Tricky and chilly in Trimdon Grange Quarry

pstranney DWT Botany Group, News, Uncategorized


It was a good turnout of 16 hardy souls on a cold and frosty January morning. Our mission today to test and develop our collective identification skills using features other than flowers. Armed with Poland and Clement 2009 (The vegetative key to the British Flora), magnifying lenses, a few plant experts and lots of enthusiasm we set off along the Raisby Way towards the limestone quarry at Trimdon Grange

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Trimdon Grange Quarry is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to conservation interest of both the exposed geological features of the quarry faces and the nationally rare magnesium limestone grassland habitat.  Most of the site is secondary magnesium limestone grassland, which has developed following the cessation of quarrying. Durham Wildlife Trust manages the reserve. Carole, a time served volunteer with DWT, gave us an introduction to the site.

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Carol leading the way

Some of us were hoping there would be a few other clues to the plants apart from vegetative parts, but true to form no flowers found apart from gorse. It was down to Vegetative ID and the collective knowledge of the group.

Getting close up to the plants

Getting close up to the plants

There was a good number of plants to be found despite it being the middle of winter. Plants here have to tolerate shallow, well drained, alkaline soils and grazing from herds of rabbits.  Conditions here favour the spread of low-growing species many with well-developed basal leaf rosettes and grasses that readily produce new shoots.

Carex flacca glaucous sedge, Sesleria caerulea blue moor-grass, Sanguisorba minor Salad burnet, Plantago media hoary plantain (left) and Plantago lanceolate ribwort plantain (right).

Carex flacca glaucous sedge, Sesleria caerulea blue moor-grass, Sanguisorba minor Salad burnet, Plantago media hoary plantain (left) and Plantago lanceolate ribwort plantain (right).

Hoary plantain has oval leaves and is very hairy. Ribwort plantain has lanceolate leaves and scarcely hairy. Both form a rosette of leaves at the base of the plant.

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Betonica officinalis Betony (centre)

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Prunella vulgaris selfheal (centre)

It proved harder than we thought to use the vegetative key.  To be able to use the key knowledge is required of the terminology and abbreviations used!  Good job we had some knowledgeable botanists about!  We keyed out a couple of plants together which was really helpful. A few members of the group have signed up for the identiplant course which I am sure will make them future Pros!

Using the vegetative key.

Using the vegetative key.

Germander speedwell tumbling over the limestone rocks.

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Veronica chamaedrys germander speedwell

And a few ferns.

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We found 62 plants in the quarry. Members were starting to turn blue with cold and in need of a circulation boost. So it was a brisk walk along the Raisby Way to the next site.

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Tallying up the number of plants found in the quarry.

We stopped to identify a few trees on the way. This one stumped us (no pun intended).  Ian tried out his tree app and came up with Prunus padus bird cherry and that was the general consensus. We shall have to return in summer to verify.

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A bit of a puzzle?

Last Stop!

Species-rich grassland

Species-rich grassland

On our way out of the site we found a number of Saxifraga × urbium, possible garden escapees.

The sun finally made an appearance as we headed back to the layby!

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Alien species alert! – London pride Saxifraga × urbium

Overall we identified a substantial 62 plants including trees and shrubs (see plant list) – an excellent effort.

Thanks to Steve for arranging and organising everything including the car share, for the knowledge and patience of the experts, Carole for introducing the site, Ian, Ruth and Jeff for photography, newly retired and constantly happy Keith for recording, Ruth Smith for this excellent report and everyone for attending.  It will get warmer on future trips!

Please click here to view the vegetative species list from this visit.

Next up: winter trees identification for beginners and improvers

Sunday 5th February, 1300 – 1600, at Low Barns

Saturday 11th February, 1000 – 1300, at Rainton Meadows