Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Not Your Average Potato

Today work took me to Ravensthorpe, Dewsbury (VC63) and the last thing I expected to find on the edge of an arable field was Chilean Potato-tree (Solanum crispum). It will have been planted at some point, but given the size of the bush it is clearly well established.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Almost The Full Set

Nick Millar has just let me know of an interesting new find. He has spotted Yellow-flowered Teasel (Dipsacus strigosus) growing on the road verge of Harrison Way, St Ives (VC31). With this find we almost have the full set of this genus, barring a couple of obscure hybrids.

Yellow-flowered teasel is similar to the native Small Teasel (Dipsacus pilosus) but can be distinguished as follows (text and photo taken from the Manual of the Alien Plants of Belgium website).

Dipsacus strigosus
Dipsacus pilosus
Corolla pale yellow
Corolla white
Anthers pale yellow or greenish (not contrasting with corolla)
Anthers dark purplish to blackish (much contrasting with corolla)
Flower head ca. 30-40 mm across
Flower head ca. 15-25 mm across
Receptacular scales distinctly longer than corolla, long attentuate and glabrous at apex
Receptacular scales hardly longer than corolla, abruptly narrowed and ciliate towards apex

Monday, 24 August 2015

Lesser Centaury at St Aidan's

Phyl Abbott sent me news the weekend before last that Lesser Centaury (Centaureum pulchellum) had been found at St Aidan's (VC64), so I couldn't resist going for a look. This a rare plant in the county with only one other known location at Fairburn Ings. Sure enough I found it, the tiniest of tiny plants edging the causeway at the spring high water mark. Just a shame the flowers were closed that day.

The drawdown zone was carpeted with the non-native Buttonweed (Cotula coronopifolia), while elsewhere the gravelly edges of tracks supported some good stands of Hare's-foot Clover (Trifolium arvense).

I can't resist also sharing a photo of the Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) butterflies that lit up one sheltered corner of the site.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Blue Holly

Working through plant material collected over the last 12 months or so, for distribution to referees and Herbaria, I came across my collection of Blue Holly (Ilex x meserveae) from Fleakingley Bridge, Swillington (VC64) where there are at least 11 bushes amongst scrub on the embankment of a drainage ditch. These bushes are undoubtedly of planted origin but as they are in a rural location distant from habitation they merit recording.

Blue Holly covers a suite of cultivars arising from crosses between our native Holly (Ilex aquifolium) and Ilex rugosa. It is typically a small, dense bushy species that rarely attains a height any greater than 8 feet. This may be the first record for Britain and Ireland. My pressed material has been sent to the Herbarium at the Natural History Museum.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

August Means Wetland Flora

As I've not posted anything for a few days, and as August is midway through the peak season for recording wetland and aquatic flora, I thought I would post something vaguely topical in the hope that it attracts a few more records or puts a face to a name for people interested in the variation present within species.

The robust form of Common Water-pepper (Persicaria hydropiper var. densiflora) is proving frequent in the margins of the River Great Ouse in Huntingdonshire, I am also finding it in similar habitats along the lower River Wharfe e.g. near Bolton Percy (VC64). It seems to cope with the more vigorous vegetation of river banks better than the less robust var. hydropiper (it would have helped to have a photo of this one also - a task for the next few weeks). It often occurs with some or all of the following relatives: Persicaria maculata, P. mitis and P. minor var. latifolia.

As the varietal name suggests it has a stouter inflorescence densely packed with flowers.

Monday, 3 August 2015

Studley Royal

Entry into Fountains Abbey (VC64) also entitles you to visit the wider Studley Royal estate. This provided additional interest to the botanical riches of the Abbey ruins. In particular, the unimproved species-rich grassland outside the Banqueting House was a feast for the eyes with its carpet of Betony (Betonica officinalis) and the promise of abundant Devil's-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) to come.

The woodland edge provided an impressive stand of the imposing Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna), as well as the additional treat of Martagon Lily (Lilium martagon). Small Teasel (Dipsacus pilosus) was also found but unfortunately it had been mown to near oblivion.

Elsewhere the interest was more subtle, with a diversity of ferns including Hard Shield-fern (Polystichum aculeatum), and a widespread colony of pink-flowered Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris f. rubriflora), which obviously comes true from seed given its abundance.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Suspect Sorrels on Stocking Fen

Before the HFFS meeting at Monks Wood, I took myself off to Stocking Fen (VC31). My primary aim was to investigate the Woodland Trust plantation of Muchwood and Mary's Wood, but ultimately this turned into a much more rewarding trip onto the "fen" down as far as Ramsey Cemetery.

Corners of some of the arable fields had been put down to wildflower grassland, no doubt under a Stewardship grant, and were carpeted with Lady's Bedstraw (Galium verum), Fodder Bird's-foot-trefoil (Lotus corniculatus var. sativus), Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) and Common Knapweed (Centaurea nigra agg.). However, what caught my eye was a colony of an enormous Sorrel. This turned out to be Garden Sorrel (Rumex acetosa ssp. ambiguus), sometimes treated as a distinct species (R. rugosus).

Garden Sorrel, as in this case, can tower to 1.5m tall, has long floppy pale green leaves and large repeatedly branched panicles. My photographic skills let me down, so here is a photo borrowed from the Manual of the Alien Plants of Belgian website.

The other good find of the day was Dwarf Fool's-parsley (Aethusa cynapium ssp. agrestris) scattered along arable margins with Treacle Mustard (Erysimum cheiranthoides) and Sharp-leaved Fluellen (Kickxia elatine).