The faded and fallen blooms of summer, together with the current abundance of wayside seed and fruit suggests autumn is already upon us. However, on 4th September a visit to the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve at Ledsham Bank revealed an impressive family gathering of a botanical nature adding to an amazing end of season floral spectacular.
Against a purple haze of devil’s bit scabious, the real stars of the show are the following three members of the gentian family. The Autumn gentian has eyelash like ribbons extending across the entrance to the narrow trumpet shaped flowers. Yellow Wort has bright yellow flowers and is a valuable source for pollinators as demonstrated in the image. Common centaury has small pink tubular flowers and a long history of use in traditional medicine. The beauty of these flowers is best seen close-up, see attached images.
Ledsham Bank nature reserve is an area of permanent pasture over a steep bank of magnesian limestone. A rich flora has developed on these grasslands through continuing traditional management and grazing regimes. Sadly, there are few remaining similar areas in this part of the County. Indeed, the Wildlife Trusts say the UK has lost 97% of its wildflower meadows since the 1930s, with every county across the UK continuing to lose familiar and treasured wildflower species. The scale of the loss has left the remaining ancient wildflower rich meadows like Ledsham Bank fragmented, and the associated wildlife isolated at risk. This demonstrates the importance of the work being done at Ledsham Bank by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and other organisations in developing nature recovery networks to restore and conserve our wildlife.