Sunday, 30 July 2017

Hackfall Wood (VC64)

Just coming out of a week of intense recording, I finally have some time to share some news. Between the trips out, the late evening pressing of dog-rose collections, and the associated data entry, time has been limited

One of my first trips was braving an unpromising rainy day to head up to Hackfall Wood.  What a site, I thought it would fill half a day until the weather cleared but I ended up filling a day pottering around the various paths and I still left feeling there was more to see. The plants were exceptional, helped by proximity to a boulder strewn section of river dripping in vegetation, with each boulder with its own mini hanging garden. However, the experience was added to by the various 18th century gothic follies hidden through the wood.

Giant Bellflower (Campanula latifolia)

Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia subsp. rotundifolia) on riverside boulder

The trip was spur of the moment, so I quite forgot this site is famous for its thriving population of Wood Fescue (Festuca altissima). So when I stumbled over my first patch, there was much head scratching until it clicked into place. A new species for me. Its here in its hundreds dripping from the rock outcrops and slopes below.

Plenty more widespread species added to the interest.

Bifid Hemp-nettle (Galeopsis bifida)

Goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea subsp. virgaurea)

Common Cow-wheat (Melampyrum pratense subsp. pratense var. pratense)

The final highlight of a great day was the biggest stand of Great Horsetail (Equisetum telmateia) I have ever seen, easily 100 x 10m in area. This is an uncommon species in VC64.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Coritanian Elm?

I can't claim to be an expert on elms. I am just old enough (wrong side of 40) to remember my father felling mature trees during the early 1980's as a result of Dutch Elm disease, but have no memory of them as a major tree in the landscape. It wasn't until I moved to Peterborough in the 2000's that I had my first experiences of mature elm trees. Huntingdonshire remains blessed with a fair number of mature elms, most of which are tall stately trees that I have interpreted to date as Small-leaved Elm (Ulmus minor subsp. minor) in the broad sense, as per current British  convention.

However, on last Sunday's trip down to Grafham Water (VC31) I found a notable concentration of a very distinct elm that did not match my understanding of the above species to date. Several mature trees are present at Perry, being notable for their short height (less than 20m), broad spreading and twisting limbs, and most strikingly dense epicormic growth over all major limbs. Of course all leaves suitable for ID were firmly out of reach. After a couple of hours digging around, I have come to the tentative conclusion that these trees seem to be a reasonable match (based on limited descriptions) of trees known previously as Coritanian Elm (Ulmus coritana). If so, it is notable to find mature survivors. Regardless of the ID they are a distinctive part of the surviving variety of mature trees in the county.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Stripey Calystegia

A quick post to start catching up on recent news. A trip to Grafham Water Lagoons (VC31) this Sunday with the HFFS turned up this attractive form of Large Bindweed (Calystegia silvatica subsp. disjuncta) with broad pink stripes on the outside of the corolla (var. zonata). The stripes are arranged outermost when the flowers are in bud, resulting in striking pink buds that contrast with the flowers. This variety only seems to have a few records in the BSBI database. Rare or overlooked?, my observations to date suggest the former.

As a postscript. Going for a walk around Woodlesford (VC63) I saw other examples of the species with very faint barely perceptible pink tinging where the stripes of var. zonata would be. The buds were white or with a patchy hint of pink. So it seems this variety is at the extreme end of a spectrum of variation in the species, and  var. disjuncta is not necessarily pristine white in all cases.