Wednesday 15 February 2023

Isle of Skye Quarry, Meltham

Isle of Skye Quarry, Meltham 
Friday 27th May 
A joint meeting with the Bradford Botany Group 
Leaders: Kay McDowell and Peter Burton 

 It was a windy but sunny day. We met on the side of the A635 for our visit to the old quarry, known officially as ‘Kaye Stone Pits.’ The A635 Holmfirth Road is often called the Isle of Skye road. The quarry is known as Isle of Skye quarry. It was labelled as ‘disused’ on the 1929 OS map, therefore it has been abandoned for about 100 years. The site is known by local botanists for being a botanically diverse site, but for most of the group it was their first visit. 

Some of our group were already finding interesting plants at the quarry entrance, including a flowering St Dabeoc’s heath possibly ‘Atropurpurea’ or a named cultivar ‘Irish Princess’, with striking pink-purplish flowers, a naturalised garden throw out. A wet flush running down towards the road provided a niche for common cottongrass (Eriophorum angustifolium) and bog stitchwort (Stellaria alsine). 

We walked through the entrance to the old quarry and spotted some golden-scaled male-fern (Dryopteris affinis ssp. affinis) growing on a cliff ledge, as well as a red-stemmed lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina). Then we encountered our first flowering orchid, a southern marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa). Pale lady’s-mantle (Alchemilla xanthochlora) was next, which is the most common species of native lady’s-mantle in this area. 

Our first sedge of the day were several pill sedge (Carex pilulifera). Then we looked at strange looking sedge with mixed congested male and female heads which confused us, but the leaves were green on top but glaucous below. It was later confirmed as glaucous sedge (Carex flacca). We came to the conclusion that the dry winter and early spring was producing odd looking plants. Oval sedge (Carex leporina) was found a little further on, and also after changing forget-me-not (Myosotis discolor) in flower. 

The site contains a good number of willow species, one of the first to gain our attention was eared willow (Salix aurita), followed by creeping willow (Salix repens). Then a mystery willow which turned out to be almond willow (Salix triandra). Across towards the cliff/quarry side was a group of willows including white willow (Salix alba), standing out from the grey willow (Salix cinerea) and goat willow (Salix caprea). 

Both marsh horsetail (Equisetum palustre), water horsetail (Equisetum fluviatile) were recorded in a shallow pool. Mike reminded me that one of its main identification features of water horsetail is that it has hollow stems and no branches. There was also a nice stand of spike rush (Eleocharis palustris). Common sedge (Carex nigra) was our next sedge, we looked at the stomata seen on the upper surface of the leaf seen through a hand lens. 

We found some yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) with dotted stems which we at first mistook for greater yellow-rattle (Rhinanthus angustifolius) as we thought we could see protruding stigma and possibly a horizontal lower lip but it was later confirmed as R. minor. It wasn’t greater yellow-rattle as that has larger teeth on the upper lip of the corolla and a pale inflated calyx. It seems there is quite a lot of variety within R. minor. 

We had our lunch sheltered from the wind, and spotted a small copper (Lycaena phlaeas). There were more southern marsh-orchids, and a red damselfly was also taking shelter. The next pond contained bottle sedge (Carex rostrata). I was persuaded to wade in and get a specimen to show the rest of the group as I was the only one wearing wellies. 

On the bank next to the pool we spotted another orchid species, this time it was common twayblade (Neottia ovata), growing with some typical moorland species including heather (Calluna vulgaris), crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), heath rush (Juncus squarrosus) and mat-grass (Nardus stricta). It was nice to see some small rosette leaves of common centaury (Centaurium erythraea), which was not quite in flower yet. 

Finally we saw some colourful flowering broom (Cytisus scoparius), a garden escape amongst another group of willows. Then we made our way back to our cars, feeling satisfied with our botanical finds. 

In early July botanist Michael Wilcox visited the site and found some more good records, including confused eyebright (Euphrasia confusa), confirmed Chris Metherell, the BSBI Euphrasia referee. Two others determined by Chris were arctic eyebright (E. arctica) and the hybrid between these two parents; (E. arctica x E. confusa). 

