep looking otherwise you don't find the good stuff). So I took myself off to the ruined Fountains Abbey (VC64), originally founded by the Cistercians in 1132.

The walls support a staggering amount of vegetation, fairly dripping in species that are now uncommon or that have never been common in the wider landscape. These included Small Scabious (Scabiosa columbaria), Hawkweed Oxtongue (Picris hieracioides) and Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia ssp. rotundifolia), the latter included white-flowered plants.

One of the specialities of the site is Wallflower (Erysimum cheiri), long since flowering at this point in time but otherwise living up to its name (see below). The walls also support Pink (Dianthus plumarius), again not flowering but nice to see.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

In Pursuit of Burdocks

Burdocks (Arctium spp.) have been an ongoing source of interest and intrigue, particularly Wood Burdock (Arctium nemorosum) for which my main challenge has been what does it look like and why can't I find it! I am still none the wiser, but this rather niche pursuit is answering other questions and it has driven me to attempt to capture images of all the taxa to assist ongoing study.

I have blogged about Lesser Burdock (Arctium minus ssp. pubens) previously, and Mike Wilcox has also independently come to the same conclusion i.e. it is very common, looks and behaves like a discrete species, and is the dominant species in much of Mid-West Yorkshire.

The other Lesser Burdock, they really do need different common names, (Arctium minus ssp. minus) in comparison is very much a plant of the south and is the dominant form in Huntingdonshire, where the following photo was taken. Note the small flowers, short pedicels, and the rather neat arrangement along the axis of the branch.

The final plant is also familiar to southern botanists - Greater Burdock (Arctium lappa or A. minus ssp. lappa, depending on your view). It is of scattered occurrence in Huntingdonshire where it is most common in the Fens, but only occurs as a very rare casual in Mid-West Yorkshire.

So the quest for Wood Burdock is ongoing, but distributional data on the other taxa is rapidly accruing.

Bristly Oxtongue

Bristly Oxtongue (Helminthotheca echioides) is a common wayside plant in Huntingdonshire, less so in Mid-West Yorkshire. The common plant of disturbed and semi-natural habitats is var. echioides with its dull, floppy, pale-green leaves. However, occasionally you come across a plant that looks a bit different and when it occurs as a large colony, such as at Warren Hill, Kimbolton (VC31) there can be no doubt that it is different. This is var. pratensis which is distinguished by its narrower, shiny coriaceous leaves and more obvious prickles. The stem is often red-tinged. It seems to be a short-lived casual and rarely persists for long at locations where it is out-numbered by var. echioides. In such circumstances, the two varieties seem to interbreed and produce variable offspring showing traits from both parents.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Great Staughton Churchyard

In stark contrast to most of Huntingdonshire's overly manicured churchyards, the churchyard at Great Staughton (or at least the part on the north side of the road)  is gloriously neglected and alive with flowers and insects.

The churchyard is notable for its swathes of Wild Marjoram (Origanum vulgare). This is a rare species in the county and is probably introduced at this location. This is supported by the diversity of forms present, some have the dense inflorescences, deep rose pink flowers and vividly purple bracts of the true wild form, while others have white or pale pink flowers, pale bracts and a much laxer inflorescence.

The churchyard also provided the great surprise of Des Etangs' St John's-wort (Hypericum x desetangsii nothosubsp. desetangsii) a species not previously recorded for the county. We shall have to start scrutinising our Perforate St John's-wort (Hypericum perforatum) a little more closely going forward, so check the sepals with a hand lens for small teeth.

The churchyard also had a nice colony of Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis) and a swathe of Common Knapweed (Centaurea nigra agg.). Much of it looked like a hybrid swarm, with flowers strongly resembling true C. nigra but much too small and with phyllaries variable in shape. A few plants resembled true Chalk Knapweed (Centaurea debeauxii) which is common on drier soils throughout the county, and given this species flowers slightly later this may help it stay true to type as it is still in bloom after true C. nigra has gone over.

The nearby River Kym was also looking good with abundant Arrowhead (Sagittaria sagittifolia), Yellow Waterlily (Nuphar lutea) and Common Club-rush (Schoenoplectus lacustris).

