Wednesday 30 June 2010

Briza media - Quaking Grass

Quaking grass - Briza media

Grass of the Month - June

Is Quaking grass your favourite grass?

The beautiful hanging spikelets come out in mid June and dangle and wave in the wind. Their heart shaped lemmas become dark glossy brown and sparkle in the sun. It grows in a variety of habitats but often with other very special flowers:
  • On limestone grassland with Rockrose and Ladies-mantle
  • On chalk grassland with Orchids
  • In calcareous flushes with Birds-eye Primrose
  • In slightly acid flushes with Common Spotted-orchid
  • In traditional species rich hay meadows with Wood Cranesbill or Meadow Cranesbill.

    It doesn't grow on your average lawn or ryegrass pasture/silage field
I took the picture above on 27 June 2010 at Winskill Stones Nature Reserve - see how brown and burned the grass is in the background on the shallow limestone soils with the drought. In the background are Ingleborough (left) and Pen y Ghent (right)

Here is a close-up from the picture.
It kept shaking in the wind so I put a piece next to a rock.  And now you see the rock is covered with lichen

It has many different local English names.

But how do you recognise it when it is not in flower?

With a group of a dozen students I give each student a different feature to remember:
  1. They are small plants.
  2. Small flat leaves.
  3. Hairless
  4. No auricles
  5. Blades make an almost right angles with their sheaths. The shoot is erect.
  6. Emerging leaf rolled

    The above features mean it looks like, and could be confused with other pasture grasses:-
    Common Bent, Sweet Vernal-grass, Crested Dog's-tail or even Small Cat's-tail

    So what is special? - Learn these tips to become an expert:-
  7. It has slightly wider, whiter, fleshier leaves than most of the above (apart from Small Cat's-tail)
  8. The blades spiral on their own axis (as does only Small Cat's-tail)
  9. The blades often have crimson blotches or purple polo shaped marks.
  10. They have yellow brown dead lower sheaths (as can Crested Dog's-tail)
  11. They have rhizomes 1 cm long. Hence if you have one Briza shoot, look one cm away and you should find another. Dig one up (with landowner's permission of course) and look for the rhizome.
  12. And the clinching fact? - the feature you could look for and ignore all the above?
    Hold a blade up to the light and look with a handlens:-

    You will see a striking regular pattern: (Say this:-)
    "Green, medium green;   green, dark green;  green, medium green;  green,white.    Green, medium green,  green, dark green,   green, medium green,  green,white.
    Green, medium green;   green, dark green;  green, medium green;  green,white.    Green, medium green,  green, dark green,   green, medium green,  green,white."
    Common Bent, Crested Dog's-tail and Sweet Vernal-grass have just a simple pattern: dark, light, dark, light, dark, light, dark, light.

    Small Cat's-tail - and small versions of Timothy - (which have wide white fleshy leaves which spiral on their own axes) also have a fancy pattern with some much whiter veins. But they do not have the extremely regular pattern that Briza does. (And they have swollen bases to their shoots and no rhizomes and no yellow brown old sheaths)
I hope you found this useful - Why not come on a Grass Identification course? And have fun learning about grasses with other people. J.A

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Environment Sunday 2010 -Settle Churches Together Walk to Winskill

Here is a slightly more detailed report of our trip:-

Environment Sunday 6 June 2010

Churches Together in Settle celebrated Environment Sunday by making a field trip to see local wildflowers.

But the group learned much more than wildflowers –

Botanist Dr Judith Allinson of St John’s Methodist Church, Settle took the group of 12 (from 5 different churches) to Lower Winskill Farm and met the farmer Mr Tom Lord, then they visited nearby places.

Access for the disabled - They discovered and tried out  Mr Tom Lord’s newly built  brand new flat path to his haymeadow, wood, flower rich limestone pastures and viewpoint of the valley below, so that people with wheelchairs and restricted mobility could have access

Beauty - They looked at a host of yellow flowers including: Yellow Rattle, three species of Buttercups, Silverweed, Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Lady’s-mantle, Rockrose, Cowslips,

Fields Manged for Conservation interest – The group learned how the wealth of flowers in the pastures was due to the geology, past management and the way Mr Lord had be managing the land sympathetically over the past 20 years.

