Saturday, 30 August 2014

Polypodium cambricum (Southern Polypody)

Polypodium Cambricum (Southern Polypody) on Lancelot - Please click over the photos to enlarge
I don't think it would be possible for me to get better specimens to photograph than these.  They do give the complete photo picture to one of the rare ferns from this area.  The Photos clearly show the deltoid shape of the fronds, together with the clean light green colour and narrowness of the individual pinnae. Also with the cambricum you can usually see the sori immpressions coming through the topside of the frond. Whilst other Polypodies are pretty well worn by now, the cambricum is at its very best right now with it being the last to show! If you would like to see all the photos I took today of these Cambricum then please click here.

Meadow Pipits have been collecting with two parties noticed, one party of 30 plus in Dalton Crags and a further party of 20 or more on the Common itself.  Also one or two pairs making their way across HR.

Without doubt odd individual Swallows and a party of three were making their way South on migration, you can usually tell them out from the local feeding birds, by their direct Southern flight and you see them in and see them out.  A couple of days ago I noticed also odd individuals crossing over Booths at Carnforth following their ancient flightpaths crossing over in the direction towards perhaps the Trough of Bowland and then out South. I suppose it will now be a gradual build up until we get the peak movement South which will be on or around the 24th September.

Maybe up to thirty Mistle Thrush collecting in the lower Dalton Crags, making the most of the Rowan berries.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Hart's Tongue (Asplenium scolopendrium) Variant: Ramosum

I found this unusual Hart's Tongue Fern today on Hutton Roof Common
It was nice to find this unusual Hart's Tongue fern today and I have already had it confirmed by Alec that it is a variant called "Ramosum".

It was great to see lots of Spotted Flycatchers in Dalton, between the top of the lower crags to include the area from where the charcoal burners used to be and all the way across to the entry with the upper Dalton Crags area or the start of the "deforested" areas. Most of the birds where immatures but also a few parent birds present.  (probably a dozen or more in total).  The date almost ties in with previous sightings of this species whilst on their annual passage through Dalton Crags.

Autumn Gentian or Fellwort
Click over to enlarge
Then it was nice to check out the Autumn Gentian (or Fellwort) which is on the Common in several areas.  This year there are two plants within 18" of one another and one of the plants is shown here (left) and of the usual regular purple colour, whilst the other plant the flowers are white. This seems to happen quite a lot up here were they will come up one colour or the other.

Not far from the Fellwort I was lucky enough to find even more of the special fern called the Southern Polypody (or Polypodium Cambricum). As usual it was down a shallow gryke with some six spaced out fronds, all of which would have been between 4" to 6" in length and of delta shape. 

Hypericum Montanum
Click over to enlarge
Also today checking out some (new to me pavement) which I have never had chance before to investigate, but today found the time and listed several good (but gone over) Epipactis Helliborines.  But the star attraction today just had to be some "Hypericum Montanum" or the Pale St John's Wort which has become very rare these days around these parts.  Obviously the plant was well over, but you could still see lots of reasonable clues.

Besides making notes of gps readings for Angular Solomon's Seal, Epipactis Helliborines, Spring Sandwort, it was really interesting to find some of the fabulous Hypericum androsaemum or perhaps better known as Tutsan within the Dalton Crags area and here below is a photo of it showing its much reddened leaves.

Tutsan found in Dalton Crags

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Its just another Polystichum Aculeatum!

Also please check out any latest updates at bottom of blog

The Top photo shows what the position was like in 2013 showing a small immature fern to the front of the plant.
The bottom photo shows the development in 2014, clearly showing the immature from 2013 is now a fully fledged adult frond (No.3), and also of much interest was and still is this year's plant and the immature frond to the rear right hand side.  Will this also turn out to be a fully mature plant in 2015, it will be interesting to see what happens.  I suppose for now we know the score! (famous last words) its just another P. Aculeatum 
Lots of us were getting rather excited!  why!  Well although we know we have got something really really special with the fabulous Holly Fern (Polystichum lonchitis), some of us also thought that we may have also had the lonchitis hybrid simply known as Polystichum x illyricum.  Its has already been recorded from two areas in Scotland and also within Ireland, but as yet there have been no records ever for England.

So would'nt it be nice to have the rare hybrid.  Well I guess for now we will just have to "keep on searchin"

The beautiful fresh Polypodium cambricum
Found today. Click over to enlarge
Wow, these rarities!  found some more of the rare Southern Polypody (Polypodium cambricum) today and this time its within a new tetrad.  Also someone else has found some more Ceterach.

