The Arish Burn

April 10, 2014

Nick came to do the bryophyte survey in connection with the proposed hydroelectric scheme on Tuesday and I went along for the ride. It was the best day this week weather-wise and I was able to do some preliminary  vascular plant recording as well as being the official photographer.   However, several things really will have to wait until later in the season – some grasses and sedges plus orchids, if any.

We spotted some tufa forming on what Nick identified as Palustriella commutata

Tufa in the Making

Tufa in the Making

Nick found one Nationally Scarce moss, Gymnostomum calcareum, but there are several sites for it on Raasay.

Bryologist in Action

Bryologist in Action

One section of the burn was unfamiliar to me and it may be that I have never got there before. Until a few years ago it would have been hidden in the middle of a conifer plantation and it may have been missed. Anyway, like other parts of the burn it shows some influence of basic rocks and had Galium odoratum (Woodruff). Plants fully in flower included Chrysosplenium oppositifolium (Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage), Luzula sylvatica (Great Wood-rush), Primula vulgaris (Primrose)and Viola riviniana (Common Dog-violet).


April 1, 2014

Lesser Celandine was Ranunculus ficaria for many a year. These days it is Ficaria verna and it is now in flower locally.  Four subspecies are recognised as occurring in the wild in Britain but two are garden escapes and not known in VC104 – though they could be here.

Our plant, outside of “Big House” gardens is F. verna ssp. fertilis, previously Ranunculus ficaria ssp ficaria.  In a few castle and large gardens there is F. verna ssp. verna, previously R. ficaria ssp bulbifera.

F. verna ssp. fertilis never has tubers (bulbils) in the leaf axils but forms a complete head of achenes (fruits).

F. verna ssp. verna forms tubers (bulbils) in the leaf axils after flowering and forms no or few achenes.

Because the whole plant disappears by mid- to late summer, records are not as comprehensive as they might be so it would be good to fill in some gaps. F. verna ssp. fertilis is common but does not tolerate acidic moorland. However, if you can’t see it anywhere else, under bracken is a good bet.

The following distribution maps reflect current knowledge.

Ficaria verna ssp. verna

Ficaria verna ssp. fertilis

Ficaria verna ssp. verna

Ficaria verna ssp. verna

Ficaria verna  No subspecies specified

Ficaria verna
No subspecies specified

March Plant Records, Moths and that Ground-beetle

April 1, 2014

Steve has sent over 250 plants records from Skye during March including several nice records like Lycopodium clavatum (Stag’s-horn Clubmoss) and Viburnum opulus (Guelder-rose).

Richard tells me that my Carabus from the polytunnel is C. problematicus, the commonest Raasay species.

Last night I put out the moth trap and trapped four different moths: Mottled Grey, Common Quaker, Hebrew Character and Clouded Drab, which Brian tells me are the four most common species around here at this time of year.


Clouded Drab


Hebrew Character


Common Quaker

Mottled Grey

Mottled Grey

Carabus and Apricot

March 23, 2014

Sounds like the latest food fad but is actually a summary of a visit to the polytunnel.  The apricot tree has been in bloom for some time but there are not many pollinators about so I am at it with a small paintbrush to help.

Apricot Blossom

Apricot Blossom

Down at ground level I found this ground beetle that looks like Carabus violaceus to me but I have sent an image to Richard Moore, author of The Beetles of the Isle of Raasay, as he notes in his book that C. problematicus is commoner:



Either way, it is a welcome predator in the polytunnel.

Endless Hours of Fun

March 21, 2014

Jim asked me to look at how to put an OS map behind a distribution map and after much effort today I have come up with what I think is an acceptable approach:

oralb OS final

However, if I were to do this for another vice-county, it is not obvious how I could transfer it to another vice-county recorder as it does not correspond to a file that I could copy and send….. and whilst I could detail how to do it, the objective was to produce something transferable.

Talk Tonight in Portree

March 18, 2014

Tonight (Tuesday 18th March) at 7.30 at Tigh-na-Sgire, Peter Cairns will give a talk under the auspices of the Skye Members’ Centre of the Scottish Wildlife Trust. This is part of our celebration of SWT’s 50th Anniversay. All welcome.

Peter Cairns -Poster for 180314

Beech Woodwart by the Arish Burn

March 13, 2014

I took a wander up part of the Arish Burn on Raasay today as a preparatory look before a more serious survey later in the season as there are hopes of putting in a run-of-river hydroelectric scheme. I found no plants that I hadn’t seen before along there but they included Asplenium scolopendrium (Hart’s-tongue), Polystichum aculeatum (Hard Shield-fern) and Carex remota (Remote Sedge). Various bryophytes had fruiting bodies already and the first of the Luzula sylvatica (Great Wood-rush) was in flower:IMG_2990a

Something new to me was Hypoxylon fragiforme (Beech Woodwart) on a dead beech tree:


Beech Woodwart (1)


Beech Woodwart (2)

Thanks to Dave Genney for the i.d.

A Beginners’ Botany Group

March 4, 2014

Steve Terry is hoping to start a Beginners’ Botany Group based in Broadford.  Anyone interested should contact Steve at


February 27, 2014

The talk seemed to go down well and the audience was surprisingly numerous. Local ceramicist Patricia Shone was able to tell me that the Cephalanthera longifolia (Narrow-leaved Helleborine) at Fairy Glen, Calligarry was still present in 2011. This is something I have looked for and in the absence of a precise location, failed to find. The distribution map now looks like this:

Cephalanthera longifolia

Cephalanthera longifolia

The remaining red dot is for a 1977 record at Armadale Castle. (Corrected from earlier version of this post.)

From Sandy Masson I learned that the Peltaria alliacea (Garlic Cress) at the top of the shore at Rubha Phòile was planted by an itinerant Irishman in, I think, 1988, and that it seeds up onto the area above.

Roger was inspired to send me further Aspen and Early-purple Orchid records today – but we still have no EPO record for Sleat since before the year 2000.

There seemed to be some enthusiasm to look out for plants not recorded recently in Sleat.  I am, of course, always delighted to receive records or queries – or images for identification…..

Elsewhere, members of the Skye Botany Group are stirring, and apparently concentrating on aliens. Linda reports Cortaderia richardii (Early Pampas-grass) from a new 10km square near Greshornish  so that the distribution map now looks like this:

Cortaderia richardii

Cortaderia richardii

Watch out – this pest may be heading your way…..

Meanwhile Steve reports Cotoneaster simonsii (Himalayan Cotoneaster) from NG52, the first record for that 10km square for forty years.

A Talk on the Plants of Sleat

February 25, 2014

By myself Wednesday 26th February Ardvasar Village Hall 19:30.sleat talk


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