Michael also found twelve species of willow, including a purple willow (Salix purpurea ssp. lambertiana) and the hybrid between goat and eared willow (S.caprea x aurita). 

Photos kindly taken by Graham Heffernan and Michael Wilcox.

Alchemilla xanthochlora

Daboecia cantabrica

Dactylorhiza praetermissa

Salix caprea

Friday 10 February 2023

Thunderbridge Meadows, Huddersfield

Thunderbridge Meadows, Huddersfield 
Friday 29th April 
Leaders: Louise Hill & Kay McDowell 

The purpose of this field trip was to record species in a nature reserve which we hadn’t previously visited, but had been told it was a good site. Thunderbridge Meadows is a Garganey Trust managed site. 

The site is in a picturesque setting and the weather was nice and clear day for our first meeting of the year. The first find of the day was bitter-vetch (Lathyrus linifolius) which had been spotted near our parked cars next to the bridge where Birks Lane meets Thunder Bridge Lane. 

Bitter Vetch, Thunderbridge 29-04-2022

Meeting at the bridge, we decided to head for the nature reserve and walked adjacent to a beck. We examined a wood forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica) for some time, as we tried to figure out whether it was a garden escape or a native wood forget-me-not. We weren’t sure because there was also (Lamiastrum galeobdolon sp. argentatum) nearby which made us think twice about the forget-me-not’s native status. 

Soon we came across another alien species; house holly-fern (Cyrtomium falcatum) whilst looking at lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina). Then we saw some butterbur (Petasites hybridus), the flowers were quite pale and nearly white, maybe bleached by the sun, and not the usual pale pink. We looked at some silky lady’s-mantle (Alchemilla glaucescens) which had been recorded here before. Then we admired a gold scaled male fern (Dryopteris affinis ssp. affinis). 

We found a sunny bank to eat our lunch, it was pleasantly warm sitting in the sunshine. Whilst low to the ground we had a look for adder’s-tongue (Ophioglossum vulgatum) which had been recorded before but we couldn’t find it. We did find grassland species with no flowers yet as it was too early in the year, but with the help of Poland’s ‘Vegetative Key’ book we figured out the differences between burnet-saxifrage (Pimpinella saxifraga) and pepper-saxifrage (Silaum silaus). We thought it was burnet-saxifrage but there was also a chance it could have been pepper-saxifrage too. We also found common bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) and devil’s-bit scabious (Succisa pratensis). 

We walked into the meadow, a damp grassland in the bottom of the valley where marsh orchid (Dactylorhiza spp.) had previously been recorded, however, we couldn’t find any leaves. We did find another lady’s-mantle, this time hairy lady’s-mantle (A. filicaulis ssp. vestita). We also saw some fine leaves which turned out to be common cottongrass (Eriophorum angustifolium) with a trigonomous tip. More leaves were examined and confirmed as smooth-stalked sedge (Carex laevigata), another tick on the ‘specials’ list. Wood horsetail (Equisetum sylvaticum) was another nice record. 

Walking up the field, an east-facing sloping bank which was becoming scrubbed over with bramble we saw great burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis). A seepage next to a stone wall produced yellow pimpernel (Lysimachia nemorum), opposite-leaved golden-saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium), remote sedge (Carex remota), bog stitchwort (Stellaria alsine) and square-stalked St John’s-wort (Hypericum tetrapterum). 

It was 5pm so we decided to walk back to the cars. We were just saying we hadn’t seen any shield ferns when I spotted a likely candidate in a small stream, it was hard shield-fern (Polystichum aculeatum).

Wednesday 1 February 2023

Denby Delf

Denby Delf 
Friday 24th June 
Leader: Kay McDowell 

We met on the lane just to the east of Upper Denby, which at about 600ft above sea level meant we were able to admire the fine views to the north over the local countryside. It was not quite as hot as the previous couple of days, but it was still warm, sunny and humid with a slight breeze. Skylark (Alauda arvensis), white throat (Sylvia communis) and yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) were seen nearby. 

