Sunday 28 May saw nine enthusiastic botanists head into the Yorkshire Dales National Park. We met at Reeth before driving onto Arkengarthdale and Fothering Holme. We drove past fields of Ranunculus acris, Meadow Buttercups and Conopodium majus, pignut. The weather was warm and sunny with fluffy clouds and a warm breeze.
We walked down the lane towards the river. Much to the delight of those taking part in the Identiplant course, along the side of the lane growing in the ditches, were the very plants we were looking for – ragged Robin, Silene flos-cuculi, ground-elder, Aegopodium podagraria and hogweed, Heracleum sphondylium amongst others.
Leaving the lane we came across a delicate fern; Brittle Bladder fern, Cystopteris fragilis
The area we were entering is part of the Yoredale Series of rocks clearly visible on the valley sides. The area is influenced by limestone and other minerals. The area is known for its colourful hay meadows and linear belts of broad leaved mixed woodland.
The botanists started to name many interesting plants including those that indicated there were areas of ancient woodland throughout the site. Click here for species list.
Interesting plants included monkeyflower, Mimulus guttatus, large bittercress, cardamine amara and marsh valerian, valeriana dioica. In the meadows there was yellow rattle, Rhinanthus minor. This plant is semi parasitic and important in any hay meadow as it feeds on and weakens grasses.
This plant is part of the cabbage family with conspicuous violet anthers.
Part of the group of botanists at this stage got so carried away with recording all the plants that they failed to notice the rest of the group turn off to cross the river. Three fields and a road later they were lost and without a phone signal. Fortunately Steve realised and came to find them!
Crossing the river it was time for lunch. Here this SSSI site was to show us some real beauties. Surrounding everyone to one side were mountain pansies, Viola lutea and to the other side displays of globeflowers, Trollius europaeus
Globe flowers have 10 sepals rather than petals. The true petals are narrow and contained well inside the globe. They are self-fertilising although insects can fertilise them too but they find it hard to get inside to the nectar-secreting petals and many stamens.
Climbing the slope of the hill and flushes some of us were surprised to see wood anemone, Anemone nemorosa outside its woodland environment. It seems it will grow wherever the conditions are right and that includes steep meadow slopes that are cold and wet in winter. Some have even been found high up the mountainsides in Scotland. There were many patches of marsh lousewort, Pedicularis palustris and heath milkwort, Polygala serpyllifolia as well as different sedges which are named on the species list.
The pièce de résistance at this point was the orchids. Some of the group had never seen the varieties about to be mentioned before. The lower slopes were covered with heath spotted-orchids, Dactylorhiza maculata.
Some in the wetter parts had grown very large but there was little to suggest they were hybrids. The next orchid the group found and again some had never seen it before was the small white orchid Pseudorchis albida as shown below;
The flowers were just beginning to open but are really quite tiny. Continuing in an orchid theme as we walked back along the river there was much discussion as the brightly-coloured orchids we passed. Some thought early purple but the consensus of opinion was northern marsh orchid, Dactylorhiza purpurella.
We also saw common milkwort Polygala vulgaris which was considerably larger than the heath milkwort, Polygala serpyllifolia we had seen earlier.
Arriving back to where we had first started we drove onto our second SSSI site at Crackpot in Swaledale. No, it is not a joke but a real name of the area.
Walking down through the woods and across a wooden plank bridge by the side of a water fall we entered Len Pastures. At first glance it seemed to be just an ordinary meadow. We had been told we would find the greater butterfly-orchid so we all set off searching for what seemed to be a needle in a haystack.
We saw what appeared to be two different eyebrights, Euphrasia but as none of us had brought our carefully-made notes following the excellent training earlier in the year, we left looking at them for another time. Eventually our quest was realised and a greater butterfly-orchid, Platanthera chlorantha was found along side common twayblade, Neottia ovata. Common spotted orchids were probably growing in the damper parts lower down but unfortunately the flowers were not out.
Earlier on we had been examining greater stitchwort but in this field we found bog stitchwort, Stellaria alsine with a small and very delicate flower.
We saw so many different flowers on a very beautiful day and I am sure we would all want to thank Lesley for taking the photographs, Keith our regular recorder and Steve for organising the trip to the two SSSI sites.