MKNHS Plant Group 2nd June 2024 Stonepit Field Trip Report

One of the plentiful Ox-eye daisies in Stonepit Field (Photo © Bob Phillips)

MKNHS Plant Group: ‘What’s that plant – and why?

This Plant Group Trip Report has been prepared for the wider Society membership. There is more information about the Group on the Society website here or a downloadable information sheet here.  Members can register an interest by sending an email to joeclinch@btinternet.com or contacting Jenny Mercer on 07772437930 or jenny.mercer@hotmail.co.uk. The date and location of the next field event in the July/August period will be announced soon.

Introduction

The Plant Group’s second event took place in warm sunshine – a real contrast to the damp cold first event at Shenley Wood. Some 15 members participated each of whom had received a Briefing Note in advance. We split into two teams for our field work one led by Jenny and the other by Joe. Each team kept its own list of species observed and later merged into a Consolidated List.

The location and its habitats

Stonepit Field is well known to many Society members but first a brief history for those who may be new. It is managed by the Parks Trust. It was farmland until 1993 when it was sown with wild flower seed, and the planting of sapling shrubs and trees all appropriate to the underlying Cornbrash (a Jurassic limestone), and lime rich soil. It is an excellent example of how much biodiversity can be created with human intervention in just 30 years. Flower rich meadows in turn attract a wide range of invertebrate species some of which are monitored by Parks Trust volunteers among them Society members (and few of us were lucky enough to see a single Small Blue butterfly one the Parks’ Trust target species for this location).

There are five main habitats: flower rich meadow grassland; limestone scrape and its banks; shrub and small tree managed open strips that divide the meadow into smaller areas; two ponds added in 2007 as part of the Oakridge Park housing development over-flow drainage system, and their banks where the earth was disturbed; and a narrow band of woodland along the eastern boundary planted in the late 1960s by the Milton Keynes Development Corporation.

We concentrated mainly on the first three of these habitats each team covering much the same ground but in a different order to maximise the sharing of knowledge within the team, and at a practical level to minimise the risk of damage to the plant sensitive areas under-foot.

The flowering plants of the area

An impressive 80 species were listed during the morning including trees, shrubs and grasses but with the main focus being on those that require close examination for correct identification. In this category fell two families in particular:

Asteraceae (Daisies often called Composites in the past): Thistle, Cat’s Ear, Sow-thistle, Hawkbit, Hawk’s-beard, and Hawkweed species

Fabaceae (called Peas in the past): Vetches, Vetchlings, Tares, Medicks, and Clovers

The Habitats and their species

Even with the aid of photographs we were unable to verify the abundant Hawk’s-beard species in the meadow area – Beaked, Rough or Smooth? This is the most plant diverse of the three habitats with Ox-eye Daisy, Salad Burnet, the semi parasitic Yellow Rattle, Ribwort Plantain, Meadow and Bulbous Buttercup, and Red Clover being widely distributed. More scattered were Common Vetch, Grass Vetchling, Black Medick, Goat’s-beard, Meadow and Cut-leaved Cranesbill, Common Mouse-ear, Pyramidal and Bee Orchid, and the symbiotic Common Broomrape. Less time was available for examination of Grasses but Quaking, Meadow Brome, and Crested Dog’s-tail were listed.


Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera (Photo © Bob Phillips)

The species diversity on the scrape is more limited but includes some which are less common in Milton Keynes: Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Horseshoe Vetch, Common Rock-rose, Bee Orchid, Cat’s Ear, Mouse-eared Hawkweed, a Thyme species, Globularia (a non-native plant and located by Martin Kincaid), and remarkably for the habitat Pendulous Sedge perhaps thriving over a spring?


Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil Lotus corniculatus (Photo © Bob Phillips)

The tree and shrub edges comprise the third of the habitats often on bare ground and well shaded.  Hedge Bedstraw, Lady’s Bedstraw, Kidney Vetch, Bush Vetch, Wild Liquorice (a vetch), Perforate St. John’s Wort, Marjoram, Wild Carrot, Red Campion, Cleavers, and Bladder Campion were identified here. Above the disturbed ground over the southern pond were Creeping Thistle, Teasel, Hogweed, Prickly Sow-thistle, and Gorse.

Want to know more?

If you want to know more there will be a Consolidated List of Plants Observed and Photo Album on the Plant Group website page shortly. The photographs are linked to the species observed and several of them demonstrate identification features which are useful in the field when trying to differentiate between similar but different species.

Thanks

Our thanks to Bob Phillips for the photographs, to Anne Champion and Richard Schmidt for compiling the team listings, to Martin Ferns for handling the web presence of the Group, and to all the other participants for what proved to be a rewarding and enjoyable morning  at this very special location.

Co-leaders for the Event: Joe Clinch and Jenny Mercer (with apologies from Carla Boswell)
June 2024