Ear to the Ground with Steve Blacksmith: This Crags find was just peachy!

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The Halifax Scientific Society monthly walk took place at Hardcastle Crags on Wednesday, February 25.

We looked at many of the botanical hot-spots we have got to know over the years, and have read about in our publications at Halifax Central Library.

Frank Murgatroyd, our much missed President, used to show us a spot in the Crags where there is lots of Golden Saxifrage growing in a muddy bog.

It is mostly Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage but among it there used to be some Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage, a much rarer plant, in fact this is the only spot it has been recorded in Calderdale, as Frank wrote in his Flora of the Halifax Parish.

Geoffrey Wilmore of West Yorkshire Ecology, in his West Yorkshire Plant Atlas, also has only one site for it (a different one).

I pointed out the site in the Crags to one of our members, Peachysteve, who hadn’t been to that exact spot before.

He bent down and almost immediately said “I think I’ve found it”.

On closer inspection of the plant he had indeed found it.

That was after many look-overs that members had given the bog since at least the 1980s!

Peachysteve has put his pictures of the two species for comparison on our blog, Calderdale-wildlife.blogspot.com, and showed how the leaf-shapes differ, as well as the way they are attached to the stem.

In fact, it is almost impossible to find a plant from written directions.

It’s a case of people knowing the actual spot, and passing the knowledge on to other people.

At one time botanists used to be cagey about information, as unthinking people would go out and dig things up for their gardens.

In the time of home herbal remedies, and small scale commercial production, wild plants were sometimes exterminated by the gathering of the plants and roots.

I have a book from the 1920s that describes the collection of Valerian from the wild and how to grow it on to produce a profitable crop of roots for marketing.