Friday, 22 May 2015

100 Steps to Lemon Pips

This morning my Mum took me to a local part of the woods called the 100 Steps, which she regularly climbed up and down as a child. She remembers there being lots of Lemon Pips growing on the side of the path, as well as a strange plant called Broomrape. Lemon Pips are another name for White Helleborines, a shade-loving orchid with white flowers and a tiny yellow lip giving it the name Lemon Pip. Broomrape is a parasitic plant with no chlorophyll that lives off the nutrients in the roots of clover (and bears a passing resemblance to an orchid). We were reasonably hopeful that we would find both and might even see some Bird's Nest Orchids growing under the Beech trees.

The 100 Steps are a steep short cut from the bottom of Chinnor Hill to the top. I'm not sure there are 100 left any more as they have mostly rotted away, but we climbed up the path, right to the top, searching for flowers on the way. Unfortunately there were no orchids and no Broomrape to be seen anywhere, which was a bit of a disappointment.

Makes you wonder whether the only way these more unusual plants can survive, is by the land being bought and managed by the Wildlife Trust or, locally, the Chiltern Society. Once again, wild plants that thrived in local sites a few years ago are sadly gone. All a bit depressing really!

We did find some wild Spurge Laurel growing next to the path. Not a Spurge or a Laurel, it's one of our two native Daphnes and is found on chalk soil, under Beech trees. It's poisonous and likely to cause a rash if touched.

At the top of the hill we had a bit of a 'Beech tree Wow' moment!

We made our way along the top of the hill to Chinnor Hill Nature Reserve, managed by BBOWT. The views were wonderful from the top of the hill and we saw a Yellowhammer fly down the slope in front of us and listened to the Great Tits, Chiffchaffs and Robins in the trees behind us.

Wild Mignonette was just about to flower and had a pretty spectacular view of Chinnor below.

Not a bad view for the Wild Mignonette!

Wild Mignonette, just about to flower
The reserve has large hollows, that were probably dug by local farmers using the chalk to spread on the acidic clay fields below. These days they act as sun traps and are full of butterflies when it's sunny.

There are also a pair of bowl barrows overlooking the slope, with a lovey old Juniper bush sat on the top.

Surprisingly we had more luck finding fungi than orchids today and had a nice walk, despite the lack of orchids and Broomrape ...

A bracket fungus, maybe Hoof Fungus

Possibly St. George's Mushroom - looked like a paper plate face down at the
side of the road

Witches' Butter

Small bracket fungi with rings of different colours

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