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.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Northern Bedstraw & Heath Fragrant Orchid on Hutton Roof, Cumbria.

"Northern Bedstraw" (galium sterneri) on Hutton Roof, Cumbria
I guess at the moment I have about ten blogs stored away and going around in my head from the past two weeks which I have not been able to get down with pen and paper, but the reality is that I have been too engrossed with the Epipactis Atrorubens and their fascinating hybrids the "Schmals".  Well I am breaking off the Schmal hunting to do this blog, but will have lots more stuff on the rare hybrids for Part 3 shortly.

It does seem strange, that you seem to wait ages to find a new species for your local patch, but then like yesterday you might get two in one day.  Well that's just what happened.  I was on my way in after a great day checking out more pavements for the Dark Red Helliborines.  And something said check out "Pavement 7" which is a pavement quite near to "Easter Man" (a natural limestone sculpture!).  I am glad I did call off here, although there was the odd epipactis or two, the thing that intrigued me more was to find a new species which I had never identified before on Hutton Roof, and it turned out to be the Northern Bedstraw, a beautiful plant has can be seen in the photo (Please click over photo to enlarge).

The reason I havn't seen it before here is because there are no records of it for Hutton Roof or the surrounding area.  It seems according to the atlas that the species is more frequent on the higher altitudes within the Central Lakes areas. A lovely plant and there is perhaps one metre spread with odd flowers just about starting to come through.

Heath Fragrant Orchid ( Gymnadenia borealis) on Hutton Roof
Moving on and climbing up through the Crags to come back into full daylight and sunshine once again, I had only been going along the path for maybe some 50 yards and I just happened to notice a little flower peering through the rank grass which almost covered it up.  I again had certainly never seen one of these before, other than in the great Orchid books.  It stood at some 8" and the most beautiful flowerhead with its spurs, the head of the flower was about 1 1/4" in depth and about 3/4" in width, very small and I would guess very fragile.  I did think it possible to be a Heath Fragrant, but not sure until I had checked out my books and sent a quick email along to my friend the Cumbria orchid guru Alan Gendle which he quickly confirmed diagnosis back to me.

Pyramidal Orchid at Dockacres
It really was a nice turn up for the book, another new species never before recorded on Hutton Roof.  In fact according to the atlas there is records of this species at two other locations in Cumbria, (Spadeadam and Watendlath), but I have since learnt that the species can be frequently seen in the Kirkby Stephen/ Brough areas on other Cumbria Wildlife Reserves eg: Argill, Smardale and Waitby.

I did search the immediate area but could only find the one, although confident the plant had actually flowered last year because the old decaying stem was right at the side of the current plant.

About a week ago I was on Dockacres and did manage one or two photos of the lovely Pyramidals, which by now had started to change over from their "pyramid" looking to their new look in the shape of a guardsman's helmet shape.

Another photo I took this week was the Zig Zag Clover, it always makes a superb photograph. A new find for me also this week was a small colony of albino or white "Herb Robert" which were quietly tucked away in the shadows near to a first time exploratory pavement.  The reason I happened to be on this pavement at this time was purely because of a pleasant diversion, because I had just gone past a small tree on Hybrid Hill, when an almighty scream was heard directly at the side of me within 20ft and to be honest I don't know who was frightened most, but there was this most beautiful little Roe Deer fawn with all its white spots and obviously it was trying to bring attention of its fright to its mother which must have been feeding far off.  I quickly turned and moved away from the fawn and proceeded to the next nearby pavement, both of us looking back or forward at one another until I was completely out of sight.  I shortly heard the mother deer running across the pavement with haste whilst she must have located and moved her little one to another hopefully safe area.  I thought what a relief it must have been for the mother to find her fawn OK, it must have been great anguish for her from the moment she heard in the far distance that young fawn scream out like it did.

