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. See more information in our project pages.
Blanket and raised bogs are of high biodiversity value and are under threat. Consequently, blanket bog and lowland raised bogs continue to be on the UK list of priority habitats for biodiversity action.
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 is usually found close to Cranberry and Bog asphodel on the tops of the fells, particularly in the north of the National Park.
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.