Well I checked out one of our old (long established) Black Spleenwort (Asplenium adiantum nigrum) sites on Saturday and again today just to make sure, we have always had a good growth of the fern whilst sharing 50% of its territory and alongside the Brittle Bladder Fern (Cystopteris fragilis), and guess what?  its gone, completely disappeared, the Brittle Bladder Fern (Cystopteris fragilis) has taken over completely.  Not to worry still got several Black Spleenwort (Asplenium adiantum nigrum) sites to go at, In fact I was also lucky enough to find yet another plant today which was growing at the ridiculous position of 2 metres down the side of a gryke. There's one thing for sure, no beast will try and eat that one.

LATEST - Other news:
13th August 2014  Had a single Swift heading South, somewhere near the River Bela by the Wings School which lies between Holme and Milnthorpe, Cumbria.

15th August 2014  At least one Chiffchaff with broken song, and lots (10+) of Willow Warblers giving off their "houwit" contact call were collective on Vicarage Lane, Burton In Kendal, quite close to the "Grim Reaper" natural wood statue and close to the Dalton hamlet side. Presumed resting up whilst on passage. Immediate local area not usually associated with these species during breeding season.

21st August 2014  Just found out that the Spotted Flycatchers have again bred within Dalton Park and were seen with young.  

SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS ON THE MOVE: In both 2011 and again on the same day in 2012 large parties (up to 12 or more), of Spotted Flycatchers were seen flitting about within the trees and will have been resting or feeding up whilst on migration passage, were seen in 2011 in Dalton Crags near to where the charcoal burners were, and again on the same Lat/Long line in 2012 but further across to the BAP Memorial Seat on Lancelot Clark Storth, coincidence or what but the magic date was August 24th.  Missed checking it out last year (2013). 

24th August 2014 Arthur and Linda P had a Wall Brown Butterfly over on the Farleton side by Newbiggin Crag. 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Epipactis Helliborine variants "Purpurea" - 2014 has been extroadinary!

This will probably be my last blog this year on the subject of Epipactis, unless I can get something more together on this years "Schmalhauseneii" studies which do need to be published soon,  because by now the helliborines are going over rapidly, so I do hope to get into the FERN mood for a few weeks before the onslaught of the Visible Bird Migration in September.  For now though please enjoy this piece as a quick summary to the work I have carried out on the beautiful "2014 Purpurea variants"

Epipactis Helliborine  (Broad Leaved Helliborine)  “PURPUREA”

Fig 1 - Specimen 1 within canopy
(Click over to enlarge)
This year (2014) on the Hutton Roof complex we seem to be getting quite a lot of the beautiful E. Helliborine variant “Purpurea” with several plants showing very deep purple coloured flowers.  Although I have been checking the variants over the past three years, there have never been so many recorded in such a small area and neither have they before had this very strong deep burgundy colour, although they have obviously showed lighter “purpurea” colours.

Although the colours do vary,  they can easily remind you of the colour you would normally get from a E. Atrorubens, e.g that dark red burgundy wine colour. Because for some reason this year most of the purpurea have been showing this typical colouring. 

Fig 2 - Specimen 2 On edge
of Woodland (Please click
over to enlarge)
All specimens so far recorded have been in the close vicinity of a Hazel bush or under a Hazel canopy.  I don’t know whether this bears any reflection on the plant at all but this was always the case, although I also should mention that Hazel is the predominant species and found almost everywhere up there on Hutton Roof.  

The variance in the shade of colours has depended on where the plant is situated, the deeper the colours are, usually is also a indication to how far back in the canopy the plant is situated, whilst the plants on the edge of the woodland with direct sunlight to one side are shown to be a slightly lighter colour. This can been seen here by looking at Specimen 1 (Fig 1) against Specimen 2 (Fig 2), which lie only 3 or 4 metres apart, but one is in deeper canopy whilst the other has direct access to sunlight on one side.

In the majority of cases the plants already recorded have been helliborines of sizes ranging between “460mm to 600mm in height”.

Fig 3 - Specimen No.17
note the large shiny dark
green leaves (click over to enlarge)
Most of the specimens are green stemmed throughout, but I have noticed that with some of them that the bottom 50mm will be stained “purple” colour. This can be a regular occurrence within the species.