Zig Zag Clover on Hutton Roof
Also found more populations of Squinancywort, Birds Foot Sedge, Small Scabious, Carline Thistle, Hemp Agrimony, Ploughmans Spikenard, Spring Sandwort. Found singletons and the odd four group of Common Twayblade on The Common. Some more populations of Slender St. Johns Wort. along with lots of Hawkweeds (various), Fairy Flax, Wild Thyme, Wall Lettuce and all the other regular stuff.

Done regular checks on the Pale St. John's Wort (Hypericum Montanum ss perforaturm) which we have on Lancelot and they seem to be doing well with an slight increase to 13 flowering plants this year and as yet no deer problems.

Lots of the beautiful Lancelot special "Purpurea" Broad Leaved Helliborines have already been attacked by the deer with most of them already having the heads bit off, but there is still one or two about the old tree and thankfully as yet the "special" light purple one is still intack.

Hypericum Montanum ss perforatum (prob: pulchrum)
Really exciting news with two more populations of Northern Brown Argus Butterflies being recorded from the higher ground located on the East side of  Hutton Roof,  feeding quite near to the Common Rock Rose.

Other species seen this week include: Hundreds of Ringlets,scores of Meadow Browns, scores of Dark Green Fritillaries, Tens of Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries, lots of Small Heaths, Large Skippers. It was great yesterday to see my first Grayling flying over Lancelot, no doubt there should be scores in the coming days.

Birdwise I had a party of young Green Woodpeckers yesterday at the top of Lancelot Clark Storth, today I had a single Lesser Whitethroat calling, the Tree Pipits are almost silent just the odd one now with a feeble effort in comparison on their usual.

Spent lots of time up on the top checking out and gathering information on the Epipatis atrorubens, the E. Helliborines and also the rare hybrids E. Schmalhauseneii.  I have also had some great help again this year with the Epipactis recording etc from Alan G who has also brought along some wire cages and we have been trying to "make safe from the deer" some of the suspected schalhauseneii's.

Will try and collate some of the rare Schmalhauseneii photos in the next couple of days. This below is a sampler showing three plants that are even struggling to straighten up because of the large volume of their spikes.

Three separate plants, that are heavy in flower and bud
they are finding it difficult to straighten out. 
Remember: E. Schmalhauseneii Part 3 coming up soon....

I was part of the Burton In Kendal Swift group which met in the Village on Friday last to do a regular check up of our Swift numbers and the recording of their nest sites etc.  We are never disappointed but it was really quiet just the odd one or two being seen.  It was probably quiet on account of it had been raining heavy earlier.  It does seem strange that I keep reading in the last few days that over 5000 Swifts per day are already heading home past the Spurn Observatory on the East Coast. We can only presume that these maybe young immature birds which did originally come in with the adult birds and decided to do a Recci before heading back.  Our breeding populations usually start dispersal from about the first week in August.

Monday, 30 June 2014

More Epipactis Schmalhauseneii notes PART TWO.

This is a "nearly" schmal - photo taken 1 week ago
Now for me I would be calling this a "nearly" Epipactis Schmalhauseneii the rare hybrid between Dark Red Helliborine and the Broad Leaved Helliborine. Let me try and outline the case:-

First of all it has the bunched head appearance were flowers are circulating the full circumference of the stem and of a thick spiky plume appearance - for this alone I would have to tick the box for probable hybrid - it bears no resemblance to a typical Dark Red Helliborine whatsoever!

Secondly the base leaf is rounded and deeply ridged and of a deep green colour - certainly not typical of a regular Dark Red Helliborine, but more typical of what to expect of a Broad Leaved Helliborine feature. So here again I would have to tick the box for probable hybrid.

Thirdly the smaller darker green leaves are circulating all directions of the stem in a spiral fashion which you would probably get more with Broad Leaved Helliborine rather than the typical Dark Red Helliborine.  This again means I would tick the box for probable hybrid.

Now then with these points in mind, we also have the following factors to be taken into consideration eg: The main stem of the plant, is of a deep red burgundy colour typical of the Dark Red Helliborine.
Also the actual timing of when in flower (in other words right now!),  is purely typical of only the Dark Red Helliborine, whereby the Broad Leaved Helliborine will not be opened up for at least another three weeks yet.

