Raisby Hill Grassland SSSI, April 2019

So, recuperation from a bug picked up on the way home from Cyprus gave me the excuse I needed for an early trip to Raisby Hill this month.  Things have come on fast over the last few weeks – the first field I walked through was full of sun-worshipping Lesser celandine and, when I climbed the hill, the whitlowgrass I found last month had been joined by Blue moor-grass and Hairy violets, the latter distinguished by their blunt sepals, dark hooked spur and hairs on the stem and leaves. Blue moor-grass is nationally scarce but common on Carboniferous limestone grassland in this part of the world.

Blue moor-grass, Sesleria caerulea and Hairy violet, Viola hirta

I was surprised to see lots of primroses apparently still in bud but a closer look showed them to be cowslips, which flower slightly later.  Sure enough, when I got into the woodland towards the end of my circuit there were plenty of primroses in flower.

Cowslip, Primula veris, and Primrose, P. vulgaris

Most of the goat willows which were flowering last month are finished now, though some of the smaller trees growing on the limestone scree slopes are a little behind.  More coltsfoot and gorse in flower carry on the yellow theme for the day.

I can’t wait to see what will be flowering in the old quarry itself in a month or two – newly emerging leaves and last year’s seed heads suggest something of a treat to come.  For now, I am content with a bank full of Dog-violets and Barren strawberries.

Barren strawberry, Potentilla sterilis, and Common dog-violet, Viola riviniana

The scars left by February’s fen restoration work still look raw but vegetation is starting to appear on some of the less steep slopes so I’ll be watching with interest over the coming months.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

More of the trees along the old railway track are in bud now but I’m intrigued by the difference in timing of bud burst between plants of the same species in nearly the same location – maybe hawthorn is particularly noticeable, with its acid green foliage at this time of year, but some trees seem to be way ahead of their neighbours.

An early Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna

The mossy understory, so lush and green in winter, is having to compete harder for its water now and seems to be shrinking into the background as grasses and other flowering plants overtop it.

This month I found 12 species in flower – a substantial increase on last month’s four! Here is the list, ordered by plant families as arranged in Rose’s The Wild Flower Key, as before:

Lesser celandine Ficaria verna
Hairy violet Viola hirta
Common dog-violet Viola riviniana
Goat willow Salix caprea
Common whitlowgrass Erophila verna agg.
Primrose Primula vulgaris
Barren strawberry Potentilla sterilis
Gorse Ulex europaeus
White dead-nettle Lamium album
Dandelion Taraxacum agg.
Colt’s-foot Tussilago farfara
Blue moor-grass Sesleria caerulea

 

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