One thing that seems to stand out a mile with these “purpurea” variants is that in the majority of cases the primary leaves are of unbelievable striking size and shape, and are not what you would normally associate with the e.helliborine eg: approx 65mm to 95mm in length and between 55mm to 65mm in width, and have a sort of oval look about them, and this also applies on almost all the five or six primary leaves associated with the plant.   Here is a typical leaf layout of a plant I have recently been studying (in this case Fig 3 Specimen 17 which is 430mm in height). The leaf layout is generally starting from the base with a single small basal rounded leaf of only 30mm in diameter approx (this basal leaf can sometimes be easily missed
Fig 4 - Specimen No.16
Note the regular shape
and lighter coloured leaves
because it can be tight up and clasping the stem just like a sheath), this leaf will be about 40mm up the stem from the source, followed by another leaf (secondary) which is just a little bit bigger than the basal which lies at 60mm from the base but almost opposite of the stem, after these two leaves, you have a set of five or six very large (primary) leaves gripping the sides of the stem and going around the stem in a more spiral direction towards the head of the plant, this spiralling is very typical of the “helliborine” leaf structure.  So the third leaf going up the stem will lay at approx 95mm from the base, the fourth leaf will be at approx 117mm from the base, the fifth 140mm from the base, the sixth 150mm from the base, the seventh 165mm from the base and finally the eighth will be at approx 183mm from the base.

The colour of these leaves is also striking in that they seem to be a very dark shiny green with a crinkly silky material texture feel to it, especially noticeable to the underside.  The silky shine is clearly visible to both the topside and the underside of the leaf. This dense dark colour of the leaves is not normally associated with the majority of straight e. helliborines which I see which do tend to be more of a lemony or lighter green which you can see here in Fig 4 or Fig 6. Again I think it must have something to do with the overall “purpurea” making a darker staining throughout, whilst adding to all this is another important factor in that when the plant lies further within shaded density then darker the leaf colour along with darker the flower will appear. The leaves are so well grooved, and in this particular case will show at least 11 to 13 primary grooves or ridges across the length of the leaf, and these will be interspersed with a further 30 secondary grooves bringing a total of 43 grooves which are equally distributed with 21 to the left, then a main central groove or ridge, and then 21 to the right. The grooves or ridges are in a curvature fashion. 

Fig 5 - Specimen 15 in 2013
Aborted before flowering
Although I am collecting evidence from several plants, I would just like to mention that over the past three years I have been keeping one particular plant under closer observation, this plant is named Specimen 15 and again lies well within the inside of a canopy of hazel.   In 2012 the plant first came to my attention with its beautiful “purpurea” colouring.  The same plant in 2013 actually aborted its buds which just dried up and fell off some four weeks before maturity. And in 2014 the same plant is again showing “purpurea” but in a more deeper or denser burgundy colour which is far darker than it was back in 2012. This same colour density seems to be appearing all over the place this year within these variants on Hutton Roof. Of special interest also in close proximity to Specimen 15 was a further colony of some twenty plus e.helliborines of which several showed a leaning towards purpurea, but not all, and neither were the variants grouped in a close linear measured area, the purpurea was very much ad hoc in nature eg: One purpurea, then a couple of normal, then one purpurea. I mention this purely for the fact that back in 2012 I thought it had something to do with the ground metallic content, but now think different because of the ad hoc layout.

Fig 6 - Not a purpurea
but flowers to one side
like what you get with
In 2012 I must say that I did at first think that perhaps these “Purpurea” specimens held a clue to some “hybrid happenings” and after speaking with learned friends who also had these similar inclinations of their being some sort of atrorubens influence, thought at the time there could have been a sort of F2 cross breed situation lurking. Because if I remember at that time we had also got variant e.helliborine specimens with flowers just coming down two sides of the stem, like you would get with a typical atrorubens. And probably the most important factor at the time was that I did notice that one particular plant did have slightly “frilly” bosses, which obviously you could only ever associate "frilly bosses with atrorubens. And perhaps most striking has been the stronger “red colour” influences within the actual e.helliborine flowers.

These plants are always showing at the same time (late July to early August) as what you would expect from any typical E. Helliborines, which means that they are about three weeks following on from the best period of the atrorubens. 

Burton In Kendal Swift Study Group  The last 2 Swifts were seen flying over the village on Friday last the 8th August 2014.  We wish them a safe journey.......

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Broad Leaved Helliborines - More Variants photos

Well at long last managed to get up on Hutton Roof to take a few more photos of some of the fantastic variants.  The first two I checked out was Purpurea No. 1 and Purpurea No.2 which are about two metres apart.  No.1, the darker specimen is well within the shade  by being about 12ft back into Hazel coppiced canopy, whereby No.2 is more to the edge of the woodland and obviously taking in more light, but even so No 2 is again a very fine specimen.

