Roger Spooner Flora in the Arnside and Silverdale AONB

Roger Spooner

For a small area of land squeezed between Morecambe Bay and the A6 the Arnside and Silverdale AONB may not appear to be all that promising a site for variety of plant life. In fact the underlying limestone rock with its outcrops, areas of thin soil and limestone pavements, wooded areas, mosses and salt marshes and a spring-fed small lake provides an impressive variety of habitats.

Much of the salt marsh washed away in the 1980’s when the river Kent changed course. Over the last 15 years the mud level has risen and been colonised by patches of Cord Grass, so the salt marsh may return. White Creek salt marsh and the area between Arnside and Sandside and coastal small cliffs have a variety of plants like Sea Kale, Rock Samphire, and Sea Fern-grass.

The hilly areas of Arnside Knott and Warton Crag with steep slopes and rock outcrops support a wide variety of plants in a small area. You may find Spring Sandwort, Thyme- leaved Sandwort, nectar rich plants like Marjoram (much favoured by butterflies) Early Purple Orchids, and on anthills Silver Hair-grass. There are hay-meadows round Hawes Water with an abundance of plants Adder’s-Tongue fern, while in the marl beside the lake are plenty of surprises including Great Fen sedge, Fragrant orchid, the locally very rare Butterwort and also Birdseye Primrose (and if you are interested you might find the unusual snail Pomatias elegans at its northernmost range).

For many people the limestone pavements of Gait Barrows provide the greatest fascination, mainly because you never know what you might find when peering into a gryke. There may be plants like Dark Red Helleborine, Saw-wort, Rigid Buckler Fern as well as sedges Remote sedge, Flea sedge, and Fingered sedge growing in the rock hollows and also plants associated with acid moorlands like Purple Moor Grass.

In the midst of the limestone outcrop you might come across hollows which have in the past filled with windblown sand from the Morecambe Bay providing habitats for more acid loving plants. These include heather, bilberry and even Lemon-scented fern. White Moss, Thrang Moss, Hale Moss, Silverdale Moss and Arnside Moss, though with limited public access will give you plenty to look at.

The AONB has a fairly large population from the villages and caravan sites so besides these native plants you will probably come across plenty of introduced species. Members of the Arnside and District Natural History Society have recorded 1080 different taxa of plants in the AONB.

Plant record summary scientific names

Plant record summary vernacular names

Image 1: Bird's Eye Primrose Image 2: Butterwort Image 3: Dark Red Helleborine

Image 1: Early Purple Orchid Image 2: Fingered Sedge Image 3: Fragrant Orchid

Image 1: Greater Fen Sedge Image 2: Marjoram Image 3: Pomatias Elegans

Image 1: Sawwort Image 2: Sea Ferngrass Image 3: Spring Sandwort


Thyme-leaved Sandwort


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Arnside and District Natural History Society
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