Wednesday 28 October 2015

Orchids of South Yorkshire

Travelling along Manvers Way in the Dearne Valley on the border of Barnsley to Rotherham my Wife Elaine and I saw the notice in the attached picture on the roundabout to RSPB Old Moor Nature Reserve. The Dactylorhiza species and hybrids have been growing in the verges along this stretch of road for a number of years but it wasn't until someone found Bee Orchids at the Bus Stop about three years ago that  Pete Wall of the Dearne Valley Improvement Area approached Rotherham MBC and as partners in the NIA they agreed not to cut the verges in that area until the Autumn. This year on our annual visit to see how things are going on we found that not only are the Marsh and Spotted Orchids thriving  but we counted over One Hundred Spikes of Bee Orchids, and probably more, from the Broomhill roundabout to the Roundabout after Old Moor, no doubt helped by the slip stream of traffic along this busy road. Also we now have a thriving colony of Lathyrus nissolia (Grass vetchling) in that area. Thanks must go to Matthew Capper Manager of RSPB Old Moor, Pete Wall of NIA and Rotherham MBC for their combined efforts in maintaining and improving this particularly rich area of the Dearne Valley. On our way to a field meeting we saw a similar notice on the A1 Roundabout at Marr which is in Doncaster MBC who are also NIA partners. No doubt the other two councils in South Yorkshire are encouraging our natural heritage in this once heavily industrialised part of Yorkshire.
Image Mel Linney

Ash Hill Farm Field Report (VC 63)

5th August 2015

Ash Hill Farm, Moss

The group held a joint visit with members of the Doncaster Naturalist's Society on the afternoon of the 5th of August at John Scott's Farm, north of Doncaster.  The farm lies on the clay soils of the former Lake Humber in the Humberhead Levels Natural Area. We started with a wander over to an old pond which supports a colony of slender tufted sedge (Carex acuta), a species which had, for many years, been overlooked as (Carex acutiformis) at this site.  We also saw colonies of water violet (Hottonia palustris) and various-leaved water starwort (Callitriche platycarpa).

Our tour then took in a couple of newer scrape ponds, south of the species-rich hay meadow created using hay from a SSSI meadow at Went Ings, near Sykehouse.  Around the gateway of the meadow, the group saw an abundance of stone parsley (Sison amomum), a species which is at the northern edge of its range here in South Yorkshire.  It appeared soon after the meadow was created.

The shallow-edged ponds near Tune Wood were created over a decade ago and now support a diversity of aquatic and emergent plants.  Some are natural colonists and others are introductions.  
Samolus valerandi
Notable species include brookweed (Samolus valerandi) and lesser water plantain (Baldellia ranunculoides) seen growing amongst the fringe of sharp-flowered, jointed, compact and soft rushes (Juncus acutiflorus, C. articulatus, C. conglomeratus and C. effusus).  The damp grassland around the margins of the pond support abundant southern marsh orchids (Dactylorhiza praetermissa) and scattered grass vetchling (Lathyrus nissolia) and the seed heads of both were seen.  The grassland also supports ragged robin (Silene flos-cuculi) and dyer's green weed (Genista tinctoria).
Baldellia ranunculoides

A smaller, shadier pond situated between the end of Tune Wood and a small copse, supported a thick mat of water violet with marsh pennywort (Hydrocotyle vulgaris) growing at the pond margin.  Nearby was a healthy colony of the locally-rare small teasel (Dipsacus pilosus), a single plant of water dock (Rumex hydrolapathum).  There was also a clump of true fox sedge (Carex vulpina), a plant grown from seed from this Red Data Book species which was recently re-discovered growing near Fishlake.  A third pond was dug in Spring 2015 to add another aquatic habitat to the area.  A small specimen of opposite-leaved pondweed (Groenlandia densa) was seen in the bare margins.  The Botany Group are welcome to make a return visit to see how this pond develops.

Louise Hill.
Images Louise Hill.