The above photo is of Purpurea Specimen 1 which is far darker than its nearby neighbour Specimen 2 (shown below)
(Please click over the photo to enlarge)  You can clearly see the epichile on the top two flowers. 

Both of the above photos relate to Purpurea Specimen No.2
(Please click over the photos to enlarge).
I later went over to see if I could get a photo of the pure viridiflora specimen, but sadly this had been damaged by deer since my last visit and was no longer available to photograph however near by was three very light specimens which are near to the variant, but just showing some slight traces of purple.  This colonization situation is quite common within variants whereby you can sometimes get several in close vicinity to one another.

The above two are very light helliborine variants.  Although they are in very close vicinity
to a pure "Viridiflora", these plants can't been considered for the title yet, because you can
see light traces of purple within the petals and sepals
SWIFTS UPDATE........(4th August 2014)

Most of our village (Burton In Kendal, Cumbria) Swifts left us on or around Tuesday July 29th 2014.  The last high count had been 41 birds seen flying overhead (locally) on the previous Friday July 25th 2014.  On Friday last (August 1st 2014), we still had 11 birds flying overhead with two birds seen to enter their nest site on the cottages adjoining the Post Office.

It has been a national trend this year that most of the Swifts throughout the country are departing back to Africa at least one week to ten days earlier than they normally would.

The Burton Swifts Study Group are trying to monitor the situation this week to see if we can manage to record the latest departure date.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Broad Leaved Helliborine - Purpurea

Thats what you call Purpurea!  (Click over to enlarge)
This little beauty was on Hutton Roof today, and probably the best "purpurea" example I can say I have seen to date, absolutely striking, but a little too windy for me to get a good close up to show you the inner flower which again was just stunning!  will try again over the next couple of days to get a photograph of this. Typical extra large "helliborine" grooved leaves which are always far darker in colour than usual with these variants.

Another point of interest is that it is quite noticeable that the "purpurea's" seem to be at their best when in cover or in shade as these where.  There is another specimen within a couple of metres of this one.

We also found a couple of examples of Broad Leaved Helliborines variant "viridiflora" but again the photos have not turned out well, will try again soon!

Here is another close up of the Purpurea. (Please click over photo to enlarge).

E. Helliborine var "Purpurea" - Stunning colours"
Finding extraordinary numbers of the Broad Leaved Helliborines today there where so many beautiful coloured specimens and without doubt it was a question of being spoilt for choice, but here is one that stood out by its colours.

A truly beautiful specimen
And to finish off we have such a tangled web - just shows how much a plant can and will endure to make the show go on!

"Nothing in life is straight forward"
Burton Swift Study Group - Will be meeting again this coming Friday evening 1st August 2014 at the Burton memorial Hall car Park at 2100hrs and you are most welcome to come along and join us. 

Friday, 25 July 2014

Green Flowered Helleborine - Epipactis phyllanthes

One of the smaller phyllanthes specimens
The last couple of days have yet again proved so interesting on Hutton Roof having now discovered a new species for the area, the rare Green Flowered Helleborine (Epipactis phyllanthes var: pendula), growing in the shade of a small hazel bush. There are three separate plants, one of which is of average size whereby the other two are on the small size but all carry flowers at the top of their stems.  Also long drooping "green ochre" shaped ovaries.
The whole general appearance of the plant has a downward look to it.
Our phyllanthes is of the variant "pendula". It could well be the highest known breeding altitude record for this plant in the whole of Cumbria (to be confirmed), the species is more regularly found towards the coastal areas. It is certainly a first for the old County of Westmorland, but not a first for the current Vice County.

Close up showing the long "ochre" like grooved ovaries

All though going over the top two flowers are showing here

The finding of this species has been a joint effort by myself and two friends Peter J and Alan G. Its also now brought up the possibility of there being even more lurking about in nearby beech woods.

The Broad Leaved Helliborines (epipactis helliborine) are starting to show well now and this year seems exceptional with them being found in lots of new places. When you consider just how many are about up on the verges of the limestone pavements and nestled in among the low surrounding vegetation, it brings it home of how and why we are getting all the beautiful hybrids (epipactis schmalhauseneii). 

A lovely Broad Leaved Helliborine
You don't seem to see much Hard Fern on Hutton Roof, not that its a rare species, but its the very first time I have been able to find it on HR.

Hard Fern on Hutton Roof
BURTON SWIFT STUDY GROUP  (tonight - Friday 25th July 2014)
We are meeting up at the Burton Memorial Hall at 2100hrs to monitor our local Swifts.  You are more than welcome to join us, and enjoy the marvels of these wonderful creatures.....

