Why would the Botany Group go to another limestone habitat over an hour and a half away? Scout Scar, a limestone escarpment and dip slope west of Kendal, offers the chance to see how climate and exposure can affect the habitat too.
We were lucky to visit on a warmer sunny day with clear views of the nearby Morecambe Bay and wider landscape. A west wind blowing from the sea and up the cliff face suggested why many of the familiar limestone plants seemed smaller than expected. Hoary Rock-rose – Helianthemum canum
has smaller leaves and flowers than our Common Rock-rose – Helianthemum mummalarium, and more hairs to protect it from the drying wind. Another lover of exposed dry limestone rocks is Fairy Foxglove – Erinus alpinus,
viewing this required looking at the actual rock face.
Sqinancywort – Asperula cyanchica was found just away from the edge, a pink flowered very low growing plant of dry limestone and contrasts with the more familiar white Woodruff – Gallium odoratum of our woodlands and Bedstraw – Gallium sternarii the white ‘froth’ that covers our limestone grassland. A small patch of the unusual and uncommon Mountain Everlasting Antennaria dioica was also found.
Heather – Calluna vulgaris was growing in the back of the stepped topography where the wind blown glacial soils from the Irish Sea had accumulated providing a more acid environment. Here too was Dropwort – Filipendula vulgaris
a relative of our common Meadowsweet – F. ulmaria, enjoying the deeper slightly damper more sheltered conditions.
We saw several orchids. Lesser Butterfly Orchid – Platanthera bifolia is found occasionally in the Dales but here we saw several groups growing between the different patches of limestone pavement. One or two aptly named Fly Orchids – Ophrys insectifera
were in similar areas as were the heavily scented Fragrant Orchid – Gymnadenia conopsea.
Two limestone ferns were growing on the broken limestone pavement Rigid Buckler Fern – Dryopteris submontana with its stiff fronds covered in small glands, and Limestone Fern – Gymnocarpium robertianum
with lovely delicate fronds.
So we had a wonderful day recognising much loved familiar plants and new related species adapted to a slightly different habitat.
Photos Plants Ian Hughes. Views first Christine Bell, last Vivien Grieve