Posted by: lensweb | April 8, 2013

Plants and Pavements

Everyone has eagerly been awaiting the first signs of spring and where better to observe them than on your own street. Plants that grow in the cracks in pavements seem to have got to a good start this season, despite the cool temperatures. This is possibly due to soil warming effects from the lovely sunshine we have experienced over the past few weeks. The radiant heat warms the stone which then retains the heat and protects the weeds in the paving surround from frost.

Currently in my street we have flowering (in no particular order and using statistics from Derbyshire on line flora);



The beautiful pale purple flowers of spring Crocus Crocus vernus, which is a newly established perennial of waysides and amenity grasslands. Astonishingly there are only three records in the current Derbyshire Flora (2004). This is the commonest crocus grown in gardens and as such records probably represent relics of cultivation or garden throw outs. Our pavement crocus are self-seeded, I have never managed to sustain the corms year on year in the garden. It is a native of southern Europe. First recorded in 1998. Grid square count 1987-2007 4 monads.

I remember being sent out to collect common chickweed Stellaria media for my mother’s budgie to eat. It is a very common native annual of disturbed and cultivated areas particularly on nutrient-enhanced soils. It grows throughout Derbyshire.  First recorded in 1789. Grid square count 1987-2007 1794 monads.

Rayless groundsel Senecio vulgaris is a very common native annual of cultivated ground and open disturbed places. It is found throughout our area. First recorded in 1789. Grid square count 1987-2007  1428 monads.

We used to collect groundsel and shepherd’s-purse to feed the rabbits and guinea pigs. Shepherd’s-purse Capsella bursa-pastoris is a very common native annual of disturbed nutrient-rich habitats such as waste ground, gardens and arable fields. It occurs throughout our area. First recorded in 1789. Grid square count 1987-2007 1560 monads.

The bright yellow flowers of lesser celandine can be commonly seen. Formerly Ranunculus ficaria, it is a locally abundant and increasing, native perennial of woods, hedges and damp grasslands throughout the county. The naming of plants is a complicated business and names are constantly changing – even more so now than in the past, as molecular studies show the relationship between plants. Common names change far less often but they vary around the country so can’t be used in the same systematic way. Now named Ficaria verna, lesser celandine exists in two forms subsp. chrysocephalus and subsp. verna respectively. These are very similar in appearance. Sub sp verna prefer more shady locations and frequently develop bulbils at the base of the stalk. First recorded 1789. Grid square count 1987-2007 913 monads.

Ivy leaved speedwell Veronica hederifolia is an anciently established, scrambling annual of cultivated ground, wasteland, hedges and banks. It occurs occasionally throughout our area. Two subspecies occur; sub sp hederifolia a plant of more open habitats such as arable fields, and sub sp lucorum, a  plant of more shaded habitats such as hedges. First recorded in 1789. Grid square count 1987-2007 288 monads.

Red Dead-nettle Lamium purpureum is an anciently established annual of arable land, gardens, disturbed ground and waysides, generally on fertile soils. It occurs commonly throughout lowland, southern and eastern parts of Derbyshire. First recorded in 1829. Grid square count 1987-2007 763 monads

Hen-bit Dead-nettle Lamium amplexicaule is found on Tamworth Road and is a much more uncommon species. It is an anciently established but decreasing annual of gardens, arable fields, disturbed ground and walls recorded occasionally throughout eastern and southern Derbyshire. The flowers are self pollinating (cleistogamous). First recorded in 1829. Grid square count 1987-2007 38 monads.

Danish Scurvygrass Cochlearia danica  is a frequent established winter annual of salt treated roads throughout Derbyshire. When flowering in spring it forms ribbons of white or pale pink alongside the majority of main roads, and increasingly, minor ones as well. The first records in 1972, were from railway ballast. There were no further records for twenty years until a 1992 sighting at the side of the A52/M1 in SK43. After that this native of coastal Britain spread along almost all major routes in just a few years. Grid square count 1987-2007 309 monads.

Common Whitlow Grass

Common Whitlow Grass

Common whitlow grass, Erophila verna is an occasional native ephemeral of all types of bare, open habitats including limestone outcrops, walls, open grassland, waste ground and even cracks in pavements in built up areas. Records are most frequent from the White Peak but it also occurs scattered elsewhere throughout the county. First recorded in 1903. Grid square count 1987-2007 274 monads.

Wall barley Hordeum murinum which is used as darts by children is taken for granted. It is an annual native grass of rough grassland, waysides and waste land. It is frequent in the Magnesian Limestone, Coal Measures and Trent Valley areas. Elsewhere it is rare. It may be an ancient introduction from Europe. Grid square count 1987-2007 452 monads. First recorded in 1789.

It is unusual not to see annual meadow grass Poa annua which is a very common native annual or short-lived perennial of a range of habitats. It occurs in grass fields, lawns, cultivated ground and waste places throughout our area. Grid square count 1987-2007 1957 monads. First recorded in 1789.

We also see rat’s-tail Fescue Vulpia myuros a recently established annual of dry open habitats in rough ground, waste places and waysides, and walls. It was probably introduced as a contaminant of seeds or grains. It is occasional in the lowland southern and eastern parts Derbyshire. In the upland northern and western parts it is very rare. It has spread rapidly since the first Derbyshire record in 1971. It is a native of southern Europe.

Fern-grass Catapodium rigidum is a rare native annual of dry bare areas on banks walls and rock outcrops, it also occurs in short open grassland, waste ground and pavement cracks. It occurs in the limestone areas as at Dove Dale (SK1452) and Cresswell Crags (SK5374), and is increasingly being recorded for the southern and eastern parts of our area as at Swadlincote (SK3019), King’s Newton (SK3827) and Millhouses (SK3383) . Grid square count 1987-2007 70monads. Alan Wilmot, the BSBI recorder for Derbyshire, once observed when surveying for wild flowers in Lathkilldale, ‘The only other place I have seen fern grass is between the cracks in the paving stones of Derby City Centre’.  I have also found this at Pleasley, growing in the car park!

The grasses flower later in the year together with sweet violet, herb Robert, wood avens, purple toadflax, gallant soldiers, wall speedwell and Canadian fleabane but we will have to wait for these and the many other flowers that grow in the cracks in pavements.

Marion Bryce 4 April 2013


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