Monday, 21 July 2014

Epipactis Hybrids Part 4 etc

Basal leaf structure in E. Schmalhauseneii showing the purple staining.
also see another example below, but this time on green (helliborine) influenced stem.
(please click over the photo to enlarge)

I know its coming to the end of the very short season we have to search for the rare Cumbrian hybrids, the Epipactis Schmalhauseneii.  But thanks to Steve and Wal its been a question of "going out in style".  It was great to be able to include two more fantastic specimens which they found during their recent foraging!

Specimens 15 and 16 (hybrids)
I got chance to see these fine specimens at weekend and probably these may be the final two of the year, I think! They have already been named Specimen 15 and 16. They are certainly strong robust plants of which  No.15 actually contains no less than 56 flowers which is quite extraordinary with a usual max out recorded at 50 in the majority of plants.  Quite close to these specimens there are plenty of mixed Dark Red Helliborines and Broad Leaved as well, so you can see where the influences will have come from.   I have tried above to show at least three of the dominate features which apply when trying to diagnose these beauties.  Obviously more diagnostic features apply, but this is a start and I do hope to come up with more diagnostic photos and facts very soon.

With the addition of these two new specimens it brings a grand total of the rare hybrid on the Hutton Roof complex to at least 15 considered definite with several more which "the jury are out on at present".

Other beautiful special specimens of the Dark Red Helliborine (epipactis atrorubens) were also seen and recorded. 

Its now changing over to the time when I go out searching and recording the Broad Leaved Helliborines (epipactis helliborine).  Usually if I look hard and long for these I can sometimes find the beautiful rare viridiflora and purpurea variants.

Recording the many sites is all part of the monitoring
On Friday evening last the village "Burton Swifts Group" had their weekly meet to monitor the local Swifts, checking out the various nest sites along the Main Street within the village and it was a special time having established a further three sites (of which two we were not aware of before although we did have a suspicion of one of them).  Its always very difficult to actually count the Swifts in the sky, but we did agree that possibly there could have been at least 23 birds up in the air at once and you would see parties of between 10 and 15 birds coming low in follow my leader fashion, whilst screaming as Swifts do.  Further monitoring is planned for next Friday evening when at 2100hrs we shall be meeting outside the Burton Memorial Hall and everyone is welcome to attend and enjoy these "marvels".

Earlier that day (Friday last),  I had spent most of the day with the Arnside Naturalist up on the Hutton Roof complex and we did manage to see lots of really interesting stuff.  The highlight had to be the Holly Ferns and the Green and Black Spleenworts and the rare Birds Foot Sedge and later coming down the pavements we
Note the translucent dots in the leaf of the Montanum
(click over photo to see translucent dots)
called into check out the rare Pale St John's Wort (Hypericum Montanum), this had really gone over plus most of the flowerheads had also fallen victim to the deer, however it was interesting to show the party the "perforatum" within its leaves, which you would not normally associate with Montanum.  The only close by "perforatum" species would be the (Slender St Johns Wort - Hypericum Pulchrum), another interesting thing about these plants is that the colour is much yellower than you would expect with the Pale St. John's.  Finally we checked out the "colony of Broad Leaved Helliborines" which have in the passed showed lots of individual specimens showing the variant colours of  "purpurea".  Its looks very much like "Specimen 15" could well abort again this year, the buds are already small and look like they could be receeding.  We did actually see a Broad Leaved Helliborine coming into flower on one of the lower pavements, but only the bottom couple of flowers actually opened up.

"The Old Soldier"
Again during our walk it was interesting to note several very interesting Dark Red Helliborines (E. atrorubens) which I have noted for further observations.

I showed the party "The Old Soldier" which is natural limestone sculpture found on the Crags, but prior to the walk I also showed them photos of it and especially the "enhanced version" (shown here) to try and pick out the "features of the bedraggled face" with its battle scars, but still enjoying smoking his pipe. You do not see the feature until water is poured over the face which then brings out the highlights.

Probably another special highlight had to be the "Raging Sea pavement" high on the Common.  After combating the struggle to gain access to the hidden pavement, everyone seemed so impressed with the fabulous "turbulence" portrayed within its many features, especially the twenty or more "depression holes" showing the runnel features to all sides of each individual "black holes" which where spread out at various sections of the magnificent feature.

