The term ‘axiophyte’ is guaranteed to pique the interest of any botanist, because it is used to describe a plant that, although not necessarily rare in itself, is often indicative of important habitat. Just before you enter Hell Gate, why not go off piste for a while and take a walk around the eastern perimeter of The Wrekin Hillfort (you’ll know if you’re in the right place because you should emerge beneath the Needle’s Eye rock)? Here, in the shadow of tightly packed sloping coniferous woodland, clambering among the grasses and rocky outcrops, you’ll find one such example: Climbing Corydalis (Ceratocapnos claviculata). This lovely, delicate pale cream plant is typical of free-draining, acidic heathland soils where it can grow prolifically, especially among shady rocks. Lowland Heath, such as that found atop The Wrekin, is now among our scarcest habitat features in the UK, so try looking out for other Shropshire axiophytes typical of this particular landscape, such as Wavy Hair-grass, Bilberry and Common Heather.
Quick ID: dangling pale cream flower spikes (which can turn reddish-pink if exposed to sunlight) and irregular pale-green leaves that end in branched tendrils, which it uses to clamber over other plants (including Bracken).
When to see and where: flowering from June to September, Climbing Corydalis grows prolifically alongside the footpaths around the outer walls of The Wrekin Hillfort and can also be found amid shady outcrops on the main track up the hill.Back to top ten