March 8, 2023

My report of botanical activity in vice-county 104 during 2022 is available here.

My total for adult moth species here in West Suisnish stands at 241 as of the end of 2022. New in 2022 were:

  • Brindled Ochre (Dasypolia templi)
  • Brown China-mark (Elophila nymphaeata)
  • Buck’s-horn Groundling (Scrobipalpa samadensis)
  • Festooned Roller (Ancylis geminana)
  • Pale Pinion (Lithophane social)
  • Pearl Grass-veneer (Catoptria pinella)
  • Puss Moth (Cerura vinula)
  • Red Twin-spot Carpet (Xanthorhoe spadicearia)
  • Rush Veneer (Nomophila noctuella)
  • Twin-spotted Quaker (Anorthoa munda)

During the year I found one micro-moth (on Skye – see here) that was new to the vice-county: Monochroa tenebrella sometimes called Common Plain Neb.

I am running a Biodiversity Stall at the forthcoming Raasay Together festival on 25th March. Perhaps more on this later.

Atlas 2020 Has Gone Live

March 8, 2023

You can buy the two volumes and/or go here. It is a remarkable accomplishment. Screenshot of one page of the Atlas for Epipactis atrorubens (Dark-red Helleborine):


Final (?) Plant Records for 2022

December 3, 2022

Joanna has sent some additional Skye records from the summer, which include two new vice-county records: Echinops bannaticus (Blue Globe-thistle) in Broadford and Phedimus kamtschaticus (Sedum kamtschaticum)(Kamchatka Stonecrop) at Lonmore.

Phedimus (Sedum) kamtschaticus (Kamchatka Stonecrop)

I have the latter in the garden, where it seeds freely, so no surprise that it has escaped on Skye.

A limited number of Hieracium (Hawkweed) specimens were sent for expert determination this year. All bar two were the relatively common H. anglicum (English Hawkweed), H. shoolbredii (Shoolbred’s Hawkweed) and H. triviale (Common Hawkweed). The remaining two were initially determined as H. langwellense (Langwell Hawkweed) and H. orcadense (Orkney Hawkweed), both of which would have been valuable records. However, I made the mistake of querying one of them and now they have both been reduced to INDET. I may return to these two sites a little earlier in the season in 2023. For any Hieracium aficionados reading this, images and details are available here.

I now have all the records for the Broadford part of the Urban Flora of Scotland project and submitted them to the centre. We (Joanna, Neil, Seth, Steve and myself) covered the relevant parts of six monads and made nearly 1000 records for the project. We made seven new vice-county records during the surveys – all garden escapes or planted – but well worth the effort in itself.

Small Beasts in October

October 30, 2022

Neil spotted some galls on the box hedges in Raasay House Walled Garden so I went to have a look.

There seems little doubt that these small cabbage-like galls are caused by the psyllid Psylla buxi, but an official record can wait until we can actually see the causer.

Elsewhere on Raasay, I happened across Balea perversa, known as the wall snail or tree snail. This is probably very common and there are quite a few records on NBN for the vice-county, but it is an attractive little thing. (It was on neither a wall nor a tree on this occasion, but rather, munching a piece of Festuca.)

Nearby there were some bristletails. I think this is Petrobius maritimus as it has clearly ringed antennae rather than P.brevistylus which has plain antennae.

At home, I have had Grey Pine Carpet, Feathered Thorn and, new to my garden, Pale Pinion in the moth trap.

Yesterday during the last Skye Botany Group outing of 2022 I spotted a single specimen of Acleris hyemana (sometimes called Heath Button). This micromoth emerges on the moors in September and October and overwinters as an adult.

Acleris hyemana

And finally, not a beast, but at least something small: Onygena equina (Horn Stalkball) a species of fungus that grows on putrefying hooves and horns. This seems to be one of Neil’s specialities as he has shown it to me before on Skye and his are the only two recent records (i.e. within the past 120 years) in the vice-county listed on NBN. I really must look out for it more.

Recent Finds

October 20, 2022

Joanna, who has recently been appointed as Joint BSBI Vice-county Recorder for VC104, has been busy with some difficult plants on Skye. She has found more Polypodium x mantoniae (Manton’s Polypody, the hybrid between P. interjectum and P. vulgare) near Coral Beach, north of Dunvegan

Polypodium x mantoniae near the Coral Beach Image: J Walmisley

and has had Atriplex praecox (Early Orache) confirmed from Camas a’ Mhòr-bheòil plus one that is a hybrid, probably with Atriplex prostrata.

Atriplex praecox from Camas a’ Mhòr-bheòil Image: J Walmisley


October 1, 2022

I was away for most of September, but towards the end of the month Skye Botany Group went to Drinan in the hope of re-finding Sorbus rupicola (Rock Whitebeam), last recorded there in 1987. We failed on that, but there is plenty more difficult rocky coastline to explore.

The MacAlister Tomb is situated in woodland near the shore and various garden plants were introduced there some years ago. Some of these have survived – Erinus alpinus (Fairy Foxglove) and Aquilegia vulgaris (Columbine), for example. Others appear not to have done e.g. Convallaria majalis (Lily-of-the-valley) (1995 record), Polygonatum x hybridum (Garden Solomon’s-seal) (1985 record) and Erysimum cheiri (Wallflower) (1980 record).

However, we did find a saxifrage that I am reasonably confident is Saxifraga umbrosa (Pyrenean Saxifrage), which is a first for VC104 apart from an anonymous, undated (1987-1999) record from NG44, the Portree area. The suspicion must be that the latter was in fact Saxifraga x urbium (S. spathularis x umbrosa – Londonpride) which is known as a garden escape in several places in Portree.

