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by Gill Smith
I am not quite sure where to begin my Botany report for the year. I had hoped that all 1 would have to do was collate interesting reports from other people, but alas! I have only had a few. Can I encourage all members to send in their observations of anything unusual, or the continued presence of old favourites on old-established sites, or whatever. My personal highlight of the year was finding the yellow Star of Bethlehem growing wild for the first time – not just in Ryedale but ever, anywhere. It was smaller and daintier than I had expected, a real beauty. I shall try to visit it annually and hope its site remains undisturbed.
There were several exciting records, including the discovery of Corn Buttercup which is very rare indeed; Autumn Meadow Saffron; Field Mouse-ear; Carline Thistle; Treacle Mustard and Wood Vetch (which has reappeared after several years, close to but not actually on its previous site).
It is always a pleasure to find new plants, especially if there’s been a bit of detective work involved, recognising the right habitat for instance. I had this experience in the summer when walking in the woods on Caukleys Bank. I had been looking for the spindle trees which I knew grew there, and I suddenly felt the conditions were right for baneberry (or Herb Christopher) and sure enough within about 20 yards of where I was standing I found a healthy plant. Eureka! Baneberry is a curious member of the buttercup family, only growing on limestone, usually under light shade with ash trees where the soil is very thin. It has a curious distribution, only occurring along a narrow band of latitude across northern England. It is therefore an uncommon plant, and we are lucky in Ryedale that this belt runs across our limestone hills; it is relatively common in undisturbed woodland along the Howardian Hills south of the Vale of Pickering, but you need to know what you are looking for and look hard! I also found Field Mouse-ear, with Nan’s help, in a favourite field nearby.
We found a good range of plants on our summer field trips: it really is amazing how much you can see and identify in one day if you have knowledgeable friends there – I learned a tremendous amount which I shall try to remember for next year’s outings....
Can 1 finish by reminding all members that I am always happy to come and see wild flowers in the area, and try to identify them if necessary – and give any advice I can, even if I end up having to refer back to Nan! One of the benefits of a society like ours is the sharing of knowledge and experience, and it’s a much more enjoyable way of learning than just reading books. For those with internet access our website address is:
There are lists of all the wildlife we identified on the summer trips, and a good number of pictures of Ryedale’s wild flowers.
Gill also keeps a record of the weather and the appearance of leaves, flowers etc. Her notes, together with Jack’s records of the arrival and departure of migrant birds and comments like Andrew’s on butterflies, may, as year follows year, provide evidence of climate change. 1 found an article which seemed so relevant that I have summarised it elsewhere – we might call this the “Phenology Issue”! [Ed]
It was a good year for plants, with a wet spring allowing everything to grow tall and lush. The summer was not particularly hot. Most wild flowers put on a good show, but I did not see as many wild orchids this year. Here are my year’s notes:
Dog’s mercury showing 24 Jan, along with lots of snowdrops & aconites. Snowdrops good, growing tall and lush, at best late Feb. Crocuses first showing 31st Jan, well out mid-Feb. Good show. Celandine (in Gilling) 18/2/199 Chinodoxa first showing 27th Feb, also scattered Hawthorn showing green.
Primroses out along roadside Brandsby side of Gilling 2nd March. Daffodils just out in village 11th March, almost fully out 14th. Coltsfoot 15th March. 18th March – found the Yellow Star of Bethlehem in Kirkdale. On the 19th to Oldstead to find Stinking Hellebore – frequent in restricted area, as was Spurge Laurel. Also found both Golden Saxifrages growing together. 24th March Green Hellebore at Ashberry doing extremely well.
6th April Lowna wild daffodils well out, even going back. 7th April First wood sorrel and dog violets out in Gilling Woods. After a warm sunny Easter winter returned. Sharp frost on morning of April 14th scorched our beech hedge and clobbered the walnut tree. But first bluebells and wild garlic showing plus lots of dog violets.
Purple orchids on roadside 1st May, Bluebells at their best 12th. Main flush of leaves on trees about 2/3 May but some trees, esp. beech and ash still not in leaf. Hawthorn blossom showing 12th, properly out c l6th.
Beginning of June cold and wet: 17.7 mm on 7th, another 38.1 on 8th. Gilling Beck flooded on morning of 8th. Went warmer 14/15th Wild roses out, also first Meadow Cranesbill. Found some rather scruffy field pansies...
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