On our only vice-county 63 field trip last September a small group of four of us decided to record in previously unrecorded monads on Saddleworth Moor, in particular the Wessenden Moor area.
We had just stopped for lunch in a sheltered clough when I first spotted this fern. I thought it looked a bit odd, maybe a bit thirsty and dried up. This is because this taxa has a crinkled appearance caused by the up-turned pinnules. The common name comes from the dried fronds smelling of hay.
We ate our lunch then Peter and I had another look at this strange looking fern. Then Louise had a look at the stipe scales which have a horizontal darker band at the base of the scale where it is attached to the stipe and she also pointed out the purplish lower part of the frond stalk and suggested it was Dryopteris aemula (hay-scented buckler-fern).
I was gobsmacked and couldn’t believe what I was looking at. Luckily, Louise had positively identified this species before in Western Scotland. I had seen it at Derwentwater in the Lake District whilst on The Fern Guide course in September 2019 but I certainly didn’t expect to see this fern in Yorkshire as it has an Atlantic fringe distribution and also occurs on the Weald and the Yorkshire Moors.
We took photos and a grid reference and Louise emailed Mike a member of the Yorkshire Fern Group which is part of the British Pteridological Society who hadn’t been able to come with us on our trip. He confirmed the identification a couple of days later. During his visit he also noted the plant had about 20 fronds up to 51 cm in length and was growing at an altitude of 440 metres which he thought was remarkable because its typically a lowland plant and usually grows in woodlands with well-drained acid, peaty soils.
Hay-scented buckler-fern is a new species for VC 63 and the Peak District National Park. The Vice County 63 recording group are planning to join up with Yorkshire Fern Group to monitor the hay-scented buckler-fern. Recently there has been a moorland fire close to the site of the fern which is worrying.
I hope to record more monads this year in the west of vice county 63 including more areas of Saddleworth Moor, Heptonstall Moor and the Forest of Trawdon, which haven’t been surveyed since 1995, so there could be more hay-scented buckler-ferns out there!!