We walked along the track to the nature reserve which is managed by the Garganey Trust, and headed towards the grassland where adder’s-tongue (Ophioglossum vulgatum) had previously been found. But it was a little late in the season and the grass too long, so we decided it would be better to come back next May. 

Next we came to some oak woodland cloaking a small valley, where we spotted male-fern (Dryopteris filix-mas), then Borrer’s scaly male-fern (Dryopteris affinis ssp. borreri). Further down the hill and under some trees we noticed a large hard fern (Blechnum spicant) and then to the left of us a very large lady-fern (Athyrium filix-femina). Near to this was a lovely golden-scaled male-fern (Dryopteris affinis ssp. affinis). 

We walked through the bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) down through more trees and into an area of grassland. Here we recorded oval sedge (Carex leporina), glaucous sedge (Carex flacca), devil’s-bit scabious (Succisa pratensis), marsh thistle (Cirsium palustre), tufted hair-grass (Deschampsia cespitosa) and compact rush (Juncus conglomeratus). However, we couldn’t find evidence of the pond on the map on the information board at the entrance to the site. But we did find tormentil (Potentilla erecta), zigzag clover (Trifolium medium) and bitter-vetch (Lathyrus linifolius). 

Making our way up the hill we found a bench at the top for lunch. Then we explored part of an old quarry and found rock stonecrop (Petrosedum forsterianum) on the side of a stone wall. I spotted a flowering grass which turned out to be brown bent (Agrostis vinealis). A lovely pink-flowering rose bush caught our attention; Sherard’s downy-rose (Rosa sherardii). Next, we went through the gate into another quarry and saw a barn owl (Tyto alba) fly off. We cautiously explored the old quarry and saw a red stemmed lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina). 

Athyrium filix femina

Then went into the meadow, which is also part of the site. Lots of common spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) made a nice scene. We examined a tall fescue (Schedonorus arundinaceus) or was it meadow fescue (S.pratensis)? The auricles weren’t large enough for tall fescue, so we looked for other characters such as hairs on the auricles, the number of spikelets on the lowest flower, and whether the leaves were rough or smooth, but we still couldn’t pin it down, maybe it was an agricultural variety? 

Common spotted orchid

It is always good to have a difficult puzzle to stretch our brains, and reminded ourselves that plants don’t read books!

Readycon Dean Reservoir, Denshaw

Readycon Dean Reservoir, Denshaw 
Friday 23rd September 2022 
Leader: Kay McDowell 

We met on the side of the main road A672 near Denshaw which is very close to the vice county boundary with Lancashire. The weather was warm for the time of year, a little breezy with a chance of showers. Our group of five aimed to fill in monad SD9912 which had only one record, may be we would even find a hay-scented buckler-fern (Dryopteris aemula)? 

We walked east along footpath towards the reservoir, going off the track to interesting looking habitat. We soon spotted some ferns including some common moorland species including hard fern (Blechnum spicant), lemon-scented fern (Oreopteris limbosperma) and narrow buckler-fern (Dryopteris carthusiana). We headed further down the slope to the beck to investigate an interesting looking bit of damp habitat where we found a nice group of species hare’s-tail cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum), opposite-leaved golden-saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium) and , as well as the rounded leaves of marsh violet (Viola palustris) and sedges including common sedge (Carex nigra) common yellow-sedge (Carex demissa), star sedge (Carex echinata) and then velvet bent (Agrostis canina) with its leaves trailing down a small waterfall. 

After lunch we headed towards the spillway and spotted black spleenwort (Asplenium adiantum-nigrum), and again on the northern dam head with maidenhair spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes). We walked along the cobbles on the edge of the reservoir, the water level was very low due to the drought. Mike spotted a small unusual form of lady-fern (Athyrium filix-femina) with divided pinnules which he described as a variety called ‘Cristatum’. 