So just on the evidence so far supplied, I am feeling very confident that we have a probable Schmalhauseneii here! what do you think?

I would certainly have been able to have ticked all the boxes, but for one thing! the boss measurements are too wide within the epichile!  The following photo (below left) is of a close up showing the bosses in relation to its epichile of the same plant which is shown above.

Boss ratio to epichile width
to some "falls short"

To satisfy the BSBI requirements of "Epipactis Schmalhauseneii" the boss width in relation to the width of the epichile must not be any wider than 50% of the epichile width and when you see this specimen you will note that the bosses cover over 75% of that width.

So we have a situation that if this specimen shown here is not a "Epipactis Schmalhauseneii" then what is it?  It would certainly be unfair to call it a typical Dark Red Helliborine (Epipactis Atrorubens) because of the abnormalities which I have pointed out already.

And this is the problem at Hutton Roof, there are scores of plants (less than 50) that fit the title of "nearlies" but probably less that 10 in total that can actually claim the title of  Epipactis Schmalhauseneii.

Another of this years
Schmalhauseneii had a premature end
(Click over to enlarge)
Yesterday on checking on the only as yet confirmed specimen of Schmalhausenii (photos shown in last Saturdays blog).  Already the deer has had it, so sadly this one cant progress any further at least for this year anyway.

And here is another one from yesterday which for some reason already appears to be burnt out!  sadly on checking the records for the area and the gps co-ordinates, it's another one of our recorded Schmalhauseneii's.  In the same area there are lots of typical Atrorubens and these are all OK, so whats caused this premature "burn out" I really wouldnt know but probably something different within its genes may have something to do with it.

Lots of other great stuff to blog, I'll try and do it later. (A Fawn, more Birds Foot Sedge, Pyramidal Orchid photos, More sanicle records, Hard Shield with 40" fronds, Albino Herb Robert, More Common Rock Rose records, a new Squinancywort record, Chimney Sweep Moth eruption, more zig zag clover photos and records etc etc etc....

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Schmal Indicators - Revision Time

My Schmal "Indicator" Chart
I guess its time for me to bring out my Indicator chart again and do my annual revision.

What I have noticed with Schmalhauseneii hybrid identification is that you can't have any firm fixed rules which apply to all plants.  Each plant must be taken separately and purely on their own merit.  The variations I have already seen on Hutton Roof are quite incredible.  But in most cases they will not be Schmalhauseneii.

Quite a lot of "nearlies" fall short of the qualifications outlined in my indicator chart, but at the same time its quite obvious the plant is not a straight forward E. Atrorubens you have come to expect.  Probably the first striking indicator I meet with is the bunched head appearance where flowers are coming from all sides of the stem giving a early appearance of a plumed spike rather than a "two sided" flowering plant.

Other strong pointers like spiralling leaves rather than straight opposites, or large rounded basal leaves which you would associate more with the e.helliborine.

So we have a totally unclear situation in regards to the "nearlies hybrids", I wonder what we can actually call them, because they tend to show just as many "e. helliborine" features as they do the "e. atrorubens" features.  A clear mixture between the two species is represented, but they do not have that final and most determining "qualification" to be able to safely call them "schmalhauseneii".

The most defined qualification yet and set by the BSBI is the measurement of the boss width in ratio to the epichile width and if you then have the 50% or less boss width, and can also meet with some of the above indicators then it would probably qualify for the rare hybrid known as the Epipactis Schmalhauseneii.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

First day checking out Epipactis Schmalhauseneii

Along with others we've been keeping a eye on this chappie!

First day out this year actually checking out the Dark Red Helliborines (Epipactis Atrorubens), some of which had already opened up.

Checking out some of last year's possibilities for the rare hybrid title "Epipactis schmalhauseneii"  One or two today looked reasonable candidates, for the title but I would rather wait until I get more flowers open before I make any decisions, with lots of ground to cover over the next couple of weeks.