This little gem was on the bridge over the river - white flowered Hedgerow Crane's-bill (Geranium pyrenaicum f. albiflorum) which comes true from seed and had established a small colony.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Thorp Arch and Boston Spa

I had a productive day today working to increase the number of records for this VC64 hectad, in support of the Atlas 2020 project.

The top find for me had to be Pale Pink-sorrel (Oxalis incarnata), as I had not come across this before. A few plants of this introduced annual were found by the riverside path in Boston Spa.

Thorp Arch churchyard provided the yellow-flowered form of Gladdon or (rather unfairly) Stinking Iris (Iris foetidissima var. citrina)

Several locations provided Lesser Burdock (Arctium minus ssp. pubens). This subspecies is thought to be of hybrid origin and it is relatively widespread in VC64 despite the general absence of one of its putative parents -  Greater Burdock (Arctium lappa).

I then took a trip over to Thorp Arch Trading Estate where I knew there were some small relict areas of species-rich calcareous grassland. This proved well worth the trip with the grassland in peak bloom.

Some of the plants seen include Dark Mullein (Verbascum nigrum), Tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum) and Clustered Bellflower (Campanula glomerata).

Friday, 17 July 2015

Escape to the Seaside

I'm sure I am not the only VC Recorder who feels pangs of guilt when they leave their county to record elsewhere. So its always nice when work takes you away somewhere new, particularly if it involves a trip to the seaside. I was lucky to find a few hours to walk down to the beach at Drigg in Cumbria and enjoy some plant species that I don't normally see in my landlocked counties.

Sea Bindweed (Calystegia soldanella)

Sea Holly (Eryngium maritimum)

Sea Spurge (Euphorbia paralias)

The next two do occur in both of my VCs, but it is always nice to find them.

Bloody Crane's-bill (Geranium sanguineum)

Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis)

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Lady's-mantle On The Move

Mid-West Yorkshire is a relatively rich area for native Lady's-mantle species (Alchemilla spp.), although they can be fussy in their habitat preferences and many are losing ground to agricultural improvement and other habitat change. Huntingdonshire in comparison was only ever blessed with one species and it has been extinct for quite some time.

In comparison the following species is doing well, rather too well. Soft Lady's-mantle (Alchemilla mollis) is a robust species that has escaped from gardens and is rapidly spreading into semi-natural habitats. It is widespread in Mid-West Yorkshire and can be found in some surprisingly remote locations, so it evidently has good powers of dispersal. It has been less frequently recorded in Huntingdonshire but I suspect it is overlooked as the county supports fewer active botanists. These photos were taken this weekend along The Avenue at Temple Newsam (VC64).

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

St Aidan's Part II

There is much more to St Aidan's than obscure species of rush! The wetland habitats are extensive and surrounded by grasslands that are in peak bloom at the moment.

One of the most prominent species currently in flower is Chalk Knapweed (Centaurea debeauxii) which is not uncommon on the lighter soils to the east of Leeds, but the plants here undoubtedly came in with the seed mix that was sown over most of the site during restoration of the former colliery.

The grasslands also support a range of legumes, including several robust fodder forms of native British species such as Bird's-foot-trefoil (Lotus corniculatus var. sativus), Red Clover (Trifolium pratense var. sativum), and White Clover (Trifolium repens var. grandiflorum). There were also several large monospecific stands of a very large form of Spotted Medick (Medicago arabica), again probably a fodder selection. The Medick had gone to seed and was smothered in its characteristic coiled seed pods.

Another native legume present was Zigzag clover (Trifolium medium) with its large bright pink flowers and distinctive elongated leaflets.

I wasn't the only one enjoying the flowers.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Great Soft-rush at St Aidan's

I had a walk through St Aidan's (VC64) today, this is a large wetland nature reserve located on the site of a former open cast colliery. My trip luckily coincided with the Great Soft-rush (Juncus pallidus) in full bloom, allowing me to take some photos. I first found this species towards the end of last year when it was in fruit; outside the flowering season it might easily be overlooked as Common Club-rush (Schoenoplectus lacustris) as it is of comparable stature. It is a rare alien in the UK, where it is a long way from its native home of Southern Australia.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Struck Gold in Doncaster

Braved the heat of Hatfield, Doncaster (VC63) yesterday and found a colony of Hungarian Mullein (Verbascum speciosum) thriving in a scrapyard. I think it may be new to the VC.