Botanical highlights from Newcastle this week

A quick round up of this week’s outings in Newcastle with visits to multiple urban sites across the city.

City Centre

A trip into the very heart of Newcastle last weekend proved far more exciting than anticipated with over 140 species recorded. Starting out at St. Andrew’s Church and a highlight here was Wood Sedge (Carex sylvatica) – not a species commonly encountered in the city – while Guernsey Fleabane (Erigeron sumatrensis) was a good local record. The nearby historic city walls held Black Horehound (Ballota nigra) and a potter along the roadsides fringing Westgate Road an interesting mix of Hemp-agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum), Hedge Bedstraw (Galium mollugo) and Weld (Reseda luteola).

Stopping at a very active development site close to St. James’ Park, I was delighted to stumble across a thriving brownfield mix of Ribbed (Melilotus officinalis) and White Melilot (Melilotus albus), Viper’s-bugloss (Echium vulgare) and Canadian Fleabane (Erigeron canadensis) typical of disturbed ground.

A quick poke about the pond margins at Leazes Park proved interesting with a new plant for me in Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), an introduction from North America, plenty of Gypsywort (Lycopus europaeus) and what is likely Fool’s-watercress (Helosciadium nodiflorum). Nearby on Claremont Road, some recent disturbance had allowed Hoary Mustard (Hirschfeldia incana) and Red Goosefoot (Oxybasis rubra) to flourish.

Heaton and Cochrane Park

A late afternoon wander up the road from home on Friday revealed not one but two new locations for Water Bent (Polypogon viridis), a new arrival here and a ‘Heaton tick’ in Guernsey Fleabane.

At Henderson Hall, it was nice to stumble across a mature Hop (Humulus lupulus) clambering through the path side shrubs – a nice addition to the ongoing urban flora. Here too, Black Horehound was numerous and interesting escapes were noted in Silver Ragwort (Jacobaea maritima), Pirri-Pirri-Bur (Acaena novae-zelandiae) and Italian Toadflax (Cymbalaria pallida).

Walking home via Coach Lane, a quick gander at what remains of the roadside pond here produced Water-plantain (Alisma plantago-aquatica) and the nearby grassland held plenty of Hoary Ragwort (Jacobaea erucifolia). By the roadside, some detective work suggested that a strange Mallow self-seeding in places could be the ornamental hybrid, Malva x clementii.

Newburn Industrial Estate

A rare trip out with company this weekend as Saturday saw a slightly damp trip to Newburn alongside keen local botanist, Ho-Yin Wong. Exploring the vast expanse of brownfield here, it was difficult not to feel somewhat glum knowing it is due to be built on in the near future but nevertheless, much remained to be seen. Starting out in the industrial estate, not one but two patches of Blue Fleabane (Erigeron acris) were noted alongside Broad-leaved Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) and Hop. The latter is usually a hard species to come by in Newcastle!

Opting first to explore the enormous area of damp grassland here, interesting sightings included Hoary Ragwort, False Fox-sedge (Carex otrubae) and Glaucous Sedge (Carex flacca). Italian Rye-grass (Lolium multiflorum) was a new species for the Urban Flora and it was nice to note Large Bitter-cress (Cardamine amara) by one of the pools. Nearby, the shelterbelt surprised us with planted Juniper (Juniperus communis) and some more natural False-brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum).

Pottering back along the riverside, it came as a surprise to spot not one but two species of naturalised bellflower: Nettle-leaved (Campanula trachelium) and Peach-leaved (Campanula persicifolia). The Dune Helleborines (Epipactis dunensis) were still visible here too while further up, a poke about the industrial estate ponds yielded Lesser Bulrush (Typha angustifolia).

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