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Derbyshire’s botanical hot-spots

PUBLISHED: 09:27 09 July 2015 | UPDATED: 09:27 09 July 2015

Mossy saxifrage, Upper Cressbrook Dale  Photo: Peter Smith

Mossy saxifrage, Upper Cressbrook Dale Photo: Peter Smith

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Out and about with Roly Smith

Derbyshire's county flower: Jacob's Ladder in Monsal Dale  Photo: K BalkowDerbyshire's county flower: Jacob's Ladder in Monsal Dale Photo: K Balkow

When distinguished botanist Professor Clive Stace, past president of the Botanical Society and author of the third edition of the New Flora of the British Isles, describes Derbyshire as ‘a botanical hot-spot’ and his favourite botanical county, you know we must have something rather special.

Stace makes this claim in his foreword to the new Flora of Derbyshire by Alan Wilmot and Nick Moyes (Pisces Publications, £38.50), which has been supported by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, the Botanical Society and the Wild Flower Society.

Based on 18 years of research and recording by about 100 volunteers, it describes through a series of maps the distribution of over 1,900 wildflowers, trees, ferns and mosses found in the county. The Derbyshire Flora Project was led by Alan Wilmot, County Plant Recorder and a retired lecturer in biology at the University of Derby, and Nick Moyes, Keeper of Natural Sciences at Derby Museum for 25 years, who supervised the computerisation and preparation of the mountains of data collected by the recorders.

The Flora of Derbyshire is the first comprehensive flora of the county to be published in 46 years, and reflects the many changes which have taken place in the county’s flowering plants since Prof Arthur Clapham’s Flora of 1969.

The Flora of Derbyshire by Alan Wilmot and Nick Moyes (Pisces Publications, £38.50)The Flora of Derbyshire by Alan Wilmot and Nick Moyes (Pisces Publications, £38.50)

These include two groundbreaking discoveries in the Monk’s Dale National Nature Reserve, near Tideswell. The tussocks of blue moor-grass (Sesleria caerulea) among the outcrops of limestone in the secluded dale mark the southernmost limit of this nationally-scarce grass. And the re-discovery after an absence of nearly 200 years of the delicate yellow flowers of alpine cinquefoil (Potentilla crantzil), an extremely rare Alpine-Arctic plant, was also found at its southernmost limit in Monk’s Dale.

The recent appearance of linear ribbons of the delicate clusters of white or lilac flowers of Danish scurvygrass (Cochlearia dancia) along the county’s roadsides is a direct result of the County Council’s road-salting policies in winter. It is the plant’s ability to tolerate salt which has been the key to its success, because it is usually native only to coastal areas in Britain.

The effects of climate change are also reflected in Wilmot and Moyes’s new Flora. Plants at the southern extent of their range, such as alpine cinquefoil, globeflower, bearberry and mountain pansy, which require a cool, damp climate and habitat, may be put at risk of decline or even extinction with the predicted changes in seasonal rainfall and temperature patterns, say the authors.

The ‘profit and loss’ account, as recorded in the Derbyshire Red Data List, indicates that there have been 14 newly-discovered species in the county since Clapham’s 1969 Flora, and 34 which have become locally extinct. Plants we have lost include the blue pimpernel, marsh gentian and the lady’s slipper orchid, while new additions include autumnal and short-leaved water-starwort, the Killarney fern, and the black poplar tree.

Prof Stace concludes his foreword by stating: ‘The Flora will be valued and enjoyed by residents and visitors alike, and referred to by others not lucky enough to botanise in it.’

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