Thursday 30 July 2015


Geoffrey Wilmore (Leader) with Mel Linney and Stephen Dixon

A grand total of 28 people gathered at the Parish Council Car Park at North Anston, where we were met by our leader Geoffrey Wilmore (Vice County Recorder for VC63) who provided a brief introduction to the day. Anston Stones Wood Local Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest includes magnesium limestone grassland and scrub and is one of the best examples of limestone dominated woodland in South Yorkshire. An aim of the day was to search for and learn to identify the numerous plant species occurring at the site, particularly those which have very limited distribution in Vice County 63.

Luckily there was no sign of the rain that had been promised in the forecast as we  skirted around the cricket pitch to our first stop next to the single robust specimen of Hybrid Plum (Prunus x fruticans).  This is a hybrid between Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) and Wild Plum (Prunus domestica) and there is only one other record in South Yorkshire. We then started our walk along the natural gorge adjacent to Anston Brook and stopped to admire the wood vetch (Vicia sylvatica) scrambling up through the tall grass and lesser stitchwort (Stellaria graminea) at the side of the footpath. This was a new plant to many and the beautiful pale flowers with purple veins were very distinctive and much admired.

After a short ascent up through the wood we quickly entered an area of open calcareous grassland and limestone boulders at Little Stones. Geoffrey described some of the indicative grass species of lowland limestone grassland such as Upright Brome (Bromopsis erecta) and Tor-grass (Brachypodium rupestre). A search of the limestone boulders and steep grassy slopes produced many noteworthy plants including Common Rock Rose (Helianthemum nummularium), Salad Burnet (Poterium sanguisorba ssp.  sanguisorba ), Spring Sedge (Carex caryophyllea), Hairy Rock-cress (Arabis hirsuta) and a single Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) spike.

The area around Little Stones proved an interesting place and it took the promise of Pale St John’s Wort (Hypericum montanum) to encourage our large group of keen botanists to venture further along the footpath to search for this nationally scarce plant and limestone specialist. A single specimen was located by Geoffrey in its usual location, although we were too early in the season to see the distinctive pale yellow flowers. However the plant proved a useful specimen to revisit the identification of vegetative Hypericum species, as well as to discuss the identification of Downy Oat-grass (Avenula pubescens) and Meadow  Oat-grass (Avenula pratensis) as both species were growing nearby.

We then followed the pathway into the woodland where we were able to find Mountain Melick (Melica nutans), Fingered Sedge (Carex digitata) and a single Wayfaring Tree (Viburnum lantana) growing next to the path. The small stand of  Fingered Sedge growing on a boulder was perhaps past its best, however several of the group lingered to inspect the crimson colour on the basal sheaths.

Emerging from the darkness of the wood we stopped to have lunch on an area of species-rich grassland managed by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust after admiring the Saw-wort (Serratula tinctoria) growing on the woodland edge.   Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) and the hybrid with Southern Marsh-orchid (D. x grandis) were growing in the meadow, and one or two dead heads of Southern Marsh-orchid itself (D. praetermissa) were seen.  After lunch we searched unsuccessfully for Fly Orchid (Ophrys insectifera), which also flowers earlier, however we were able to locate thousands of Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis), together with Yellow-wort (Blackstonia perfoliata).

Heading back into the woodland and dropping downhill to the river we located the Wood Barley (Hordelymus europaeus), a rare and local species in the county. The stop gave Geoffrey the opportunity to describe the woodland at Anston Stones Wood within the context of the National Vegetation Classification (NVC) and many jotted down some useful notes on the NVC W8 woodland community (with Dog’s Mercury beneath Ash and Sycamore) before we dodged the rain showers on our walk back up to the car park.

Many thanks to Geoffrey for leading and to Mel Linney for organising a very enjoyable and educational fieldtrip and for introducing us to some of the scarcer plants found in South Yorkshire.

Stephen Dixon.

Images from Mel Linney's Collection.

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Wogden Foot Field Meeting (VC63)

Field Visit to Wogden Foot 13/6/15

                Wogden Foot Nature Reserve is a limestone oasis in the midst of heathlands near the pennine village of Dunford Bridge close to the Yorkshire Border with Derbyshire. The Limestone railway ballast, originally from Derbyshire, was dumped at Wogden Foot shortly after the line closure in 1981 when the Trans Pennine Trail was being developed.

