Arnside and beyond

By gladders

Adder's tongue

There's no prizes for guessing how this strange little fern got its English name. Adder's tongue (Ophioglossum vulgatum) would once have been a common plant of our meadows and pastures, making its brief and inconspicuous appearance in Spring before dying back and going into subterranean hiding for the rest of the year.  This one is about 3 inches tall, which is more than a lot of its fellows in this grassland at Gait Barrows National Nature Reserve.  It's another one of those little plants that even when you know it's there in abundance, can prove remarkably elusive.  I have visited the location a few times recently, and each time it took a fair amount of criss-crossing before I found some plants again.

JJ refound the Gait Barrows plants a few years ago when we were looking for a geocache with my blip stalker and their son.  It had been lost for years since before this became a nature reserve, when the fields were still sprayed with fertiliser.  Over 40 years or so, the grasslands have been increasing in botanical diversity, and the little adder's tongues were back with, scattered through the fields, thousands of little sheathing green leaves shielding the spore-producing 'tongue'.  Grassland restoration takes time, but it does work, the trend of decline of species-rich grasslands and their sensitive species could be reversed with the right incentives and the will to make our familiar environments richer and more interesting places.

It was a windy day, and the sturdy little ferns were the only things that weren't being blown nearly horizontal. I had a good wander around the Reserve and amazed myself as I have so often in the past, with how easy it still is for me to get lost amongst the woodlands and limestone pavements.  It's a happy place to be lost.

And finally a thank you to our Somerset friend Chris who generously remembers our wedding anniversary better than we do ourselves.  It's a strange little plant to dedicate to someone, but never mind, this is for Chris's lovely wife Sue who died nearly 18 months ago.  Still much missed by Mrs G and me.

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