Asplenium adiantum nigum  & A trichomanes 

In the drain into the reservoir we spotted Borrer’s scaly male-fern (Dryopteris ssp. borreri) with identification features including square-ended pinnae and ‘chanterelling’ sori. In a pool at the base of a quarry rock face we recorded bog pondweed (Potamogeton polygonifolius) and round-leaved crowfoot (Ranunculus omiophyllus). 

We headed towards the Pennine Way to explore a pond marked on the map, but we couldn’t see any aquatic vegetation, so we headed back over the moor to rejoin the footpath. Passing the dam head wall someone spotted a couple of small ferns growing in the cement which turned out to be rustyback (Asplenium ceterach), which made us all very happy. It was the first record for rustyback in hectad SD91! During the trip we recorded twelve ferns.

Athyrium filix femina 'Cristatum'

Asplenium ceterach

Tuesday 25 January 2022


Old Finningley and Brooks Wood, Hurst Plantation

28th April 2021

Leaders : John Scott and Kay McDowell

 At the end of April a small group of us went to Finningley, in the far south of vice county 63 close to the Nottinghamshire border to look for small early flowering specialities such as little mouse-ear (Cerastium semidecandrum).

The site known as ‘Old Finningley’ is an old RAF airfield base which was turned into Doncaster Sheffield airport in 2005. It is possible to see planes taking off but we were there to spot plants not aeroplanes. The site is dry, open sandy soil providing conditions for small annuals worth getting on your hands and knees for.

 We soon spotted little mouse-ear in flower, followed by the unusual leaf structure of spring beauty (Claytonia perfoliata) which has leaves united in a whorl below the white flower. Nearby were the leaves of smooth cat’s-ear (Hypochaeris glabra) which has been identified as vulnerable on the Red List of vascular plants. Shepherd’s cress (Teesdalia nudicaulis) was in flower and is a member of the crucifer family. Then we found the pinkish-purple flowers of common stork’s-bill (Erodium cicutarium), then small cudweed (Logfia minima), another annual. The cudweeds Filago and Gnaphalium look very similar, but Filago has receptacle bracts mixed with the outer florets whilst there are no receptacle bracts in Gnaphalium. We also saw changing forget-me-not (Myosotis discolor), so called because the flowers are pale yellow or cream at first, becoming pink, violet or blue and bird’s-foot (Ornithopus perpusillus), which has small white flowers and is quite rare. Spring vetch (Vicia lathyroides), another member of the pea family has been recorded here before but we didn’t see it this time. A taller plant than the miniature delights was bugloss (Lycopsis arvensis), which was not yet in flower.

After lunch we drove a couple of miles to Hurst Plantation and an area called Brooks Wood which is a mixed plantation woodland on sandy soil. In the next field we noticed a farmer chain harrowing, throwing up large clouds of dust, which reminded us of the last few months of very dry weather. Hurst Plantation is a former sand quarry which has been allowed to regenerate naturally and includes some areas of open water. Amongst the woodland we recorded sanicle (Sanicula europaea) with its attractive palmately-lobed leaves, a first record for this tetrad, and hard-fern (Blechnum spicant), a rare sight in this part of South Yorkshire. Further round we recorded yellow pimpernel (Lysimachia nemorum), slender trefoil (Trifolium micranthum) and heath wood-rush (Luzula multiflorum) not quite in flower yet. In another wet area under willow scrub we saw sharp-flowered rush (Juncus acutiflorus) and pill sedge (Carex pilulifera).

 On the way back up the A1 I stopped off at Wentbridge church to see the masses of spring-sedge (Carex caryophyllea) flowering in the churchyard.

Photo credits : little mouse-ear photo by Jesse Tregale all others by Kay Woodward

Monday 13 September 2021

 Wednesday, 8th Sptember 2021. Wessenden Moor / Featherbed Moss

Leader : Kay McDowell

We met on a warm, sunny day approx 26 degrees C with a light breeze, “not unlike Tenerife” exclaimed Mike. The weather was unusual as the car park is approximately 490 feet (150m) above sea level and quite often shrouded in mist and drizzle. Our aim was to concentrate on the recovering moors after drain blocking and cessation of grazing, in particular to look at ferns and willow scrub. This involved walking along the old Pennine Way and wandering off the path to look at interesting plants and potentially interesting areas.

