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Botany Report for 2010

by Gill Smith


The year started very cold, with snow lying right through from mid-November to mid-January (with sheltered pockets even longer). While the snow may have protected some plants I suspect exposed trees and shrubs must have suffered; One of the casualties seems to be the Danish scurvygrass along roadside verges – I only saw one small patch plus one plant near Whitwell. The first snowdrops and aconites showed in the last week of January, but weren’t at their best till mid-March as it stayed very cold (and dry).

Blackthorn was very late and put on a poor show, only just coming out 21st April by which time hawthorn leaves were opening in the hedges. The last week of April finally had warm sum – and was very dry up to 29th. The countryside did not “green up” until the first week of May – and then everything stalled as it went cold again, and some oaks, ashes, alders and even beeches remained bare. There were frosts 10th-12th May! The hawthorn blossom was very good but late – at its best about 3rd June.

It stayed very dry through into July and was a good year for spotted orchids, but there were few bee orchids. Pauline sent me an interesting record of 5 flowering spikes of chickweed wintergreen in Newtondale woods. I noticed several plants of heath groundsel in an area of Gilling Woods clear-felled a couple of years ago. Trees were beginning to turn, especially horse chestnuts but also lime and a few beeches, in the first week of September, probably because it’s been very dry).

Late November (24-25th) saw snow, and the temperature down to -11°C overnight 27-28th. This was of course the start of the most severe winter for at least 20 years, and following that of 2010-11 it will be interesting to see the effect on wildlife; in many ways this is a return to the conditions of the past, to which our flora and fauna may be better adapted.

Personal Highlights

I recorded many, many plants this year, and it was very hard to pick out the highlights, but this is what I came up with. The list includes five new species for me (marked with asterisks).

Species Location
Houndstongue Hutton Common
Martagon lily Helmsley
Shepherds needle* Appleton
Field woundwort* Slingsby
Field garlic Slingsby (verge)
Black horehound Slingsby
Burnet rose Slingsby (hedge)
Black nightshade Lastingham
Field woundwort Lastingham
Grey field speedwell Lastingham
Wild pansy Lastingham
Pepper saxifrage* Bull Ings
Bee orchid (8) Bull Ings
Huge daisy (Telekia speciosa) Kirkdale (in the riverbed)
Garden bellfower, probably Campanula lactiflora Kirkdale (in the riverbed)
Skunk cabbage Kirkdale (river-bank)
Beech fern Raygate and Bransdale
Saw-wort Raindale
Sand leek Starfitts Lane
I also visited the wildflower plots Chris Wilson maintains at Spaunton quarry where I saw (planted) annual knawel* and haresfoot clover. The nearby field had (planted) Sharp-leaved fluellen* along with a sea of fumitory and scarlet pimpernel. At Gilling I was lucky enough to find both ribbed and golden melilot growing quite close together, so I could compare the two. I think I can now tell them apart even in isolation!

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