Saturday, 29 June 2013

Cumbrian rarity

I thought last Sunday at Branton went OK.  The weather was kind to us and I hope that some of those present felt they had learnt a little bit about botanical identification - and there were some interesting plants.

This Wednesday I went to a site called Hobcarton Crags, about 5 miles west of Keswick.  The plant called Alpine Catchfly (Silene suecica) [which until recently was called Lychnis alpina for anyone who tries to look it up] has only one know site in Scotland, in Perthshire, and one site in England at Hobcarton above the Winlatter Pass in Cumbria.  It's quite closely related to our common Red Campion, but is smaller.

You know how birders feel when they see a very rare migrant - well the feeling is much the same in the botanical world when you see, for the first time, something as rare as this.  At Hobcarton the plants grow in a  narrow rock crack in the sides of a steep gully in the crags.  They are there for three reasons:  they need the wet and harsh Lakeland climate; they need a heavy metal substrate which happens to be present in this very small part of these crags; they need to grow where the sheep can't get at them.

We counted 59 plants in the patch we found and there are some more, but not many, in close-by parts of the crags.  Sorry about the quality of the photo, but you couldn't get at all close and my camera doesn't cope too well with heavy zoom shots.  The flowers are quite a bit pinker than they appear.

The other two plants are not so rare, but you need to be fairly high up in the hills to find them, in places like the Hen Hole on Cheviot (or at Hobcarton Crags!)  One is Parsley Fern (Cryptogramma crispa) and the other is the rather lovely Starry Saxifrage (Saxifraga stellaris).  I've shown a close-up of a flower to show the diagnostic yellow spots at the base of the petals.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Richard,it looks like you had a good day in the Lakes,the best place locally for Parsley Fern is the Carey Burn just west of Wooler.
    Ian and Keith