Walking in Hardcastle Crags on Saturday we were admiring the hazy effect of hundreds of Wood Melick flower heads, on the track side just above Gibson Mill. This is a fairly widespread grass in Calderdale.
I mentioned the much rarer Mountain Melick that we had been unable to find at Hardcastle Crags since the days of our late President, Frank Murgatroyd. He wrote in his Flora of the Halifax Parish that “It is very rare and known only in the Hebden valley on a calcareous outcrop, where it has persisted for many years”. However he was not able to find it for us on many visits since my time in the Society. Since we sadly lost him, several people have kept visiting the spot, but no sign of it was seen.
However, on Saturday 18th June, Annie Honjo found it! I persuaded Peachysteve and Philip Marshall to come and confirm it on Sunday, and they were satisfied it is Mountain Melick, Melica nutans. Charles Flynn also added his opinion that we had relocated it after seeing the photo.
So we are really pleased that it is still in existence there. The National Trust have kept the tree cover off the rocks for the sake of the special assemblage of plants that grows there.
Here is an Oak tree in the New Forest exhibiting its amazing strength.
The tonnage of wood on this horizontal branch is supported by the special cells which produce the interlocked grain at the junction with the main trunk. Also the branch will have tension wood growing above its centre to act like a bicep in an arm.
This junction is one of the strongest places on a tree and branches rarely fail at this point. The spiral grain on this particular branch also gives it greater bending strength.
Who says grasses aren’t colourful. This Meadow Foxtail is showing the lovely purple anthers and their attachment by a delicate filament, allowing them to vibrate in the wind and shed pollen.
Before this event the whole of the grass ‘flower’ envelope is tightly shut. At the base of this envelope of protective outer and inner scales are another 2 tiny scales (lodicules) which are attached to the ovary.
These Lodicules become turgid and expand, generating the considerable force needed to prise apart the outer scales, which allows the anthers and stigmas to emerge. Many grass species have their own time of day allotted for this to happen.
Anyone trying to ‘name’ the grasses will realise how different they look before the inflorescence is open.
The expanding of the individual florets is determined by the amount of light and when this is adequate the floret can open and exert anthers in just a few minutes. Mechanical disturbance can also initiate this and perhaps the grass is programmed to ‘know’ it might be windy enough to spread pollen.
Meadow Foxtail was probably the first forage species to be sown in Britain and prizes offered for quality as early as 1766.
Illustration below is highly enlarged and a representation of one flower structure. Meadow Foxtail (above) has innumerable of these.
This tree is a striking example of a Manna Ash–Fraxinus ornus, which has lovely creamy-white flowers in spring. It is grafted onto our more vigorous common ash, resulting in the strange mismatch at the graft union. Introduced to Britain in 1700.
The Manna ash is cultivated in Italy and Sicily for its gum, procured by making shallow cuts in the branches and allowing the yellow gum to harden in the air. It is then made into a syrup and used as a mild laxative.
Photos taken in Stanley Park, Preston.
On the HSS walk to Sun Wood today, an Elder with linear cut leaves was noticed on the woodland edge .
It seems to be a combination of Sambucus nigra var. ‘Laciniata’ (Parsley -Leaved Elder) and ‘Linearis’; not quite fitting the description of either. Laciniata has been known since the 16th century and does occur occasionally in the wild.
I suspect it is quite a rare tree, even in local gardens. Note the bifid and trifid, as well as entire linear leaves.
In a field at Downham is this wonderful veteran Beech. It has fallen over many years ago and is now resting on its massive boughs on the ground. Never give up on a fallen tree if the roots are still in the ground. This lapsed pollard is growing and adapting itself to a retirement of leisure sprawled out in the sun.
Trees can often walk across the landscape in this fashion. The major threat being people who live in a different time-frame, think the tree is a gonner and reach for the saw!