Wildlife Column: Stunning rose with showy flowers

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Along a local railway-line trail is a good place to look for wildflowers. Both native and exotic species thrive in the limestone ballast of the old lines and the dry but limey soils.

Where the railway cut through a woodland or perhaps an old hedgerow then expect to find species of these old ‘unimproved’ habitats.

There are also areas with open grassland and meadow species like ox-eye daisies, and on more acidic soils in for example, railway cuttings through the bedrock, look out for flowers such as common heather and also bracken fern.

Alongside the line there are shrubs like blackthorn and hawthorn, and in damp areas sallow.

The common bramble is ubiquitous and this year seems to have relatively huge flowers that attract numerous pollinating insects.

The roses are well-represented along railway lines and the two common species (or more correctly species aggregates i.e. groups of closely-related subspecies) are the dog rose and the field rose.

The former has long, arching stems bearing viciously recurved thorns; the latter’s are relatively weak and straighter.

The picture shows another rose species and maybe a cultivar that has escaped from a planting scheme perhaps. This was a stunning specimen with masses of tight flowers on showy flower-heads.

I think this may be a ‘sweet briar’ with the flower stems and hips covered with small, glandular hairs; but it is possibly not the pure native.

Quite often in these linear habitats that cut through ancient countryside, modern-day farming, and restored post-industrial sites there is the potential for non-native escapees.

I think that is what this plant is though there were several big patches and it is clearly thriving.

The other thing to be aware of with wild roses is that the flower colour is not definitive – they do vary from the pictures!

Professor Ian D. Rotherham, of Sheffield Hallam University, researcher, writer and broadcaster on wildlife and environmental issues.