Bradford Botany Group

Ilkley Site Visit

13th April 2013


Nineteen members met where the old Addingham road leaves the A65 west of Ilkley. After the second joint coldest March on record, everyone was raring to go, even if the trees weren’t. There wasn’t a single broad leaf in sight on the larger trees but plenty of flowers to observe, notably on alder, ash and grey poplar. Perhaps the phenologists out there can tell us just how late this spring is.

Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem

We walked along the Wharfe towards Ilkley. There were snowdrops still in bloom by the river, along with the usual spring flowers, including primrose, lesser celandine and both opposite-leaved and alternate-leaved golden-saxifrage. The cameras came out in force for the yellow star-of-Bethlehem. So few spring plants were in flower that we took the opportunity to try and identify plants from their basal leaves, finding sanicle and goldilocks buttercup. The soils on the floodplain of the Wharfe vary in pH, giving a pleasing diversity of plants. We rounded off the morning by photographing toothwort on the riverbank.

Alternate-leaved golden saxifrage

Great Horsetail

We took lunch at the picnic tables by Ilkley Pool, before setting out into Middleton Woods. The fertile stems of great horsetail were visible and slender speedwell was becoming established nearby in the mown grass, a choice habitat for this 1838 introduction to Britain. In the woods, thin-spiked wood-sedge was found by the path edge, apparently none the worse for regular trampling! Wood anemones were starting to carpet the ground with their attractive flowers but the impression was still more winter than summer. We were treated to curlews circling above the wood.


The fronds of most of the larger ferns had died back, making the soft shield-fern relatively easy to spot. We explored one of several sites in Middleton Woods where the gametophyte of the Killarney fern grows, apparently much more common in West Yorkshire than the sporophyte. A nice surprise was spurge-laurel, found flowering on a bank. The woods contain some interesting trees, including a form of Ulmus minor and some very large domestic apple trees, of which there are literally hundreds in West Yorkshire. We finished by admiring the creeping comfrey, which has established itself along the roadside fence at the bottom of the wood.