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Inland rocks outcrops and scree Inland rocks outcrops and scree - Credit: Jeremy Lindley

Rock outcrops and screes

Stunning inland cliffs and scree are very characteristic of the special Yorkshire Dales landscape.

The majority of natural cliffs in the Yorkshire Dales occur in limestone areas, predominantly in the South of the National Park. Exposed limestone cliffs support species such as wild thyme and blue moor grass in association with specialist cliff species such as common whitlowgrass, hairy rock-cress, thale cress, hoary whitlowgrass and wall whitlowgrass, biting stonecrop and the rare winter hutchinsia. More shaded and sheltered cliffs support ferns such as wall-rue, maidenhair spleenwort, green spleenwort, brittle bladder-fern and lesser clubmoss. Wetter flushed cliffs support marsh hawk’s-beard, Pyrenean scurvygrass, mossy saxifrage and stone bramble. In very sheltered, stable areas more robust flowering plants can occur such as, rock-rose, small scabious, bloody crane’s-bill and marjoram. Limestone screes also support a rich diversity of lime-loving species such as herb Robert and more specialist species such as the limestone polypody fern.

Inland rock outcrops, cliffs and scree are of high biodiversity importance and under threat. Consequently, this habitat is on the UK list of priority habitats for biodiversity action and has a Local Habitat Action Plan in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.


Bloody Crane’s-bill

Geranium sanguineum

Family: Geraniaceae

The bloody crane’s-bill is characteristic of Yorkshire and Derbyshire’s limestone areas. It has vivid pink flowers, intricately divided leaves and a distinctive red stalk joint which gives the plant its name.

Within the British Isles, this species has a localised distribution on grassland, rocky areas, sand dunes and open woods on calcareous soils in northern and western areas.

In the Yorkshire Dales National Park, bloody crane’s-bill flowers between July and August and grows in limestone woodland, on scar ledges and on limestone pavement.

Though it isn’t a common plant good examples of bloody crane’s bill can be seen in the open rocky parts of Grass Wood near Grassington and on the limestone pavement in the Ingleborough area of Ribblesdale.

Stone Bramble

Rubus saxatilis

Family: Rosaceae


The stone bramble is closely related to the blackberry bramble, raspberries and the cloudberry which is also featured in these pages. It is a perennial herb with annual downy flowering stems and small flowers with narrow white petals which develop into scarlet fruits that have just a few large segments.

In the British Isles the stone bramble is an uncommon species with a scattered distribution in Scotland, Wales and central, northern and western England. In the Yorkshire Dales National Park this species is uncommon but may be seen flowering between June and August in rocky woodland and old, neglected hazel coppice on the Dales limestone, for example, in Bolton Abbey Woods (Wharfedale) and in Freeholders Wood Local Nature Reserve (Wensleydale).

Common Rock-rose

Helianthemum nummularium

Family: Cistaceae

The Common rock-rose’s Latin name is Helianthemum which translates as ‘sun-flower’. This is because the flowers react to the sun and will open fully in bright sunshine.

Its colours range from the more common bright yellow through to various shades of orange. Growing close to the ground, this evergreen shrub produces a mass of short-lived flowers during summer.

In the Yorkshire Dales National Park, common rock-rose can be found on limestone grassland and in crevices between limestone rocks. In the summer, the bright yellow flowers are a common sight in the limestone grasslands of the Craven District of the National Park.

The Common rock-rose is an important part of the eco-system and provides a food source for the larvae of several species of moth and butterfly including the northern brown argus butterfly.

Purple Saxifrage

Saxifraga oppositifolia

Family: Saxifragicaceae

purple saxifrage

This is a glorious alpine plant that occurs on damp rocky ledges and stony ground on steep slopes. It is strictly associated with calcareous rocks, so it is found, for example, on the bands of limestone near the summit of Pen-y-ghent, but not on the millstone grit or shales.

The flowering period is short lived. There are spectacular purple displays usually in April (but sometimes as early as February or as late as May) yet these do not last for more than a few weeks before they are over. Occasionally there may be a late flowering at the end of summer.