• DWT Botany Group

Hedleyhope Fell on a warm, sunny afternoon

Delightful weather and so good to be back on this extensive reserve. I didn’t walk far, and didn’t need to either, before finding lots of stunning wildflowers – not all in bloom. Walking up from the bottom car park quickly led to this view of the fell – reddy/brown Bracken coming up in the foreground, dark green Rushes alongside the path, differing shades of green leaves on the stunted trees, yellowy orange flowers on the Gorse bushes and violet/grey patches of Heather in the distance. So time to start looking closer to see what is there.

The white/cream flowers on some of the nearby trees looked similar from a distance, but the leaves of the Hawthorn and Rowan (mountain ash) trees tell a different story. Hawthorn has simple leaves with lobes (think of ear lobes), whereas Rowan tree leaves are made of several leaflets (making what is called a compound leaf). Both were looking splendid and sounding terrific too with the singing, but hidden, willow warblers.

The yellow flowers of the ground-hugging Bird’s-foot trefoil took the eye – bright yellow with orange tinges. It’s another plant with compound leaves (the ‘trefoil’ part of its name is a giveaway – think of fencing with a trefoil sword). Unlike the flowers of Hawthorn and Rowan which are regular (you can cut them into symmetrical halves) these yellow flowers are not regular, so are called irregular. They look like pea flowers, one of the reasons that Bird’s-foot trefoil belongs to the Pea family of plants.

The deep crimson flowers of foxglove were much bigger and opening from the bottom of a line of buds (this is called a raceme). The plant is much larger and is flowering this year after simply growing last year – it is a biennial plant. Elsewhere a much smaller plant with reddish flowers was growing in very obvious patches. This is Sheep’s sorrel which has small leaves with small flaps at the bottom – reminds me of dress shirts with collars that stick out to the side!

Looking at more flowering plants, very similar to buttercup – but not! The flower is yellow, but there are only four petals and each has a notch at the tip. The leaves on the stem are divided and lack a stalk. Whereas the flower is held on a long stalk. This is Tormentil, a member of the Rose family of plants.

Next some blue flowered plants. The Speedwell looks as if it has a pair of antennae in the flower, sticking up in a V shape. In fact this is a couple of stamens (each releases pollen) and a tell-tale sign of a speedwell plant. Close by were some delicate Milkwort plants with tiny blue or pink flowers that look very different and are quite complex in their arrangement.

Finally, one of the easiest grasses to find and identify on the fell – Mat-grass. As you can see it grows in a mat or tuft of plants (think tuft of hair). The black spikes on the right are its flower stalks. If you look at them on the left of the picture you can see tiny cream flowers hanging along the black spike. In fact the flowers only develop on one side of the spike (flower stalk) – very unusual for a grass and a tell-tale sign that this is mat-grass.

So, what can you find growing on Hedleyhope fell?

If you don’t know what the plants are, send in pictures of the plants and flowers so we can help you to put a name to them.

Steven Gater

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