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Peat Moorland Peat Moorland - Credit: Whitfield Benson

Blanket Bogs

As well as being an internationally important habitat for wildlife blanket and lowland raised bogs that are in good condition improve water quality, reduce flood risk, capture and store carbon and are great places for walking and enjoying the outdoors.

The most abundant type of blanket bog in the Dales is dominated by hare’s-tail cottongrass and can be recognised by the white cotton like seed heads. This is the most species poor blanket bog type and is often a transition stage to acidic grassland. This type of blanket bog covers vast areas of moorland in the National Park. Blanket bog that is a mixture of heather and cottongrass is more species rich with bilberry or crowberry abundant in places. At higher altitudes cowberry and cloudberry are also present. The best areas occur around Swaledale. The most species-rich and rarest blanket bogs are the bog-moss rich ones. This habitat is important for specialised bog plants such as cranberry, bog asphodel and round-leaved sundew. Most examples of this habitat have been degraded due to inappropriate burning, moorland drainage and atmospheric pollution that has reduced the moss cover. Some of the richest examples are found in Chapel-le-Dale and Ribblesdale. The driest type of blanket bog habitat is that associated with peat hags where drying of the peat has lead to the growth of dwarf shrubs and lichens. The most extensive areas are found on Bolton and Carperby Moors between Wensleydale and Swaledale.

Lowland raised bogs are very rare in the Dales and their vegetation is very similar to the bog-moss-rich blanket bogs.

The very ambitious and successful Yorkshire Peat Project is achieving landscape-scale restoration of these habitats throughout the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

hares-tail-cottongrass

Hare’s-tail Cotton Grass

Eriophorum vaginatum

Family: Cyperaceae (Sedge family)

Tufts of cotton-like white flowers give this species its characterful name. It is very similar to another species of cottongrass – common cottongrass.

Cottongrass has had some interesting uses throughout history. In the First World War it was used for wound-dressings in Scotland and it has also been used to stuff pillows in Suffolk.

Hare’s-tail cottongrass has densely tufted stems which form tussocks; narrow dark green leaves which are triangular in cross section, and flowers which consist of a single spikelet.

This species favours wet peaty environments such as moorland bogs and wet heath habitats. It is common in the western, central and northern areas of the British Isles. In the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Hare’s-tail cottongrass is particularly abundant on the high ground in the central and northern parts of the National Park.

It has a similar distribution to common cottongrass, but it is able to also tolerate higher acidity, drier habitats and higher altitudes than common cottongrass.

cloudberry

Cloudberry

Rubus chamaemorus

Family: Rosaceae

You might hear the cloudberry being called by a number of different names in North Yorkshire where it is also known as ‘nowtberry’, knoutberry’ and ‘naughtberry’.

The cloudberry is a relative of both the blackberry bramble and the raspberry but is easy to distinguish as its large white flowers develop into bright orange fruit when ripe. It is a small herbaceous plant, which features hairs, rather than prickles, on its stems. The fruit is said to be fairly tasteless.

Cloudberry can be found on peaty moors and bogs on mountains in northern Britain. In the Yorkshire Dales National Park it is abundant on peaty ground on the high fells of the central and northern areas. It has given its name to Knoutberry and Naughtberry Hills in Wensleydale where it is thought to be particularly common.

cranberry

Cranberry

Oxycoccus

Family: Ericaceae

Although its fruits are edible, it’s important not to confuse the native British cranberry with the American cranberry which is famously used to make cranberry sauce and many other culinary delights.

The native cranberry is a tiny creeping evergreen with thread-like stems, widely spaced leaves and bright pink flowers which develop into red berries.

Cranberry grows in bogs and very wet heaths. It can be found in suitable habitats throughout Britain but is rare in southern England and northern Scotland.

In the Yorkshire Dales National Park, cranberry can be seen in bog habitats, for example, in the Ingleborough area of Ribblesdale, on the moors between Nidderdale and Wharfedale and more rarely in upper-Wensleydale.

bog-asphodel

Bog Asphodel

Narthecium ossifragum

Family: Liliaceae

Spot the bog asphodel at the right time of the year and you’ll be treated to a visual delight. During July and August it has between six and 12 star-like bright yellow flowers with stamens consisting of orange woolly filaments and orange-red anthers. After flowering in September, the whole plant becomes tinted with orange, giving it a vivid hue. When seen growing in patches, it is a stunning sight.

As well as being an attractive plant, bog asphodel has a number of uses and has been used historically as a source of saffron and for producing a hair-dye.

As the name suggests, bog asphodels are found in bogs but also in other wet peaty places such as wet heaths and moors on the fells. They are thought to be common in western and northern Britain but are rare within central and eastern England.

In the Yorkshire Dales National Park, bog asphodels are quite frequent in bogs and acidic flushes on peaty moorland and waterlogged areas of some valley bottoms. They are most likely to be seen in the central and northern areas of the National Park where they often grow alongside cross-leaved heath and round-leaved sundew.

round-leaved-sundew

Round-leaved Sundew

Drosera rotundifolia

Family: Droseraceae

Looking for the secret to a long life and youthful good looks? Well once upon a time, herbalists might have recommended the Round-leaved sundew as this plant was used to create a potion said to be the source of strength, virility and longevity.

However the plant is very interesting in other ways too. It has a distinctive appearance with reddish leaves which are covered in red or green hairs, each tipped with a drop of sticky, translucent ‘dew’. The plant is insectivorous and uses its leaves to trap small insects. When an insect lands, the leaves or hairs trigger the plant to move and can entrap the insect in as little as three minutes. Once coated in the plant’s acidic liquid, the insect suffocates before being digested by the plant. The round-leaved sundew can thrive in habitats which have low nutrient levels because it gains nitrogen from insects it traps.

It has a widespread distribution in the British Isles where it is found growing in wet acid peaty habitats with little shade. It is most common in the northern and western areas and absent from most of central, eastern and southern England.

In the Yorkshire Dales National Park, this plant can be found in acidic damp hollows, seepages and bogs. It is usually found close to Cranberry and Bog asphodel on the tops of the fells, particularly in the north of the National Park.

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