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About 20 members met for the first field outing of the year, to look for one of Ryedales special plants, the Yellow Star of Bethlehem (Gagea lutea), which grows in old woodland on limestone oddly either at the very top of a steep slope or at the bottom near the springline. [This picture was in fact taken at Kirkdale a couple of weeks earlier, as I did not manage a good shot of the ones we saw today.] Species lists are at the bottom.
We met at the phone box in Appleton, where Nan introduced Mrs Madge Allison, co-owner of the woods, who kindly allowed us to explore. She told us a little about the history of the wood and that it was now being managed in a traditional, sustainable way to benefit the ground flora and produce timber, including coppicing and production of hazel for wattle fencing at Ryedale Folk Museum. We then walked along the footpath across the fields to the top of Hell Bank Wood, down the steep valley side and then back up through Ridings Bank Wood and returned to the village via Dogcroft Hill. Nan showed us a small colony of the Gagea right at the top of the steep slope alongside the footpath, but sadly there was only one plant in flower, and that over its best. The leaves are similar to those of bluebells but finer and with a charactersitic hooded tip, and each individual bulb tends to have only one and one flowering shoot. Interestingly it was growing close to an expanse of the fascinating moschatel or town hall clock (Adoxa moschatellina) just as it does at Kirkdale near the railway viaduct.
We then proceeded down through the woods, which are a magnificent example of ancient woodland, which at some time in the past has been managed as lime and oak coppice: there are still a number of very large coppice stools of both, some still thriving although others are doing less well. However, the Allisons are now re-introducing coppicing, which as well as being good for wildlife (by opening up the canopy and allowing light in, and producing a mosaic of different habitats as the coppice poles grow) gives them timber for their wood-burning stove and a marketable product, which can be used to make hurdles, pea-rods and to stabilise river banks. I only wish more ancient woodlands were managed in this sympathetic way.
The ground flora was rich and included a good show of wild daffodils which were at their best. I suspect a return in a couple of weeks will show early purple orchids and perhaps herb paris as well. There were plenty of wood anemones in flower, with bluebells to come later, as well as spreads of wild garlic (ramsons) which was showing flower buds. We noticed how these three plants seemed to grow in their own patches with very sharply demarcated boundaries and wondered why; presumably there is something in the soil they are senstive to, perhaps moisture levels. On slightly more acidic areas we found wood sorrel as well. Both this and the anemones were sometimes quite a deep pink another puzzle, which we thought might be related to the soils acidity levels.
Lower down the slope there were different plants, including wild and barren strawberry (actually a potentilla) growing almost together, so Nan could give us a master class on the differences between them. She also showed us the differences between the two common dog violets (mainly in the flower shape and the colour and form of the spur at the back of the flower, that of the wood violet being dark purple, thinner and not notched, on a flower taller than it is wide, whereas the common dog violet has a thicker, pale creamy spur with a distinct notch and square flowers as wide as tall with more overlapping petals). One of the highlights was toothwort, a strange plant that is parasitic on tree roots, usually those of hazel. It has no need of chlorophyll or leaves, and so all one sees is rather fleshy, pinkish flower spikes with tiny flaps on the stem representing the leaves. (Thanks to Nan for the photo.)
We were lucky to have not only Nan as our expert guide but Gordon Simpson, who is not only a founder member of Ryenats but a walking encyclopaedia for plants including forest trees, galls, fungi and rusts, lichens, birds and insects. We also had our fungi recorder Rhona Sutherland, and the two of them showed us many interesting fungi such as birch polypore and the hard hoof fungus, also growing on dead birches. And last, but not least, we warmly thank Mrs Allison.
|General view across the valley|
photo by Tom Denney
|Daffodils in the wood|
photo by Tom Denney
Some of these were not in flower; I am grateful to Gordon in particular for identifying several grasses and trees for me, and confirming my ids for many of the other species not in flower I have a long way to go when it comes to nailing down plants from their leaves!
