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Hutton Common 21st May 2011

notes by Gill Smith (species lists at the end)

fly orchid Ophrys insectifera flower A dozen members met at the cattle grid south of Hutton-le-Hole village on a cloudy, but dry morning; later the day improved with the sun breaking through. Hutton Common is a wonderful site, known as a hot-spot for wild flowers, with limestone and neutral grassland, a steep rocky slope, scrub and woodland. There are old records of frog and bee orchids on this site, but neither has been seen recently. We hoped to find these but did not, although we did see many other plants, including the locally rare houndstongue and deadly nightshade along with several orchids (including a couple of new sites for fly orchids). Many of the plants were very short, some of the fly orchids barely 4in tall, probably as a result of the very dry early Spring (our total rainfall for March and April combined was less than 8mm, or a third of an inch).

general view of path

We walked (slowly) along the top of the common parallel to the road before joining the road down to the ford, passing the small house known as Treacle Castle (though its proper name according to the map is Yoadwath Villa). The verges of this road are very rich botanically, including a few plants of houndstongue, one of which was just coming into flower. Later in the year the seeds of this plant are very intriguing, rather like a cushion with four rounded sections. There was a 7-spot ladybird sunning itself on a leaf nearby.

houndstongue Cynoglossum officinale   7-spot ladybird

Fly orchid Ophrys insectivora detailWe stopped for lunch by the river at the bottom and then walked through the woodland, gradually climbing back up the bank. In the woods fly and greater butterfly orchids were in flower. Orchids are fascinating for all sorts of reasons, not least the fact that their flowers turn over as they open (in fact most orchid flowers are upside down, and you can see a twist in the stalk). I love this picture showing one of the “flies” mid-turn. These flowers have evolved to resemble female flies so closely that the males try and mate with them, picking up pollen from the orchid in the process and transferring it to another flower thus pollinating it. Extraordinary!

There are also early purple orchids here, but they were almost finished, and the curious green-flowered twayblades, which are also members of the orchid family. This rather fine specimen in bud (below) has germander speedwell growing at its feet.

Twayblade Listera ovata in bud

Greater butterfly orchids are scattered throughout these woods, but only a few are accessible from the path. They can grow up to a foot or so tall but this year most are much shorter. The close-up shows the “pollinia” or pollen-bearing structures diverging and widely spaced, which shows we have the larger of our two native butterfly orchids here. The long spurs are filled with nectar, and these flowers are pollinated by moths, mostly at dusk or in the night. The flowers are said to develop a fragrance in the evening and also reflect light (possibly ultraviolet) so they almost glow in the dark. An interesting theory which I must test one day....

greater butterfly orchid Platanthera chlorantha   greater butterfly orchid Platanthera chlorantha flower detail

Deadly nightshade Atropa belladonna Finally we emerged at the top near some old quarries and saw many different plants, including limestone specialists such as rockrose and the leaves of ploughman’ spikenard and great mullein, as well as common species like wild strawberry and common storksbill (related to the cranesbills, but with fern-like divided leaves).

We looked in vain for the bee orchids but did see some deadly nightshade in flower (left). This remarkable plant may have escaped from an old monastic physic garden, but it seems very happy in the wild here – as well as in Spaunton Quarry nearby. Later the peculiar purple flowers produce black berries which are of course poisonous. I also managed to get a shot of a striking red cardinal beetle.

Wild strawberry Fragaria vesca

common storksbill Erodium cicutarium   cardinal beetle Pyrochroa coccinea

There was a small patch of hairy rock-cress, which is rare in Ryedale though I have seen it on the Wolds. It is a curious little plant that holds its leaves and seedpods upright against the stem as the close-up shows – as well as revealing the hairs!

Hairy rockcress Arabis hirsuta Hairy rockcress Arabis hirsuta flower detail

Hairy rockcress Arabis hirsuta stem detail

Hairy rock-cress Arabis hirsuta showing the habit (left)
and details of the flower-head and stem with the leaves held upright close to the stem (above).

In addition to the flora we saw or heard several birds and insects, including quite a few ladybirds and the rather fine cardinal beetle pictured above. Jim was studying the spiders and showed us one particular specimen, of a female carrying her clutch of eggs under her abdomen. Unfortunately she did not sit still enough for a photo!

Woodpigeon, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Jackdaw, Chaffinch, Blackcap, Blackbird, Great Tit, Song Thrush, Carrion Crow, Rook, Long-tailed Tit, Robin, Swift, Tawny Owl (dead), Swallow, Grey Wagtail, Jay, Lapwing, Pheasant and Red-legged Partridge (thanks Jim for the list).

Orange Tip, Large White, Small White and Brimstone.

Other insects:
7-spot ladybird and Cardinal Beetle Pyrochroa coccinea (thanks Pauline for the id).

Banded Snail (Cepaea hortensis).

Ixodes ricinus (beaten from gorse). Commonly found on sheep and deer.