 We didn’t have to walk far as just near the car park were six fir clubmoss (Hupherzia selago) growing in a peaty bare patch with some bog asphodel (Narthecium ossifragum) growing nearby. The bog asphodel is a new record for tetrad SE 0506.

We examined the pale scales of narrow buckler-fern (Dryopteris carthusiana) and compared them with broad buckler-fern (Dryopteris dilitata) nearby. Mike showed us a feature of narrow buckler-fern, if you uncover the crown with your fingers digging down it is green in colour unlike broad buckler-fern which is brown.

We also recorded golden-scaled male-fern (Dryopteris affinis ssp. borreri) and looked at the ‘chanterelling’ indusia.

A small stand of grass caught our attention which appeared to be Calamagrostis, but unsure as to which one we decided to identify them using the key in ‘Hubbard’. The leaf-blade was hairy on its upper side which indicated it was purple small-reed (Calamagrostis canescens), unlike wood small-reed (Calamagrostis epigejos) which has hairless leaf-blades. The purple small-reed is a new record for this 10km square.

 In a sheltered dip we came across polypody (Polypody vulgare) and Mike showed us the annulus with a X 20 lens, seeing the orange stripes was amazing as I’d only seen these using a microscope on The Fern Guide course with Chris and Hazel Metherell in 2019.

 About five metres from the path we saw several royal fern (Osmunda regalis), including a mature plant approximately 75cm to 1m in height producing spores which was unexpected due to the height above sea level.

 Mike and I saw a strange D. borreri with congested pinnules and a bald stripe either side of the scales on the stipe which may be D. lacunosa, also known as Alpine Male-fern, which according to James Merryweather is “more frequent in higher rainfall areas of the west”. Further investigation is needed next year.

 Everyone agreed it had been a lovely day. We had met up with a couple of Saddleworth Naturalists members after not seeing them for a couple years due to the pandemic.

Additional comments from Ken Gartside : I noted a couple of interesting larvae  up there......

Broom Moth - Ceramica pisi cat/larva as spotted by Margaret and the wonderfully named True Lover's Knot - Lycophotia porphyrea caterpillar...

Not to mention the Bibio pomonae – this is another Heathland/moors specialist whilst we were up there, they were tootling about with dangly legs, same genus as St Marks fly.

A very odd looking Rhododendron

Broom Moth - Ceramicqa pisi larva

Green crown of Dryopteris carthusiana

Hupherzia selago

Possible D. lacunosa

Sporing Osmunda regalis

True Lover's Knot - Lycophotia porphyrea
A very odd looking Rhododendron

Heather Fly - Bibio pomonae

Monday 17 May 2021

Daphne mezereon Friday 9th April 2021

Finding somewhere to park was more tricky than finding the plant on my first trip of the year in to South Yorkshire with fellow botanist John Scott. We were following up a record for Mezereon (Daphne mezereon) sent in by a keen-eyed conservation volunteer working on the Trans Pennine Trail near Penistone. Unfortunately, our planned parking spot, The Blacksmiths Arms in Millhouse Green was coned off due to work on the traffic lights but John soon found a parking spot near to the walking trail. We wanted to see the plant whilst it was still in flower as we thought the pink flowers would be easy to spot amongst the undergrowth. The site wasn’t the usual habitat for Mezereon which prefers limestone soil and VC 63 records are confined to Brockadale Nature Reserve. But rail tracks typically have a limestone aggregate trackbed which can support a limestone flora.

Once we were on path it didn’t take us long to find the plant at the foot of the former railway embankment. It was quite close to a farmhouse and other garden escapes were scattered around including Wilson’s Honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida), Cotoneaster and Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris). The plant was about 1m in height and quite floriferous, the light green leaves were already out. I could detect a sweet scent from the beautiful flowers.

Kay Woodward