Friday, 19 January 2018

Whitwell Wood, Derbyshire on Sunday 8th May 2016

Leader: Graeme Coles

Whitwell Wood is semi natural ancient woodland on the limestone belt. However, a lot was clear felled in the 1930's and replanted with both conifers and broad leaved trees. On the northern side of the wood, there is a freshwater spring known as the Ginny Spring which is designated as a site of special scientific interest (SSSI). 

This was my introduction to the SYBG, and being a botanical novice I greatly appreciated the advice and guidance provided by Graeme, John Scott and Steven Dixon.

Just off the main forest track, we were led to a small group of Bird's-nest Orchid (Neottia nidus-avis), which was a first for me.

Close by was a Wild Service Tree (Sorbus torminalis), with many saplings growing around it, where we spent time examining the leaf shape for future reference.
Proceeding to the small pond we noted Broad Buckler Fern (Dryopteris dilatata), Scally Male Fern (D. pseudomas), a Cowslip/Primula hybrid, Guelder Rose (Viburnum opulus) on the way, and there found Wood False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum), Early Purple Orchid (Orchis mascula), and Sweet Violet (Viola ordorata).
Returning to the main track again, we noted Yellow Pimpernel (Lysimachia nemorum), Hairy Brome (Bromus ramosus), and then some non-flowering Common Gromwell (Lithospermum officinale), which still had last years white seeds attached.

We then wandered into the woodland finding Mountain Melick (Melica nutans), Early & Common Violets, Black Bryony (Tamus communis). Further on we spotted  the parasitic Toothwort (Lathraea squameria) at the base of a tree at the side of the path, Yellow Pimpernel (Lysimachia nemorum), Sanicle (Sanicula europaea) and Woodruff (Galium odoratum). A Hawthorn Tree was examined  as to the possibility of it being the Midland Hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata): I think we were undecided.

At the Ginny Spring we found Broad Leaf Cotton Grass (Eriophorum latifolium), Marsh Valarian (Valeriana dioica), Hairy Woodrush (Luzula pilosa), Black Bog Rush (Schoenus nigricans) and White Beak Sedge (Rhynchospora alba).

Returning along the stream-side footpath we noted HardShield Fern (Polystichum aculeatum), Wood Melick (Melica uniflora), Tufted Hair Grass (Deschampsia caespitosa), Wood Barley (Hordelymus europaeus), Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina), and then Spurge Laurel (Daphne laureola) on reaching the main forest path again.

A most enjoyable day in such knowledgeable company.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Moss and liverwort meeting in the Porter Valley, Sheffield, Sorbyshire, May 14th 2016

Despite a slight confusion about the meeting point, this field meeting was a great success with nine of us plus a dog - appropriately named Moss! Overall, we had a good mixture of learning new identification skills and natural history recording throughout the day.

We first spent the morning in the Alder Carr, upstream of the Forge Dam, where the swampy conditions challenged many of us. There, we manage to see a series of mosses and liverworts, mainly epiphytes, typical of this habitat. We looked at the various characters that enable field identification of the common species encountered.


Much time was also spent around a few willow trees that had fallen down and that were literally covered with mosses. Although most of this epiphytic moss biomass was quite species-poor, the party was delighted to find next to each other, adjacent on the same branch, Ulota calvescens and Pylaisia polyantha. These two species appear very scarce when looking at distribution maps (have a look on the NBN gateway!) but they are known to be increasing across the UK. 

During the quick lunch break overlooking the pond, Joan described to the party how much this water body has changed. She recalls the time where it was possible to hire small rowing boats and spend some time on the water. Today there is a wooded island in the middle and most of the open water is extremely shallow. 

After this stroll down memory lane, we walk up the valley towards Porter Clough and made frequent breaks to look at bryophytes. The waterfall was a highlight with several ‘nice’ species such as Hyocomium armoricum

Our final stop was in the species-rich meadow just downstream of Porter Clough, where a path leads to the Mayfield brook. A small drain or gully turned out to be absolutely covered with Pleuridium subulatum, a minuscule moss species holding its capsules tightly between its long, narrow leaves. After a bit more search along the gully, it proved also hosting a healthy population of Fossombronia sp., a small liverwort looking just like miniature lettuce. 

Many identifications are still pending microscopic examination, mainly because Ambroise lags behind with his specimens. However, without reservation we can already say that we made good progress towards recording all moss and liverwort life in the Porter Valley, with the discovery of several species new to the local area. 

In short, a fab day greatly enhanced by exceptional sunny weather and good botanical company! Many thanks for those who made the effort to come and looking forward to the next moss meeting on Saturday October 29th 2016, visiting the Burbage plantation. We are anticipating another jolly bryophyte party.

Joan Egan and Ambroise Baker

Saturday, 20 February 2016

New Year Plant Hunt Report – Hathersage, Hope Valley, North Derbyshire (Sunday 3rd January 2016)

Despite an early start and an unpromising weather forecast a total of 8 members of South Yorkshire Botany Group participated in the BSBI New Year Plant Hunt at Hathersage in the Peak District National Park on 3rd January. This is the first time that the group has joined the New Year Plant Hunt; the aim is to record as many wild species flowering as you can in up to 3 hours over the new year period.

Those that travelled from Sheffield by train noted several interesting plants in flower at Hathersage train station, including a small stand of Winter Heliotrope (Petasites fragrans); a single flowering raceme was found poking above the patch of toothed rounded leaves. Several tall plants of Bush Vetch (Vicia sepium) in full flower were a surprise as they scrambled up through the planted scrub next to the platform. Joining the rest of the group at the Memorial Hall we then set off to explore the pavements, verges and drystone walls surrounding the outdoor swimming pool and in the village centre. The list of plants grew surprisingly quickly with many common species found to be flowering, including: Annual Meadow-grass (Poa annua), Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale agg.), Common Chickweed (Stellaria media), Common Field Speedwell (Veronica persica), Wavy Bitter-cress (Cardamine flexuosa) and Wood Avens (Geum urbanum). The stunning red styles of female hazel catkins (Corylus avellana) were detected on a shrub growing close to the bowling green and many flowering plants of Ivy-leaved Toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis) were found growing in a wall close to the post office.

As the rain clouds thickened the group headed away from the village along Baulk Lane, where Yellow Corydalis (Pseudofumaria lutea) and Red Campion (Silene dioica) were noted flowering. Only a single flower of Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) was visible amongst a mass of the heart-shaped leaves by Hood Brook. A search of the short turf at the cricket pitch produced flowering Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens) and Daisy (Bellis perennis). Heading back into the village a traditional site for Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) at the Catholic church was checked but no plants were found. However a non-flowering Navel-wort (Umbellicus rupestris) plant growing in a wall at the bottom of Jagger’s Lane was an interesting and notable find.

The walk along Jagger’s Lane to Hill Foot and across to the River Derwent produced few flowering plants, however Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), Holly (Ilex aquifolium), Cock’s-foot (Dactylis glomerata) and Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) were all added to the list. Several woodland specialists were found (Wood Sorrel [Oxalis acetosella], Primrose [Primula vulgaris], Dog’s Mercury [Mercurialis perennis] and Violet species [Viola sp.]), however no flowering specimens were recorded. The rain was now heavy and set in for the day and several members of the group headed to the cafĂ© at Outside outdoor shop for a well earned cup of tea and to tally and check the records before submission to BSBI. A total of 29 species were recorded in flower; a reasonable number for the Peak District in January! Many thanks to all that attended.

Stephen Dixon
Images Mel Linney

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
                                          Image Ambroise Baker
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.