Above photos showing Columbines and Rockroses

Latterbarrow and Meathop Moss

24th May 2022

Both Cumbria Wildlife Trust reserves are in close proximity just off the A590 in the South Lakes but could not be more different, and only just over an hour away.

Latterbarrow Nature Reserve, visited first, is on thin limestone soils with very old anthills offering a different soil. There is woodland at the edges and the reserve is grazed in late summer after the flowers have seeded and autumn to maintain the open grassland areas. It is this area we mostly looked at.

Overwhelming variety of colour greeted us and almost the first flowers seen were Butterfly Orchids, Plantathera chlorantha, identified by the diverging pollen-masses, perhaps someone remembered the position from a previous visit and very near the entrance gate!

Greater Butterfly Orchid

There were spreads of purple and occasionally pink Columbine, Aquilegia vulgaris, contrasting with the bright yellow of Rockrose, Helianthemum nummularium, now much further out than those seen at Oxenber on our earlier botany outing. Blue seas on top of anthills turned out to be the very common and humble  Germander Speedwell, Veronica chamaedrys, but making a big splash.

Rockrose CB

Common Gromwell, Lithospermum officinale, is more noticeable from its height than its flowers which are small and creamy/greenish-white and not as often seen by us. One extreme to another was the Parsley Piert, Aphanes arvensis, a ground hugging small plant with minute flowers, in previous years seen on limestone rock outcrops but this year on the decaying anthills. The dandelion look-alike Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Pilosella officinarum, is a little more easily identified than some by its lemon yellow flowers and silver backed leaves was growing on drier and rockier ground.

Common Gromwell

Parsley Piert

Mouse-ear Hawkweed CB

The Lady’s Bedstraw, Galium verum, was almost in flower but easily recognisable with its whorl of leaves and upright growth. This has yellow flowers and smells of new mown hay, a reference to its name. Yellow Rattle, Rhinanthus minor, is the plant that helps subdue the stronger grasses.

Early Purple Orchids, Orchis mascula, were going over, an occasional spike of Common Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii, were about to open but the bonus were the Fly Orchids, Ophrys insectifera. How confusing that all the plants we call orchids had different Latin Genus names!

Common Spotted Orchid

Fly Orchid

Meathop Moss is raised peatbog with  very different flora and viewed from a board walk, though on this visit it looked much drier than expected with some encroaching scrub like appearance at the start.

However the delights were visible when looked for with care. The Round-leaved Sundew, Drosera rotundifolia, an insectiferous plant has a small hairy sticky surface to catch and trap its food source. The pink cyclamen like flowers of Cranberry, Vaccinium oxycoccos were seen in profusion, unlike the Bog Rosemary, Andromeda polifolia, which were scarce probably having gone over.


Bog Rosemary


The two heathers present on the slightly wetter bog are Heather, Caluna vulgaris, and Cross-leaved Heath, Erica tetralix, and then the aptly named Hare’s-tail Cottongrass, Eriophorum vaginatum.

Lots of dead heads were last year’s Bog Asphodel, Narthecium ossifraga, with reference to its poisonous nature to sheep whose bones it weakens. This year’s shoots and buds were visible at the base but not yet the yellow flowers.

This completed a wonderful day out looking at two very different habitats.

Josephine Drake

Photos – Ian Hughes except CB Christine Bell

Website Christine Bell