Close up of the flower showing the boss size ratio in relation
to the epichile (2014)
Yes the specimen above we marked off last year with markers and gps readings so that we could get straight on to it this year.  You will see from the photos that last year the plant was very much deformed. This year the deformity is showing much less. 

I suppose the most striking feature at first is the beautiful wine coloured petals of the E.atrorubens featuring against the light green hairy stem of this probable hybrid.

The close up photograph of the boss and epichile, along with other
The same plant last year (2013)
leaf structure and colouring etc, would in my opinion make this a early qualifier for the title of "Schmalhauseneii" just what we had expected the outcome to have been. The width measure of the bosses is just below the 50% required.  

And here is a photograph I took last year showing the plant which had much deformity.

The immediate area has quite a few Dark Reds specimens which seem to be following the standard species requirement, and within two metres of the hybrid specimen is two fine one metre high Broad Leaved Helliborines. 

Besides checking out the Epipactis it was also good to be able to record more Ploughman's Spikenard, Small Scabious, a area I had lost from last year which had recently (now gone over) Sanicle, a good 30 metre solid "Woodruff" colony, more Lily of the Valley gps...d, also checking out a Rock Rose colony which was just about the same area as last year, no more no less! Some more Limestone Polypody and Common Polypody, new Bitter Vetch area, checked out the beautiful Squinancywort, new area for Bittersweet. 

It was a dull morning and no butterflies on the way out, however on the return I had scores of Ringlets, good numbers of Meadow Browns, just the odd Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries and a few Speckled Woods.

Absolutely stunning fern

Friday, 27 June 2014

Hypericum Montanum ss Perforatum (Pulchrum)

Common Cow-wheat (Melampyrum pratense) on Lancelot Clark Storth
Friday 27th June 2014

Set off from within Lancelot Clark Storth with the main agenda set to check out some of the Dark Red Helliborines (e.atrorubens) and to check out the rare Hypericum Montanum ss. perforatum.

E. Atrorubens
Straight away the deer were "barking" at me, could only have been 75 yards away. And "ticks" where everywhere, in fact I crossed through the footpath which goes through "Ticks Nursery" has I have called it and got covered with scores of them.  So it was necessary to spend at least five minutes smacking all the ticks off the bottom sections of my trousers, whilst mumbling to myself "Consider youself well ticked off".

Found this year that the Common Cow Wheat had spread to further parts of the pavements which is really good news.  I have tried to map it out. I also found lots more Hypericum up there and it was what I would have expected Slender St. Johns Wort (Hypericum pulchrum), another "perforatum" species.

Other stuff noted on my travels was Enchanters Nightshade, Meadowsweet, Yellow Pimpernel, Betony. And on one of the pavements I was suprised to find a couple of clumps of the Pill Sedge (Carex pilulifera) (see photo). 

Another of todays Dark Reds
Whilst on my way up checked out several of the Dark Red Helliborines and its obvious that most of them have now opened up with their flowers, so what that means for me is "Move up a gear over the next two or three weeks" because it will be out every day checking out all these beauties on the nearby pavements to try and find the rare elusive "Schmalhausenii" hybrids which are on Hutton Roof.

I also  checked out the small area which always produces lovely E. Helliborine "purpurea" specimens and sadly two of the usual beauties have already had their spikes taken off, having succumb to the hungry deer, but not to worry there are still a few of what might turn out to be extra colourful examples.

Hypericum Montana ss Perforatum (Pulchrum)
Next stage was to locate those rare beauties which would commonly be called the Pale St. John's Wort (Hypericum Montanum), and all have come up again this year.  A couple have flowers just starting to come out.  There is one place with two, the main group holds eight with another single one a metre away, and ten metre away from the main group is another area with two flowers. I really would love to get to the bottom of the story of these "peculiar" Montanums.  Yes they are weird in so much they have "perforated" leaves, whereby the norm shows they should not have "perforated" and also I am told that the yellow petal colours on these are far deeper in colour than that of the normal Pale St Johns.  I have tried to get help on determination before but as yet without success so for now until I can get to the bottom of it, I am calling them "Hypericum-Montanum-ss Perforatum" and I would love to add to that the name "Pulchrum" because I bet at the end of the day they have possibly bred with the only other perforatum species in the close vicinity. If there is anyone who thinks they can help on this situation I would welcome them getting in touch with me.