|Acer campestre||Maple, field|
|Adoxa moschatellina||Moschatel or Town hall clock|
|Aegopodium podagraria||Ground elder|
|Alchemilla xanthochlora||Ladys mantle|
|Anemone nemorosa||Wood anemone|
|Anthriscus sylvestris||Cow parsley|
|Arum maculatum||Lords and ladies|
|Betula pendula||Birch, silver|
|Circaea lutetiana||Enchanters nightshade|
|Cirsium arvense||Thistle, creeping|
|Cirsium vulgare||Thistle, spear|
|Cymbalaria muralis||Toadflax, ivy leaved|
|Deschampsia caespitosa||Hair Grass, Tufted|
|Dryopteris dilatata||Common Buckler Fern|
|Dryopteris filix-mas||Male Fern|
|Fragaria vesca||Strawberry, wild|
|Gagea lutea||Star of Bethlehem, yellow|
|Geranium robertianum||Herb robert|
|Geum rivale||Avens, water|
|Geum sp. (G. × intermedium)||Avens, hybrid [probably present]|
|Geum urbanum||Avens, wood|
|Glechoma hederacea||Ground ivy|
|Hypericum hirsutum||St Johnswort, hairy|
|Lamium purpureum||Deadnettle, red|
|Luzula campestris||Woodrush, field|
|Luzula pilosa||Woodrush, hairy|
|Luzula sylvatica||Woodrush, great|
|Malus sylvestris||Crab apple|
|Melica uniflora||Melick, Wood|
|Mercurialis perennis||Dogs mercury|
|Myosotis sylvatica||Forgetmenot, wood|
|Narcissus pseudonarcissus||Wild daffodil|
|Oxalis acetosella||Wood sorrel|
|Pinus sylvestris||Scots pine|
|Polystichum aculeatum||Hard Shield Fern|
|Potentilla reptans||Cinquefoil, creeping|
|Potentilla sterilis||Strawberry, barren|
|Primula vulgaris||Primrose, common|
|Primula x polyantha||False oxlip|
|Prunus avium||Wild cherry|
|Prunus domestica||Wild plum|
|Prunus padus||Bird cherry|
|Ranunculus auricomus||Buttercup, goldilocks|
|Ranunculus ficaria||Celandine, lesser|
|Ranunculus repens||Buttercup, creeping|
|Rosa arvensis||Rose, field|
|Rosa canina||Rose, dog|
|Rumex obtusifolius||Dock, broad leaved|
|Salix caprea||Willow, goat|
|Stellaria holostea||Stitchwort, greater|
|Stellaria media||Chickweed, common|
|Tilia cordata||Lime, small leaved|
|Trifolium repens||Clover, white|
|Ulmus glabra||Elm, wych|
|Urtica dioica||Nettle, common|
|Veronica chamaedrys||Speedwell, germander|
|Veronica officinalis||Speedwell, heath|
|Viburnum opulus||Guelder rose|
|Vicia sepium||Vetch, bush|
|Viola odorata||Violet, sweet|
|Viola reichenbachiana||Violet, early dog or Wood dog|
|Viola riviniana||Violet, common dog|
** at least some of the oaks were Q. robur, identified by Gordon from fallen leaves.
Plus Grand Silver Fir (Abies grandis) and Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii).
Calloria neglecta, the orange fungus on dead stems of nettle.
Daldinia concentrica, King Alfreds cakes on dead ash wood.
Diatrype stigma, forming black sheets on dead ash wood.
Disciotis venosa, a large cup fungus growing on the ground and it smells of chlorine.
Fomes fomentarius, a bracket like a horses hoof on dead birch trees.
Ganoderma adspersum, the artists fungus, a bracket on a dead lime stump.
Hypoxylon fuscum, brown lumps on dead hazel.
Hypoxylon multiforme, black lumps on dead birch.
Leptosphaeria acuta, the black fungus at the base of dead stems of nettle.
Piptoporus betulinus, the birch bracket.
Rhopographus filicinus, forming black lines on dead bracken stems.
Trametes versicolor, turkey tails on dead broadleaved tree logs.
Uromyces dactylidis, forming orange dots under celandine leaves.
Uromyces ficariae, forming black dots under celandine leaves
Xylaria hypoxylon, candle snuff on dead broadleaved tree logs.
Rhona added to this list the slime mould Fuligo septica.
Grimmia pulvinata on the wall near the start of the walk.
Pertusaria corallina on the wall near the start of the walk.
Hypogymnia physodes on a dead, fallen ash twig.
Xanthoria parietina on a dead, fallen ash twig.
Thanks to Tom Denney for this list: Swallow, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Yellow Hammer, Wood Pigeon, Starling, Collared Dove, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Chaffinch, Carrion Crow, Black Cap, Chiff Chaff, Nuthatch, Green Woodpecker, Wren, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Pheasant, Red-legged Partridge, Goldfinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit.
In addition to the evidence of squirrel damage recorded above we also saw a stoat and evidence of fox, roe deer and badgers, including paths and this large, obviously active sett towards the southern end of our walk.
© Ryedale Natural History Society 2009; Photos © Gill Smith, Nan Sykes, Tom Denney 2009