Saturday 16 February 2019

Winter Botanical Walk 2019

Winter Botanical Walk along the Sheffield & Tinsley Canal
15th February 2019

We are invited to join with Sorby Natural History Society for a walk along the Sheffield & Tinsley Canal.
Leader : Ken Balkow

Attendees : Ken Balkow, Les Coe
Apologies : Louise Hill

We were invited to attend a Sorby meeting for a winter botanical walk along the Sheffield & Tinsley canal from Attercliffe to Meadowhall. We met at the Attercliffe Supertram stop to join up with 12 Sorby members. It was a most untypical February day in which we enjoyed warm sunny weather under a clear blue sky, almost picnic weather and perfect for our planned walk.

We descended down to the canal on a path that had a steady stream of running water despite the recent dry weather. We were greeted by a song thrush giving a tree-top rendition of a spring-like song and a Magpie busily creating a nest also high in the trees.

On the way down to the canal Ken pointed out a Stinking Iris (Iris foetidissima), with a piece of the leaf being passed around to sample a beef-like aroma. We were to pass many younger specimens of this plant during the early part of the walk. Also, on this waterlogged bank, a mature Hard Shield-fern (Polystrichum lonchitis), being an unusual plant around Sheffield. It was probably from this plant that later several younger specimens were encountered along the canal footpath.

Ken was able to demonstrate the differences between three Ivy species. First, we uncounted Irish Ivy (Hedera Hibernica), then Common Ivy (H. helix) with Persian Ivy (H. colchica) in close proximity.

We were treated to a display of unusual trees along the canal.
A large specimen of Darwin’s Barberry (Berberis darwinii)
A pollarded Crack Willow (Salix fragilis)
Wayfaring tree (Viburnum lantana) with last year’s fruits still remaining
Wild Cherry (Prunus avium)
June Berry (Amelanchier lamarckii)
Coral Berry (Symphoricarpos x chenaultii), a hybrid species closely related to Snowberry
Box-leaved Honeysuckle (Lonicera pileate)
Grey Poplar (Populus x canescens), a hybrid between Aspen (P. tremula) and White Poplar (P. alba)
False Acacia (Robinia pseudoacacia) displaying nasty looking thorns
Japanese Quince (Chaenomeles japonica)
Dogwood (Cornus florida) being a native species, has red stems which can aid ID
An unusual Honeysuckle species (Lonicera sp.) was unable to be ID on site
Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris)
A yellow berried American Holly (Ilex opaca)
A Fig tree (Ficus carica) on the opposite bank

We noted plenty of Travellers Joy (Clematis vitalba) or Old Man’s Beard adorning walls along the canal.

Several water plants were pointed out, including
Reed Sweet-grass (Glyceria maxima)
Hemlock Water Dropwort (Oenanthe crocata)
Reed Mace (Typha latifolia)
Water Figwort (Scrophularia auriculata) growing on the canal wall

Some of the more unusual plants included Alter-lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) at the Marina, Ploughman’s Spikenard (Inula conyzae), the common Great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), Argentinian Vervain (Verbena bonariensis), Hairy-fruited Broom (Cytisus striatus) and Narrow-leaved Ragwort (Senecio inaequidens).

Disappointingly, we came across a large stretch of land alongside the canal that had been the site for Bee Orchids, which had been cleared for some future development, no doubt resulting in the loss of some interesting species.

The Walk was concluded at Meadowhall.

Wild Plants of the Sheffield & Tinsley Canal : photographs of plants along a waterway in South Yorkshire, by Ken Balkow is available from the author.