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Sievedale Fen 25th July 2009

notes by Gill Smith

This trip was to a well-known fen site that has many rare plants and animals, especially soldier flies. My interest of course was mainly in the plants. There are old records of long-leaved sundew here, but the site now seems too overgrown with tall sedges for this to be found again, even if it still grows here.

The site consists of wet fenland with alders and other trees near the beck (which runs south to Thornton-le-Dale), and immediately above that a spring line with Juncus species, and then a little above that damp unimproved grassland that may have been grazed in the past. Finally, on the steeper slopes above, there is woodland with bracken. The most interesting plants we found were along the spring line.

A general view of the site about half way up the slope, just above the spring line.
general view of sievedale slope
White ragged robin
There was plenty of normal pink ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) which is always nice to see, but I was particularly taken with this white form, which I had never seen before. There was just the one plant.
white ragged robin Lychnis flos-cuculi
We heard many grasshoppers, but this was the only one I saw and managed to photograph. I don’t know what kind it is I’m afraid.
Fragrant orchid
There were two main areas within the site where we found these robust, tall spikes of fragrant orchids. They had the most wonderful scent, like clove-scented pinks or carnations.
fragrant orchid Gymnadenia conopsea subsp. densiflora
White fragrant orchid
This white variant was particularly attractive – and yes, it did have the fragrance as well.
white fragrant orchid Gymnadenia conopsea subsp. densiflora
Fragrant orchid detail
A close-up of the flowers (I only noticed the little ichneumon (parasitic wasp) when I cropped the photo). From the habitat, the robust nature of the spikes, the shape of the flowers with the “arms” extending straight out and the shape of the lip, and the strong clove-like scent I think this is the marsh subspecies Gymnadenia conopsea subsp. densiflora
detail of fragrant orchid Gymnadenia conopsea subsp. densiflora flower
Alder Coppice
This gives a good feel of the area down by the beck, with big old alder coppice stools with tall grasses and sedges underneath; blunt-flowered rush Juncus subnodulosus and marsh hawksbeard Crepis paludosa grow in this zone.
alder coppice
Marsh helleborine
We found marsh helleborines Epipactis palustris in just one small patch, around a small seepage or spring, growing with black bog-rush Schoenus nigricans. When viewed close up these orchids are very beautiful and rather exotic-looking.
Marsh helleborine Epipactis palustris

© Gill Smith June 2009. Pictures © Gill Smith 2009

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