Wildflowers, plants & lichens

Today there was an article in the Guardian that said only 3% of the world’s natural ecosystems remain intact. That is quite a scary prospect. 

This leads me to some pictures I took recently of some wildflowers and plants. In recent years in the UK there has been a small movement to not spray grass verges with chemicals, or to have a small patch of land where it can be left fallow, or to grow ‘insect friendly’ or indeed wildflowers in your garden to encourage more biodiversity.

In lockdown, I noticed lots of little plants that I had not really taken much notice of before. Although still considered ‘weeds,’ they are quite beautiful if you stop and look at them closely. Here are some I took with a macro lens. 

Many wildflowers, plants and lichens have been used historically to treat various ailments and some hold the key to unlocking future medicines such as antibiotics. Which is why it is so important to hang on them!

NB Some of the plants are quite difficult to identify and I am still learning their names, so they may not be all correct!

Lesser Celandine
A Red deadnettle.
A Wood anemone
Clematis vitalba
Xanthoria parietina. Future uses may include antibiotics and sunscreen.
Cow parsley.
A Field speedwell.

Ancient woodland

The term ‘ancient woodland’ in itself conjures up something magical and mystical. It describes an area of woodland that has been in existence since the 1600’s. It has developed naturally with unique ecosystems and the woodland has not been disturbed by mankind. Sadly, these special places only account for 2.4% of the UK.

All the leaves on the trees were out in full – brand new, perfect leaves in that fresh shade of almost luminous green. They always look at their peak in May, before the colour slightly fades and the leaves get their lived-in appearance and become tatty looking as the Summer goes on.

The light was perfect, weaving its way through small patches and lighting up the ground where the leaves had not yet formed a complete canopy. It provided that beautiful dappled appearance, great for photography.

Ferns growing tall.
Red Campion
New leaves.
Light reaching a solitary blade of grass on the woodland floor.

Steppe Planting

The Big Sky Meadow at RHS Hyde Hall is a 46 acre project to convert land to a perennial meadow. The plants are those common to the Eurasian steppes, North American prairies and African grasslands.

Blue Eryngium planum and yellow Galium verum. When dried, the yellow flowers smell of freshly mown hay. These were once used to stuff straw mattresses. A yellow dye was also made from these flowers.

Berkehya purpurea from South Africa is a drought tolerant plant, suited to areas with poor soils.

Red clover – in herbal medicine, was used to treat skin disorders.

The Yorkshire Dales

A tranquil scene of snowdrops growing beside a small stream, protected by moss-covered dry stone walls.

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There are many sheep farms.

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Traditional farming landscapes of field barns and dry stone walls in the valley of Wensleydale. The landscape has been farmed for thousands of years.

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The Yorkshire Dales is famous for its limestone scenery. The grey rock was formed from the shells and skeletons of billions of sea creatures, laid down millions of years ago in tropical oceans. Ancient glaciers moving over the landscape and then rainwater over thousands of years, produced the cracks (or grykes) of the landscape that exists today. In the distance is the Ribblehead Viaduct, built by 1000 navvies in Victorian times. It has 24 arches and is part of the Settle to Carlisle railway line.

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A dilapidated building in the middle of the moors.

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Dry stone walls are the largest man-made feature of the dales. There are approximately 5000 miles of them. They are ‘dry’ because there is no mortar holding them together.

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Seal study – Part 2

Seals are intriguing creatures. Looking at the way they look back at us, they probably find us quite interesting too. They are playful and expressive.

Seals are regarded as highly intelligent marine mammals. They are certainly fun to watch from a distance – guidelines suggest 150 feet. Not only can they bite, but they can pass on some infectious diseases to humans. They can suffer stress, or even abandon their young.

There are many stories written about seals. Selkie stories from Scottish and Irish folklore, are about creatures which are seal-like in appearance in the ocean, yet take on the human form on land.

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Seal study – Part I

I was fortunate to get quite close to an Atlantic grey seal and Common seal colony with my telephoto lens. Bulls live for 25 years, but cows live up to 35 years. It is important to keep your distance because they can move fast and bite. 

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This seal had beautiful fur. Leopard-like.

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Seals feed on a variety of fish and shellfish. The smell hangs in the air.

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It is thought that seals bask in the sun to remove parasites from their skin.

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A seal breeding area is called a rookery. 

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A carpet of snowdrops …

The snowdrops were out in force! Galanthus nivalis is one species which self-seeds and spreads quickly. Bees use snowdrops for nectar when not many other plants are flowering.

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