              With overnight rain promising a soggy meeting, ten eager Botanists braved the morning showers to enjoy the wild wonder of the moors. The short walk along the trans pennine trail to the reserve revealed a good mix of plants with Alchemilla mollis (Garden Lady’s Mantle) and Crocosmia pottsii x aurea = C. xcrocosmiiflora (Crocosmia) confirming that garden escapes can turn up just about anywhere growing alongside Cirsium palustre (Marsh Thistle), Silene flos-cuculi (Ragged Robin), and Cardamine pratensis (Cuckooflower). Although Dactylorhiza fuchsii (Common Spotted Orchid), D. praetermissa (Southern Marsh Orchid) and their hybrid were found  D. purpurella (Northern Marsh Orchid), recorded on an earlier occasion, could not be located.
On the Reserve Galium saxatile (Heath Bedstraw), Origanum vulgare (Wild Marjoram), Viola hirta (Hairy Violet), Arenaria serpyllifolia (Thyme-leaved Sandwort) and Conopodium majus (Pignut) were found along with Dipsacus fullonum (Wild Teasel), Fragaria vesca (Wild Strawberry), Linum catharticum (Fairy Flax) and Malva moschata (Musk Mallow).
A good range of Sedges and Rushes were also found with Carex spicata (Spiked Sedge) prompting a later visit to check its seed for confirmation. Curiosity got the better of the sheep on the reserve as they approached the group wondering what they were up to, unless they were Botanists in disguise hoping to compare notes. The final tally of over 150 species and possibly another visit made this meeting most enjoyable and worthwhile. Thanks go to Peter &Annefie Roberts and Gordon Bristowe of Barnsley Naturalist and Scientific Society for hosting the day.
Mel Linney.

Images from Mel Linney's Collection.

Tuesday 2 June 2015

Ryecroft Glen and Ladies Spring Wood Field Meeting (VC57)

Field meeting to Ryecroft Glen and Ladies Spring Wood (Sheffield), 24 May 2015

Anemone nemerosa
On a rather cold day a group of 10 met to record plants in two 1km squares on either side of the Sheaf Valley.  Before entering the wood we noted Common Whitlowgrass (Erophila verna) in a bare area, with Bulbous Buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus), Bog Stitchwort (Stellaria alsine) and Water Avens (Geum rivale) nearby in damp grassland. The latter is sometimes grown in gardens but had the appearance of being native at this site.  The shady section of Ryecroft Glen held a good selection of woodland plants, including Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa), Red Campion (Silene dioica), Great Wood-rush (Luzula sylvatica), Moschatel (Adoxa moschatellina), Scaly Male-fern (Dryopteris affinis agg), Wood Meadow-grass (Poa nemorosa), Wood Millet (Milium effusum) and Wood Melick (Melica uniflora).  There were also some garden escapes, a few of which are long-established.  These included the silvery-leaved form of Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon argentatum), Box-leaved Honeysuckle (Lonicera pileata), Creeping Comfrey (Symphytum grandiflorum) and Skimmia japonica.  The latter was probably bird-sown from a garden though it is not mentioned in Stace’s Flora and is rarely seen in the wild.

Silene dioica
Lamiastrum galeobdolon
 Lunch was taken at Dore Station where there was a convenient amount of seating but surprisingly few railway plants, though Sticky Groundsel (Senecio viscosus) was noted at the base of a wall.  In the car park we saw Eastern Rocket (Sisymbrium orientale) and Hairy Tare (Vicia hirsuta).
Another small area of railway land yielded Common Broom         (Cytisus scoparius), Tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum), Common Vetch (Vicia sativa segetalis) and Common Figwort (Scrophularia nodosa). 
Cytisus scoparius

Symphytum orientale
Melampyrum pratense

                                                   The steep slope in Ladies Spring Wood was quite testing for some of the party, but along the path Common Cow-wheat (Melampyrum pratense) was in flower, and when we reached level ground we were able to view a colony of White Comfrey (Symphytum orientale) which has been established here for at least 45 years.  Retracing our steps gave us Three-veined Sandwort (Moehringia trinervia) and a single specimen of Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis odorata) hiding amongst Cow Parsley.  118 species were recorded in SK3181 with a similar number in SK3182, and all records have been passed to the VC57 recorder.

Ken Balkow
Images Mel Linney