Tuesday, June 10, 2008

wet rocks on mountains

This was an eye-catching little plant that I snapped on our week-end expedition, near the foot of Cambridge Crag on Bow Fell, Cumbria. But just how pretty it was I didn't fully appreciate until I put this close-up up on screen.

I spent a couple of hours yesterday evening trying to identify it and I almost gave up, in fact toyed with the shameful thought of posting it as "unidentified" and pleading with someone to tell me what it was; secretly hoping, of course, that no-one would be able to, and that I was the discoverer of some incredible alpine rarity... though common sense suggested this was a bit unlikely, the summit of Bow Fell being after all one of the most walked-over bits of mountain landscape in England.

Eventually doggedness won out, as on the walk itself, and I worked out that it was Starry Saxifrage, Saxifraga stellaris. What threw me was that Francis Rose, in his generally impeccable Wild Flower Key, chose not to describe the plant except in a single line in very small print in the keys - a surprising decision considering that Starry Saxifrage is such a pretty plant and isn't even very uncommon, at least among wet rocks on mountains.

Bow Fell is the one furthest off. Next to it are the five summits of Crinkle Crags, which we subsequently toiled over before returning, some eleven hours after we set out, to the pleasingly level fields of Great Langdale, by this time half-deliriously revolving the words in Thomas the Rymer about the "steep narrow way" and the "lillie leven".



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