Pill Sedge on Limestone!
Also today just one Dark Green Fritillary, 3 Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary with one of them very pale specimens already, countless numbers of Ringlets and Meadow Browns. Also some Speckled Woods in or near woodland rides etc.

Also, 2 Chiffchaffs, 1 Blackcap and that was it for Warblers.

Looking more like our Cuckoo's departed last Friday 20th June from Dalton Crags.  Tonight Swift watching with the Burton Swift Group in Burton In Kendal's Main Street - WE ARE MEETING UP AT 2130HRS AT THE BURTON MEMORIAL HALL AND ANYONE WISHING TO COME ALONG WOULD BE MOST WELCOME.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Common Cudweed in North Lancashire

Common Cudweed in North Lancashire - 25th June 2014
With just one hour spare yesterday morning I decided to go in search of the rare "Common Cudweed" which I noted the other day whilst searching a old grown over sand and gravel pit in North Lancashire.  The County Recorder has requested further information on this rare species so that he can differentiate whether the ones I have recorded are Filago vulgaris or Filago minima, of which either are very rare in this area.

I was probably a little hasty in reporting that there was just one isolated plant, because on closer inspection I found numerous (scores in fact), along a stretch of some 40 yards by about 4 yard wide linear stretch. 

Just a few like the ones in the photo above actually reached 3" to 4" in height, certainly none have been higher to date.  But the majority will have been between about 1/2" and 3/4" with some oddities in so much that odd flowers are actually growing on top of another one has can be seen in some of my photos. 

I was also asked to count the "capitula" heads of the flowers and on average they numbered between 9 and 13.

It really is good to see such a large population.

If you want to check out all my Cudweed photos please click over this link. (photobucket photo hosting external site)

since writing the above it is now confirmed that the species are definately Filago vulgaris 1200hrs 26th June 2014. 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

First of the year Dark Red Helliborine in flower

The very first of the year in flower
I thought perhaps a visit to the other side (Clawthorpe Side) of Hutton Roof, to a area I have always called "Mossy Stones". I found lots of Dark Red Helliborines (Epipactis atrorubens) today, and most of them were showing there heads to be at the five past the clock position. Just this one (photo above) was "early" and in flower, all the rest would be at least a week before being ready.  

Common Rock Rose
I was out looking for Common Rock Rose which I have been surveying and recording. And today I did manage to find another six small colonies offering yet another ten square metres of spread out flowers.  The sun was not shining today and so I never had any "Northern Brown Argus butterflies" taking advantage of the Rock Rose. 

Also covering this territory I am always on the look out for the rare Birds Foot Sedge.  I did manage to find one new location which has five clumps.

Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary
Lots of Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries were showing and seemed fairly easy to photograph today, but did not have any of the larger Dark Green Fritillaries on this side of Hutton Roof. Other butterflies today included lots of Ringlets and a pair of fighting Speckled Woods and a Small Heath.

A new site for the Tree Pipit was recorded and I did manage to see three Long Tailed Tits in the same tree as a pair of Willow Warblers.  Also a new site for the Chiffchaff.  Also yaffling today was a Green Woodpecker and calling Redpoll overhead. 

Other plants recorded today were: Squinancywort, Limestone Bedstraw, Dropwort, Pignut, Birds Foot Trefoil, Slender St. John's Wort, Tormentil, Eyebright (sp), Wild Thyme, Broad Leaved Helliborine, Lily Of The Valley (gone over of course) Mountain Melick Grass. 

Slender St. John's Wort (Hypericum pulchrum)
This is a weird "unusual" thing, obviously a early day Broad Leaved
Helliborine well grooved leaves and well rounded and well bitten!