 Ethical food -They ate British strawberries, British cream and Fairtrade chocolate shortbread biscuits and Fair Trade tea in an effort to eat “ethically”

 Stupendous views - They had views of the Ribble valley, 100m below, up to Ingleborough 10 miles to the north and to beyond Settle in the south.
 Stimulating discussion- Mr Lord answered questions about farming. He pointed out that Upland farming was not “sustainable."  - At all.. Stunned silence. (This is an important point to people trying to be “green”.) The grants farmers get do not encourage them to save energy. – (Judith’s comment – “and there is me thinking ‘Isn’t it good that the grants that farmers get nowadays are often tied to some sort of conservation activity’ ”)

 Rainforest Destruction - Indeed the grants enable farmers to keep more livestock indoors in winter, and this usually means greater reliance on imported animal foodstuffs which contains GM materials and palm oils (causing rainforest destruction).

Change in energy usage -  In 1957 this farm did not have electricity. And the farmer would work from a horse and cart. – How things have changed with respect to energy consumption!

  Change in pressure on farmers – where will this lead? - The Dales landscape is one of farms built as dairy farms in the Industrial Revolution and later, supplying cities such as Leeds. But now there are no dairy farms in the 10 miles of our valley to the north, and very few to the south. The farms have changed to beef cattle and sheep. “Most large dairies will not collect from small farms any more,” he said. “The dairy at Hawes making Wensleydale cheese being an exception”. We are losing a skills base. Farming is labour intensive – it is getting more difficult to find people with the necessary skills to do farming work. People who work building stone walls have to build an awful lot of stone walls before they can afford the expensive property around here.
He gave us food for thought.

“The policy makers need to do more thinking” he said. “But it is up to all of us to try and live more sustainable lives.”

Settle Church’s contribution – to a new European book and to Nature Conservation - Whilst on the walk Judith showed the group a book that the European Christian Environment Network have just produced this June called “God‘s rich variety-Churches in Europe helping biodiversity”. She had downloaded from the internet that morning.

“Look at page 11” she said:

From North Yorkshire to Ghana / A look on food supply and climate change

Even North Yorkshire (GB) is affected by loss of species diversity. The biologist Judith Allinson has documented the loss of species and noted that one species has disappeared every two years for at least a hundred and fifty years. (…...)  The Methodist Church in Settle has started a species protection fund: with the money from this conservation groups can buy land and support a variety of projects to protect habitats worldwide under particular threat. For example some of this some of the money from Settle is invested in Ghana.
Protecting the diversity in our own back yard is important, but we need to remember the wider world.
Further information:

She thanked those members from her church at Settle who were supporting the project. “The European Christian Environment Network is meeting this week in Prague”. She said –“We must think of them. I have attended their conferences in the past as a representative of Christian Ecology Link”

After the visit to Lower Winskill the group continued to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Reserve “Globe-flower Wood” where they saw a little wood packed with the golden orbs of the rare Globeflower, once more common. The fields to the left were yellow with buttercups and the fields on the right golden with Kingcup. “What is it about May and the beginning of June that produces so many yellow flowers?”  and “Isn’t it great that this little reserve has been protected”

Back in Settle Judith collected donations from people who came on the trip amounting to £20-00 to go to the Ghana project.  “Hmm – the Widow’s mite.. But every little each of us an each church can do helps.  Keep going!”

Sunday 6 June 2010

God's Rich Variety - European Churches booklet

An RSS feed from ECEN - European Christian Environment Network - told me about the 24 page A4 booklet about biodiversity work of individual churches in Europe.  It mentions our Rainforest-fund project and this blog . The booklet is at - see page 11.

Here is a picture of us looking at the booklet on our Environment Sunday walk at Settle today. Several of these people help in fundraising for the Rainforest Fund Project.
After the walk people's donations contributed another £20-00 to our fund. Thank you!!

The text on page 11 says:-

From North Yorkshire to Ghana
Even North Yorkshire (GB) is affected by loss of species diversity.
The biologist Judith Allinson has documented the loss of species and noted that one species has disappeared every two years for at least a hundred and fifty years. In response to this the Methodist Church in Settle has started a  species protection fund: with the money from this conservation groups can buy land and support a variety of projects to protect habitats worldwide under particular threat. For example some of this some of the money from Settle is invested in Ghana.
Protecting the diversity in our own back yard is important,
but we need to remember the wider world.
Further information:

And if anyone from ECEN is reading this "Hi! - I am thinking of you meet this week in Prague"

Environment Sunday 2010 - 6 June Settle

The Sunday nearest to World Environment Day (5 June) is Environment Sunday - which is today 6 June. A group of 12 of us from Churches together in Settle (five different churches represented) made a visit to Lower Winskill Farm.

We examined the beautiful flowers of the limestone pastures. Then we had an interesting talk and discussion with the farmer, Mr Tom Lord