Spider list will follow


English Latin
Agrimony Agrimonia eupatoria
Ash Fraxinus excelsior
Avens water Geum rivale
Avens wood Geum urbanum
Bedstraw heath Galium saxatile
Bedstraw lady’s Galium verum
Beech Fagus sylvatica
Birdsfoot trefoil Lotus corniculatus
Bittercress wavy Cardamine flexuosa
Black bryony Tamus communis
Black meddick Medicago lupulina
Blackthorn Prunus spinosa
Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta
Bracken Pteridium aquilinum
Bramble Rubus fruticosus agg.
Bugle Ajuga reptans
Burdock lesser Arctium minus
Buttercup bulbous Ranunculus bulbosus
Buttercup creeping Ranunculus repens
Buttercup meadow Ranunculus acris
Chervil rough Chaerophyllum temulem
Cinquefoil creeping Potentilla reptans
Cleavers Galium aparine
Coltsfoot Tussilago farfara
Common rockrose Helianthemum nummularium
Common twayblade Listera ovata
Copper beech Fagus sylvatica purpurea
Cowslip Primula veris
Cranesbill cut-leaved Geranium dissectum
Cranesbill dovesfoot Geranium molle
Crosswort Cruciata laevipes
Cuckoo flower Cardamine pratensis
Daisy Bellis perennis
Dandelion Taraxacum agg.
Deadly nightshade Atropa belladonna
Dog rose Rosa canina
Dogs mercury Mercurialis perennis
Elder Sambucus nigra
Elm wych Ulmus glabra
Enchanter’s nightshade Circaea lutetiana
Eyebright Euphrasia agg.
Fairy flax Linum catharticum
False oxlip Primula x polyantha
Fern broad buckler Dryopteris dilatata
Fern male Dryopteris filix-mas
Field madder Sherardia arvensis
Field maple Acer campestre
Figwort common Scrophularia nodosa
Forget-me-not field Myosotis arvensis
Foxglove Digitalis purpurea
Grass cocksfoot Dactylis glomerata
Grass quaking Briza media
Gooseberry Ribes uva-crispa
Gorse Ulex europaeus
Great mullein Verbascum thapsus
Ground ivy Glechoma hederacea
Hawkbit rough Leontodon hispidus
Hawkweed mouse-ear Pilosella officinarum
Hawthorn Crateagus monogyna
Hazel Corylus avellana
Hedge woundwort Stachys sylvatica
Herb robert Geranium robertianum
Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium
Holly Ilex aquifolium
Honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum
Horse chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum
Houndstongue Cynoglossum officinale
Knapweed common Centaurea nigra
Lady’s mantle Alchemilla xanthochlora
Lord and ladies Arum maculatum
Marjoram Origanum vulgare
Meadowsweet Filipendula ulmaria
Milkwort common Polygala vulgaris
Mint apple Mentha x villosa
Mouse-ear common Cerastium fontanum
Mouse-ear sticky Cerastium glomeratum
Nipplewort Lapsana communis
Oak Quercus spp
Orchid common spotted Dactylorhiza fuchsii
Orchid early purple Orchis mascula
Orchid fly Ophrys insectifera
Orchid fragrant TBC Gymnadenia conopsea
Orchid greater butterfly Platanthera chlorantha
Oxeye daisy Leucanthemum vulgare
Parsley cow Anthriscus sylvestris
Parsley piert Aphanes arvensis
Pearlwort procumbent Sagina procumbens
Pignut Conopodium majus
Plantain greater Plantago major
Plantain ribwort Plantago lanceolata
Plum wild Prunus domestica
Primrose Primula vulgaris
Ragwort Senecio jacobaea
Red bartsia Odontites vernus
Red campion Silene dioica
Red clover Trifolium pratense
Red currant Ribes rubrum
Rock-cress hairy Arabis hirsute
Rosebay willowherb Chamerion angustifolium
Salad burnet Sanguisorba minor
Sandwort three-nerved Moehringia trinervia
Sandwort thyme-leaved Arenaria serpylifolia
Sanicle wood Sanicula europaea
Sedge carnation Carex, panacea
Sedge glaucous Carex flacca
Sedge wood Carex sylvatica
Selfheal Prunella vulgaris
Sheep’s sorrel Rumex acetosella
Shepherd’s purse Capsella burse-pastoris
Silver birch Betula pendula
Silverweed Potentilla anserina
Speedwell common field Veronica persica
Speedwell germander Veronica chamaedrys
Speedwell heath Veronica officinalis
Speedwell thyme-leaved Veronica serpylifolia
Speedwell wall Veronica arvensis
Speedwell wood Veronica montana
St John’s-wort perforate Hypericum perforatum
St John’s-wort hairy Hypericum hirsutum
Stitchwort greater Stellaria holostea
Storksbill Erodium cicutarium
Strawberry barren Potentilla sterilis
Strawberry wild Fragaria vesca
Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus
Thistle creeping Cirsium arvense
Thistle marsh Cirsium palustre
Thistle musk Carduus nutans
Thistle spear Cirsium vulgare
Thistle woolly Cirsium eriophorum
Tormentil Potentilla erecta
Tutsan Hypericum androsaemum
Vetch bush Vicia sepium
Vetch common Vicia sativa
Vetchling meadow Lathyrus pratensis
Violet common dog Viola riviniana
Violet early dog Viola reichenbachiana
Violet hairy Viola hirta
Violet sweet Viola oderata
Water pepper Polygonum hydropiper
Wavy bittercress Cardamine flexuosa
White clover Trifolium repens
Wild thyme Thymus polytrichus
Woodrush heath Luzula multiflora
Wood sage Teucrium scorodonia
Yarrow Achillea millefolium

145 plants

© Ryedale Natural History Society 2011 Photos © Gill Smith, Pauline Popely, Michael Bliss & Ryedale Natural History Society
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