The Raging Sea Pavement with its 20 plus Runnel holes
This is a photo of a "green stemmed" = Helliborine parent influence, with
the obvious signs of atrorubens creeping in with the purple sheath to stem,
purple vertical lines, together with purple base and again the trailing edge to basal.
(Please click over photo to enlarge)

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Dark Reds are going, but the Tortoishells are coming!

Another "light phase" atrorubens (click over to enlarge)

This is also a little beauty I found today among the Helliborine's and has come through very light phase and I would even presume it does have a lot of light phase throughout its make up, but feel it may be a little premature to say that it has crossed the boundaries to the stage of a "variant" owing to the fact that there are far more decisive specimens on record. In this particular instance I feel that some of this obvious lightness is as a result of "natural bleaching" having for one been found in a very exposed area and coupled with the fact that I have previously noticed before that with "light phase" epipactis atrorubens flowers they do tend to go "much lighter still" at the actual turning point which is recognized as "going over" and if you look at the tips of the bracts on this photo you will note the apparent "burning" which I reckon could also be another clue to the advancement and possible "Whitening to light pink" in particular looking toward the epichile features of the plant. Even so a nice specimen and especially what makes it even more interesting as far as I am concerned is that its with a green stem (although be it of a mid green phase). It certainly qualifies for another check out and follow up because just for the moment I can say "the jurys still out on this one".

Specimen No.15 in 2012 (click over to enlarge)
Lots of beautiful butterflies on the wing with all the regulars, but for the first time this year there have definitely been hatches of Small Tortoiseshell today which is really good to see and obviously they are now trying to make a comeback from their "almost decimation" (8 years ago).  I have also read recently that our own stock is also being augmented by continental strains of Small Tortoiseshell coming over from France, just like what is also happening with the rare Swallowtails.  I bet this could mean that we get one of those bumper Painted Lady years anytime now (happens about every 4 or 5 years and I think it is just about due!) It will be really interesting to see if this does develop in a sort of chain reaction with all this other stuff (Torts and Tails) advancing North. All speculation but nice to think about for now.

If that was to happen I guess I for one will dispatch myself straight over to the Beetham area or somewhere along its North West Flightline, which for me has in the past had terrific results and were I have had the privilege to witnessed hundreds (not thousands, although there could well be thousands over the full day), of that extraordinary 2nd leg (France to UK only) of a new brood of the  "Painted Lady" butterfly.

A brilliant but at times sad spectacle several years ago when I was in Menorca (Spain) about the first week in May, when Painted Ladies came over in their millions after leaving the Atlas Mountains in Morocco (Northern Africa), they were going past me in groups of 20 to 50 at a time and this went on every minute of the daylight hours and for about 2 days and then winding down in numbers by the third day.  So many of them were seen and they were hitting the side wall of the villa with a light thud yet if momentarily stunned, they would immediately shook it off, re-orientate and seemed no worse for their experience, would just carry on with their journey North and presumably eventually into France. They were being killed in their thousands, the roads had dead butterflies strewn everywhere, you struggled to drive with the amount hitting your windscreens.  There must have been millions involved, but this must goes on here or close by every year. I was also watching them come in off the sea which was also another fabulous spectacle as well.

Specimen No. 15 in 2013 when it aborted
before flowering as you can see here
Any day now I will be checking out the magnificent Broad Leaved Helliborines which are on most of the pavements, usually tucked away and camouflaged by their screening young hazel trees, so far (over the years) I have been fortunate to log at least 80 specimens throughout, but there must be hundreds more than that.  They are being surveyed and booked down year by year and the tally is going up and up and up. After all we have to look after these beauties!  they could well be the "mummies or the daddies" to our rare Schmalhauseneii (or hybrids).

I wonder what the variant "purpurea's" will turn out like this year, I have already checked out the hotspot and sadly some of the "better last year" specimens have already had the "chop" or the "snip". What I mean is that the helliborine's drooping heads have already been well "coppiced" by the local marauding roe deer.  But it still leaves that most beautiful Specimen No.15, wow! I wonder what shade of Magenta or Purple or Lilac we will get from this one this year!  Can't wait.......

Last year (2013) Specimen no.15 aborted its buds before it ever got chance to flower (see photo) with its buds simply shrivelling up and dropping off, but if you look at the photo here you can see that "most of the production" seemed to go on at the lower levels and more into the basal and sheath leaves, and probably not much left for the flower end of the business!  Out of a couple of dozen specimens in the close vicinity there was at least 50% of them aborted in exactly the same way. This issue (aborting) here was very local, in fact to a area considered to be a colony (of Broad Leaves) with over 25 specimens within a 10 metre diameter range.  Yet I did also see the same thing happening to several other plants on another limestone pavement some 500 yards away in distance.  It will be interesting to see what happens this year!  So far this years looks good! fingers crossed!

