Ptyxis Ecology - Our Botany Blog

Saturday, 8 August 2009

What happened to the summer?

It has been nearly 4 months since our last blog. First we had computer problems back in April and all of our blog pictures dissappeared. It took ages to put them back on again and there were some we couldn't re-find. So I was a bit fed up with the blog for a while, but we're friends again now. Since then I have been flat out working. I went freelance at the end of April and for much of the summer I have been surveying 10 farms in upper Teesdale, doing condition assessments of their SSSI 'interest features' and completing 'Farm Environment Plans' to guide new 10 year management agreements under the 'Higher Level Stewardship' scheme.

This has been a very interesting area to study in such detail. Upper Teesdale is well known for it's colourful flowery habitats. The riverbanks along the Tees and the Harwood Beck are particularly colourful and herb-rich.

But of course Teesdale is also particularly famous for its rare plants and rare habitats. Bird's-eye primrose is an easy one to spot when it is in flower. This is a highly localised plant in Britain, being more or less confined to Cumbria, Durham and Yorkshire. It is quite abundant in some places in upper Teesdale.

Much rarer in England is false sedge Kobresia simpiciuscula, which otherwise is confined to parts of the Scottish highlands in Britain. Both of these plants occur in species-rich calcareous flushes (M10) in upper Teesdale, often with other rarities like Scottish asphodel, variegated horsetail and alpine rush and with other nice plants or 'axiophytes' like grass-of-Parnassus, tawny sedge, marsh arrowgrass, common butterwort and lesser clubmoss.

However many of these typical 'calcareous flush' plants grow in other types of species-rich vegetation in Upper Teesdale including U5c, CG10b, CG10c, M26b and various types of vegetation transitional between M10 and something else, including especially M23a. In many parts of the Upper Teesdale SSSI different habitats with these species have been incorrectly identified in the past by English Nature staff who tended to always label the habitat as M10 whenever they encountered these species. This has made my job of assessing changes in the habitat difficult as in many cases I find the species, but a habitat other than a calcareous flush at the point marked on the map. It is often difficult to work out if the habitat has genuinely changed since it was last assessed or if the habitat was mis-identified before.


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