Tuesday, 16 July 2019

BSBI Summer Meeting 2019: Day Three

The group ready to start climbing
Image: C. Conroy
After yesterday's blogpost by David Morris about Day Two of the 2019 BSBI Annual Summer Meeting (ASM), today blogger Colin Conroy offers his report on Day Three.

Over to Colin reporting from Yorkshire:

"Today was the day for mini-bus excursions to some of the best local botanical sites. There was a choice of three Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserves (from a longer list which had earlier been narrowed down by an email poll). 

"The choices were: Ashes Pasture – an upland hay meadow; Grass Wood – an Ash woodland; and Southerscales, a huge expanse of limestone pavement on the side of Ingleborough (the second highest mountain in the Yorkshire Dales). 

Northern Dock
Image: C. Conroy
"This last was the one I chose as I have only ever seen limestone pavement in the autumn, and not since I started getting more enthusiastic about botany.

"We had a beautiful day for the trip and we all gathered at 9.30 at the front of the Field Study Centre and went in our respective minibuses – all except two people from our group who unfortunately got left behind and had to drive to the drop off point at the bottom of Ingleborough. 

"The drive through the beautiful scenery of the dales was a bit bumpy but the sight of the amazing RIbblehead Viaduct took our minds off the bumps.

"Once out of the minibus almost the first plant we saw was Northern Dock, growing on the side of the road and a new species for several people in the group (myself included).

Two Frog Orchids
Image: C. Conroy
"Once in the nature reserve we were walking through sheep pasture with patches of exposed limestone and quickly started ticking off interesting lime-loving species such as Thalictrum minus (Lesser Meadow-rue), Scabiosa columbaria, Galium sterneri (Limestone Bedstraw) (with its backward pointing prickles on the leaf margins) and Asplenium viride (Green Spleenwort) (along with four other Asplenium species). 

"All of these had been seen on previous days and it wasn’t until we climbed a bit higher that we started coming across a lot of new plants. 

"The first really exciting thing for me was Coeloglossum viride (Frog Orchid) which I have seen once in the Alps but have never managed to track down in the UK. The first plants we saw were tiny little specimens that took some finding by the sharper-eyed members of the group (not me) but further up the hill someone found a group of twenty or more, including some quite large (large for a Frog Orchid anyway) plants.

Hairy rock-cress in a gryke
Image: C. Conroy
"The typical slow pace of botanists meant that by the time we got to the limestone pavement it was almost time for lunch which was of course punctuated by breaks to identify or photograph plants including Carex pallescens (Pale Sedge), Gymnocarpium robertianum (Limestone Fern) and  Arabis hirsuta (Hairy Rock-cress) which was quite common in the grykes [NOTE – grykes are the fissures that separate the blocks of limestone, known as clints, in limestone pavement habitat]. 

"After lunch we split into twos and threes and spread out across the pavement looking for plants.

"For those readers who have never visited limestone pavement – you really should, at the first opportunity. It is spectacular! If it wasn’t for all the plants (and the fact that limestone is a sedimentary rock which couldn’t form on the moon), you could be forgiven for thinking that it looks a bit like what a lunar landscape might look like. 

Group leader David B.
photographing Baneberry

Image: C. Conroy
"However, unlike the surface of the moon, it is a very species rich habitat, and surprisingly diverse, with patches dominated by plants more typical of peat moorland, such as Trichophorum germanicum (Deergrass).

"The really exciting species, however, are to be found in the grykes, and included many that were new plants for me – Actaea spicata (Baneberry), Dryopteris submontana (Rigid Buckler-fern) and Melica nutans (Mountain Melick) among them.

"I am a long way off starting to tackle Hieraciums but there were plenty to keep the Hawkweed enthusiasts among us occupied. I have also generally steered clear of Eyebrights  too but with only two species expected, I felt able to dip my toe in the water and was reasonably confident by the end of the day that I was correctly identifying Euphrasia confusa and E. nemorosa.

A great lunch spot on the BSBI 2019 Summer Meeting
Image: C. Conroy
"The journey back to the centre was broken by a stop for ice-creams and pictures of the Ribblehead Viaduct which inevitably included more botanising and several species added to the day’s list, including Saxifraga hypnoides (Mossy Saxifrage) and Vaccinium oxycoccos (Cranberry)".

Many thanks to Colin for his report. You can find a link to Colin's blog in the list on the right of Blogs by BSBI members - this post will also appear there.

You can see more photos from the BSBI Summer Meeting if you click here.

Another report to come tomorrow as we approach the halfway point in the week-long Summer Meeting.

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