Close up features of Spec No.15 var: purpurea  (photo taken 2012)
(Click over photo to enlarge)
Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly hatches today (old photo from 2012)

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Rare Lutescens No.2 with its Green Sepals

What a beauty - Close up of the Dark Red Helliborine - Variant "Lutescens" viradis
(Photo kindly by: Martin and Elaine Haggart) - Please click over photo to enlarge
Cumbria may already be famous for its rare Orchid hybrids between the Dark Red Helliborine and the Broad Leaved Helliborine and named the "Epipactis Schmalhauseneii",
But it can now also be recognized for such splendid specimens of the rare variant of the Dark Red Helliborine named the "Lutescens".  On my last blog I showed photos of the rare "Lutescens (red sepal)" this being only the second record of it in the whole of Cumbria. If that was not enough, can you imagine the beautiful surprise of finding another, but this time it is a specimen whats even rarer in so much that it contains mainly Green with that creamy/yellowy flowers and this particular type of "Lutescens" (green sepal) has never been recorded before in Cumbria and possibly further afield as well.

Showing the full length of the rare green sepalled
"Lutescens" (Click over to enlarge)
It was a great pleasure this morning going back to check out the specimen in the fine company of  some serious "orchid" scholars who had travelled from as far afield as London, Birmingham, North Wales, Cheshire, Preston and Beetham, all keen to come along and witness such a fabulous spectacle as this. The heat today up there is stiffling, just like it has been for most days this week and as a consequence its taking its toll on the flowers which most of the helliborines are already on the turn and past their best, so I am really pleased the party saw the rare flower before it also goes over.

Click over to enlarge
Photographs where taken, and we have caged both Lutescens, hoping to protect them for the future.  It was also great to be able to show our ten guest at least seven hybrids, the rare "Epipactis Schmalhauseneii" which are nearby, together with lots of specimens which could also be heading this way in their individual make ups!  We are also noting many "weakling specimens" which I am now very much suspect that they could be the product of the hybrid cross back. Lots going on for the future study of these abnormalities.  

Other news:  The Burton In Kendal Swift group (4 of us) had a really enjoyable evening last night and it was good to be able to record that two further nest sites are being used again this year, although previously we had not recorded any birds using these sites, so that was a nice bonus.  Plenty in the air last night doing their screaming, did manage to count around the 20 mark!  Anyone interested in joining us to check out the Swifts come along next Friday we are meeting up at the Burton Memorial Hall at 2100hrs.

Golden Ringed Dragonfly seen yesterday
(photo: A Brown - Dorset Dragonfly Group)
Golden Ringed Dragonfly Yesterday whilst up on the Common I was priviledged to be the target from a Golden Ringed dragonfly, which I was surprised to see up there, and hawking with terrific speed and acrobatic ability above the high bracken. Its always a suprise up there because there is very little to no water available.  Anyway I am watching the dragonfly closely flying about hoping it might come close to get good views, when it actually came and landed on me.  I daren't flinch, no good wanting to get the camera, although I would have loved a great macro shot!  I got excellent close up views with its large light green eyes peering up at me.  It stayed for a couple of minutes and was then off like a shot.  I have a photo here which Andrew Brown of the Dorset Dragonfly Group has kindly allowed me to use.

Butterflies on the wing today - Still mega numbers of Ringlets, Meadow Browns, lots of Dark Green Fritillaries, Common Blues (mainly males), odd Small Bordered Fritillaries but all seem almost washed out and pale in colour.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Dark Red Helliborine - The Rare Variant known as "Lutescens"

The rare Dark Red Helliborine variant "Lutescens"
Having been tipped off a few days earlier about a good population of epipactis spikes (thanks to Steve Matthewman) and eventually getting around to checking out the area,  I could not believe my eyes at first when I was so lucky to find this plant yesterday afternoon, and I can now say that this is only the second time ever that the rare "Lutescens" has ever been recorded in Cumbria and it was instantly recognized by the general "yellow/creamy" colour within its flowerhead (as seen above).

Just as interesting was another rarity closeby but this time instead of the "reddish" surround colour it was totally green with a yellow/cream inside of the flower.  For now its being classified as yet another "Lutescens".

