Rare Plants

Shropshire Botanical Society Newsletter 6 - Spring 2002 - page 5-6



In July this year Nick Hodgetts surveyed Cramer Gutter nature reserve on behalf of the Shropshire Wildlife Trust, and was asked to look for the extremely rare liverwort Cephaloziella elachista (J.B. Jack ex Gottsche & Rabenh.) Schiffn., which has not been recorded there since Martin Wigginton found it in 1981. Happily he found it to be quite common in the most boggy parts of the reserve, so this rarest of Shropshire bryophytes is still with us.

Rob Stokes noticed a large patch of the nationally scarce Helleborus foetidus L., Stinking Hellebore, on a roadside bank at Farley Dingle, SJ634023 & SJ633023, on March 14th 2002. At first he suspected that the sudden arrival of some 30 mature plants and numerous seedlings suggested some deliberate introductions, but it seems that this patch has been known in this precise spot for over 200 years, since Edward Williams first noticed it there in the late 18th century. Subsequently William Penny Brooks (c. 1841), William Beckwith (c. 1876), George Potts (1902 & 1928) and Winifred Hutton (1988) have all made records of it. This intriguing smattering of records suggests that it may be appearing in particular abundance in some years. Sarah Whild observes that seeds sometimes germinate in large numbers following hard winters, and there were some very hard frosts two years ago. Helleborus foetidus is not quite rare in Shropshire, having four current tetrads. After eliminating the probable introductions, the current distribution map is as shown right.


Helleborus foetidus

Distribution of Helleborus foetidus

John Pagett found Helianthemum nummularium (L.) Miller, Common Rock-rose, in an area of open space in Madeley, Telford, in May 2000 (SJ701042). Although this is not a rare species in the limestone areas of the northwest, it is certainly unusual in the east of the county - the nearest site is more than 10km away. John explains that the soil in this part of the county is boulder clay deposited here during the ice age, and contains fragments of calcareous mudstones and sandstones dislodged from the underlying Keele bedrock laid down during the Carboniferous. The plants were growing on an anthill, apparently constructed from this calcareous sand.



Kate Thorne found a patch of Brookweed, Samolus valerandi L., in a damp set-aside field near Welsh Frankton, SJ3432, in September 2001 (conf. S.J. Whild, Hb. SFG). This is a very rare plant in the county, with only two other known sites in the last twenty years. It was last recorded in Welsh Frankton in 1891, by Thomas Diamond.

Samolus valerandi

Distribution of Samolus valerandi


Kate also collected the uncommon hawkweed Hieracium eboracense Pugsley (det. D.J. McCosh) at Llanymynech Rocks, SJ267218, on 25th July 2001. This is the first record since 1909, when Augustin Ley found it at Buildwas (SJ60) and Diddlebury (SO58). He might also have recorded it at Roman Bank (SO59, 1904), but the latter has not been confirmed.

Kate also refound the Hieracium lasiophyllum Koch at Earl's Hill, SJ409046, growing on the east side on rock outcrops and in short grassland. It has been recorded regularly at Earl's Hill since 1888, when John Fraser found it there. The only other known site for it in the county is in Carding Mill Valley. A record for SJ41 in the Critical Supplement to the Atlas of the British Flora may be an error.


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