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Botany Report 2002 (Reports for 2001)

by Gill Smith

As you might expect, this year’s botany report is greatly affected by the foot and mouth epidemic; as I was not able to walk my usual patches for much of the year my records are very sparse, as are those of everyone else. It was particularly frustrating not to be able to check up on known colonies of rarities such as the yellow star of Bethlehem near Kirkdale or the limestone specialities at Ashberry. I did see some interesting very deep pink/mauve wood sorrel flowers in Gilling Woods - it seemed that whole plants were producing these variants, rather than just some individual flowers. They were not common, and growing among the ordinary white variety, and I have no idea what causes the much richer colour.

My general impression is that it was a good year for wildflowers after a late spring, with the verges growing particularly lush - indeed I fear that the more rampant plants may be drowning out smaller more delicate species. When we were finally allowed back onto the footpaths it was interesting to see how quickly nature had moved in - even normally well-walked paths were overgrown and sometimes hard to follow. I wonder whether in fact this enforced “neglect” has actually been a blessing in disguise for wild flowers - we shall find out this year! Damp and boggy patches in the woods also seem to have done well. Any changes in grazing pattern will of course have implications for the flora, and this is an area I shall watch with great interest. I had one particularly good day on 12th July, when I found various interesting plants: Sun spurge in set-aside along Pottergate [Gilling]; Common hemp-nettle in hedge bottom; Great Burnet along the old railway behind Park House Cottages (2 clumps); swine cress in the made ground at the base of the dam of the bottom lake.

The autumn colours were very late and not particularly good in most places, as there was no early frost to “prime” the trees, and windy weather had already stripped a fair number of leaves.

We did get one exciting new record, of an unusual gorse growing at Rudland. Tom Denney reported plants on land at Sykes House and also on the moor north of the cattle grid. I went to have a look on 10th October on Rudland Rigg; there were three small bushes, definitely not the common gorse, but I’m not completely convinced it’s western gorse (Ulex gallii) either! The jury is still out on this one.

Field Notes

Finally here is an edited extract of my notes for the year:

Water table still very high after autumn floods: the slightest rain tends to leave standing water. Spring running fast in village, and also small ones in the woods.

Start of January cold, but quite a bit of sun. First snowdrops showing at [Gilling] Castle 7th Jan, 2 in garden on 10th. Celandine out in Malton 8th. Hard frosts in second week. Cold but mainly sunny. Snowdrops and first aconites out when we came back from a week away on 27th, but not much movement really; a few celandines in garden, but not fully open. First yellow species crocus showing 11/2.

Beginning of Feb really nasty - cold, wet, rain and/or wet snow; plants hardly moving. 9th the green hellebores at Ashberry only in (quite tight) bud; plenty though. Spectacular display of haloes/parhelia at about 1:45pm.

Middle of Feb mostly cold and dry, blocking anticyclone. First dog's mercury showing, but still “head down” ~19th. Cold and frosty/snow showers into March, but plenty of sun. Snowdrops and crocus in garden splendid show end Feb-early March.

7th March (went mild) Hazel catkins nicely open, but still no female ones. Daffodils in Oswaldkirk on S-facing bank showing by 13th March; out in [Gilling] village and a few at Castle on 14th; garden 28th. First wild primroses at Stonegrave on the roadside, S-facing bank on 16th; plenty in Nunnington churchyard c. 25th.

Windflowers Oswaldkirk 23rd. Coltsfoot showing at edge of wood (Gilling side of valley) 28th. Windflowers showing on Gilling side 8th April, but not fully out. Still very wet and generally cold, with only a few very early hawthorn bushes showing green. Primroses showing well on Sproxton Bank 12th, but only one or two clumps Gilling. Still very cold up to 18th, with almost no green; just one or two very sheltered parts of hedges.

Away for a couple of weeks till 10th May. Then wood sorrel fully out, very prolific and with some very dark pink clumps. Bluebells just coming, blackthorn at its best, wild cherry opening. Hedges more or less out, but woodland still definitely not green from a distance. Weather had apparently turned warm and sunny c.5th. Primroses magnificent along Park Street, Hovingham, and cowslips coming.

Middle of May dry, with hot sunshine, though in general cool, fresh air. General “greening” about 24th/25th, but some ashes still not fully out by 31st. Many plants put on a real spurt, especially in the verges. Cowslips very tall, up to a foot or so along Malton Road. Bluebells good end May-beginning of June, though not quite up to last year’s standard. Hawthorn just beginning to show by end of May, and good by 5th June.

Early - mid June mostly cold, with some heavy showers. First wild roses c.18th. End of June mostly warm and sunny, dry. First week of July hot, rather steamy. Second week much cooler, fresher, showery. 12th: various interesting plants seen. Sun spurge in set-aside along Pottergate; Common hemp-nettle in hedge bottom; Great Burnet along the old railway behind Park House Cottages (2 clumps); swine cress in the made ground at the base of the dam of the bottom lake; spotted orchids very good just above bottom lake on west side; penny cress along the Avenue.

Mid-July roadside meadow cranesbill superb, also field scabious & dog daisies on limestone e.g. between Stonegrave and Hovingham. August mainly reasonable weather, with some real summer weather, and most of the last week sunny with clearer air, continuing into September. Grass verges etc. stayed green from the earlier rain, and most late summer flowers like knapweed and devil’s-bit scabious put on a good show.

Mid-September cold and grey with drizzle and northerly/north-easterly winds. Early October mostly warm, quite sunny. Tom Denney reported ?western gorse growing at Rudland.

Autumn colours very late (mid-November), and not particularly good as many leaves came off before they turned; presumably due to very few frosts. Spring running quietly, but started to pick up again early December. Small spring in wood continued to run right through the year.

Last week of December very cold, sometimes below freezing all day, so no aconites or snowdrops out before the New Year - indeed a thin covering of snow on 30th. Very cold 31st, daily max about -2°C.

[Adrian and Gill have been keeping records for the past 12 years. To see all the charts please visit If you would like any further information email Gill at]

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