Another rare "Lutescens" variant found today. 
 here is another photo showing 3/4 of the plant, and here we are waiting for most of the buds to open.  This will be eagerly awaited over the coming days.
A  3/4 view of the rare "Lutescens" found today. 
Besides the variants I did also manage to get more confirmations on a definate couple but possible a quartet of Epipactis Schmalhauseneii the rare hybrid, which to press brings my total records of the rare hybrids up to around the 10 mark for the whole of the area (rare hybrids), although there is several more still on hold and awaiting their full diagnosis.

More and more epipactis evaluated today and even more to check out over the coming days.  Further hybrid or variant news in a day or two.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Epipactis Atrorubens and their possible Hybrids - Schmalhauseneii Part 3

Specimen No.8 - 18" Spike - Hutton Roof Complex
Today I decided to try out another pavement on which was very fragmented and in the past has not been that productive when I last did some survey work.  But a couple of days ago I had been tipped off by a friend (thanks Steve M) that there were some exceptional "spikes" showing this year and the information was absolutely spot on!

Over a selected area of some 40 square yards approx I had no less than 80 spikes, the majority obviously falling within the standard range of the Dark Red Helliborines (epipactis atrorubens).  Yet doing a full search among them it did not take long to find some fabulous large specimens to which a couple fell within the range of possible hybrids. 

The first which was of particular interest to me was the one shown here on the left and this specimen I named No. 8 

It measured from 18" in height and was crammed with 34 individual flowers which really look well against a unusual green light hairy stem.  The leaf structure also had me thinking eg: the helliborine wide shaped "spiralling" up the stem leaves which where showing none of the purple tints and purple leaf edgeing to what you would have expected within a normal atrorubens.  I also took photographs of the deep green well grooved (or lined) leaves which you can see are rather different to the standard atrorubens.

Showing the narrow wrinkled boss
Also I took photos of the strong base of the stem and the accompanying basal leaf structure which on this specimen tended to be rather smaller than you would expect (to normal hybrid widths!), yet clearly shows on the stem along the strong presence of the purple atrorubens give away.  Also another factor but coming down on the atrorubens side of things are the greenish lightly washed purple hairy ovaries. 

Bearing in mind all the factors I have previously mentioned, I am convinced that this particular specimen is going to be a good candidate for Schmalhauseneii.   

Below I have shown the photos of the stem and the leaf structure together showing the spiralling whilst advancing the stem.  And a good close up photo of the actual basal leaves and basal stem features.

Note large E. Helliborine like leaves and spiralling
with only purple showing purely on the outer edge of the basal leaf at the bottom,
although again you see the purple in the lower stem representative of a e.atrorubens
And here is a photo showing the strong deep green ridged lower leaf again typical of e.helliborine features on a e.atrorubens or hybrid specimen. 
Here you see the deep light and dark green  and heavy ridge lines of the lower leaf,
against the light lining of the basal leaf which is the only leaf with a light purple edging
although this can be seen better on the final photo below. 
And this final photo shows the true basal features and you can just make out the purple edging on the true basal leaf.  And confirms good typical purple of the lowest part of the stem as it hits the soil.
The final photo showing the true basal features.
This has been a outline from today's study on just one particular plant Specimen 8. 

And even more interesting today was finding the following specimens No. 9 and 10 which were growing alongside one another as you can see in the photograph below.
Tall 46 and 50 flowerhead - very pale etc etc etc

I noticed this pair and one or two other smaller specimens from that given area (some 20 square yards) where showing their "very light green" stems which in itself is so eye catching, yet combined with the "bright" lemony green ovaries which made the plant stand out from among the rest.  Although I have seen this sort of thing before its so rare in these parts.  I can only think that it will have something to do with the actual ground mineral compositions, although after saying that within maybe a metre or so of these there is some beautiful spikes of straight forward "burgundy" coloured Dark Red Helliborines with not the slightest hint of the light green colourings, and a couple of metres further on again and you come across further specimens of this light green phase. 

Here is a photo of Specimen 9 showing clearly the stem, ovaries and epichile and bosses. Worth noting here you see no red or purple wash to the stem of the ovary, again it is very lemony green colour. 

showing the very light green ovary colour and lacking any purple or red
on the ovary stem which adjoins the main stalk 
Now moving over to the base of the plant (below) you can see there is no hint whatsoever of any purple or red wash it seems to be pure "light green" throughout.

A photo showing the basal features of this plant.
So moving on now and finally I would love to show you this small plant which I had today.   This plant again is showing much unusual discolouration especially around the mouth of the flowerheads which are of a very light creamy colour.  Please check out the photos below.

Much variation over the day within the many beautiful epipactis atrorubens and their possible hybrids or even variants.  Lots and lots of work to be done now.  And off out again shortly to get among these little beauties.