Saxifraga umbrosa

A nearby fern looks most likely to be Dryopteris cambrensis (Scaly Male-fern) but some uncertainty remains. Perhaps one to revisit next year.

Dryopteris cambrensis maybe


August 28, 2022

Skye Botany Group went to Dunvegan Head on Thursday and added a number of species to the 10 km square NG15:

Carex extensa (Long-bracted Sedge)
Carex laevigata (Smooth-stalked Sedge)
Carex otrubae (False Fox-sedge)
Circaea lutetiana (Enchanter’s-nightshade)
Lysimachia minima
Sonchus arvensis (Perennial Sow-thistle)
Stachys x ambigua (Hybrid Woundwort)

We also took a Hieracium (Hawkweed) specimen from the site where H. orcadense was recorded in 1994. Developments in Hieracium taxonomy mean that this should be redetermined and in any case, there has been no Hieracium determined to species level in NG15 since before 2000.

Hieracium orcadense?

In the world of bryophytes, Nick was pleased to find Atrichum tenellum, new to Skye (although it was found on Eigg during a BBS meeting) and the tiny scarce liverwort Fossombronia incurva.

Wilma spotted a Pipefish as we moved along the shore, something I have very rarely seen.


August 28, 2022

The vast majority of recent additions to the VC104 plant list are alien species, mostly garden escapes or throw-outs. Way back in May Joanna found something at Dunvegan which, in the absence of flowers, I thought might be one of the Astilbe x arendsii group. (See comments on this post.) Now we have flowers and fruits and it appears to be Astilbe rivularis Buch.-Ham. Ex D.Don (River Astilbe) from the Himalayas – or more locally, from Dunvegan Castle grounds. This is not the same as Astilbe rivularis auct. non Buch.-Ham. Ex D.Don which is the same as A. chinensis (Maxim.) Franch. & Sav.

There are a few records for A. chinensis (which has red petals) on the BSBI Distributional database but this is the first for Astilbe rivularis Buch.-Ham. Ex D.Don (which has no petals).

Meanwhile, whilst creating a plant list for Viewfield Garden Collective in Portree I spotted several interesting species of which two are new to the vice-county: Persicaria nepalensis (Nepal Persicaria) has naturalised quite well, perhaps coming from the adjacent plant nursery and there was a relict patch of Filipendula camtschatica (Giant Meadowsweet) – an impressive plant at nearly 2.5 m high.

The Persicaria has very unusually shaped leaves.

Filipendula camtschatica (Giant Meadowsweet) has sepals that are reflexed in fruit and, apart from the sheer size of the thing, a small patch of sparse hairs on the “inside” of the sepals is a useful diagnostic feature.

And more….

August 19, 2022

The Skye Botany Group outing to Ardnish continues to yield results. One of the Euphrasia samples taken for expert determination turned out to be Euphrasia heslop-harrisonii as recorded in earlier surveys. The other four were “hybrids” of Euphrasia arctica x heslop-harrisonii though to quote the guy who wrote the book: “We now know that the genetics of Euphrasia is hopelessly complex and what we regard as “species” are not genetically good species at all, merely a collection of characters which are more or less common over a reasonable geographical range.  So it is probably the case that your plants represent a local form of Euphrasia some of which happen to fit Pugsley’s description of E. heslop-harrisonii and some of which are close but are not quite right.  These are the plants we call “hybrids” – not actually hybrids at all but just a mix of characters which, if Euphrasia behaved more normally would be true hybrids.  If you like, they are “morphological hybrids” rather than true hybrids.” 

A moss collected by Nick during the SBG trip to Dunscaith Castle back in May has been confirmed as Dicranum elongatum, a very rare moss in Britain that has not been recorded in the UK since 1964!

Back home, a moth trap yielded 52 moths of which the smallest was the most interesting. In order to be identified, Scrobipalpa samadensis (Buck’s-horn Groundling) has to be dissected unless reared from larvae on the known food plant. Steve Palmer, who runs the national Gelechiid recording scheme, kindly did that for my wee moth and it looks to be the first record for Skye, though not for the VC with a Sanday (Canna) record in 1979. There is plenty of Sea Plantain nearby which the larvae can use even if the nearest Buck’s-horn Plantain is a couple of kilometres away.

Buck’s-horn Groundling (Scrobipalpa samadensis)

A Long Time Coming

August 15, 2022

I am conscious that my posts are getting less frequent – the result of holidays, Covid and visitors – but also perhaps, a general loss of enthusiasm on my part. Maybe this blog is heading towards a natural ending. We shall see.

In the meantime, Steve has spotted a Birch in Broadford that he thought was Betula utilis var. jacquemontii (Jacquemont’s Birch). I had a look and agreed, but something made me send images to the BSBI Betula referee who says “From the relatively short leaves and few pairs of veins I suspect it is B. ‘Doorenbos’, which I think is possibly a hybrid between B. utilis jacquemontii and B. ermanii. It is apparently so commonly grown because it is easy to root from cuttings – unlike most white-barked birches. If I’m right, the male catkins will not be knobbly (character of all B. utilis and B. albosinensis) and the fruiting catkins often not drooping and more or less in the plane of the shoot – the fruiting catkins of B. ermanii are more or less erect”. Steve is now on a mission to inspect catkins……

Very pleasingly, Joanna has found Manton’s Polypody – Polypodium x mantoniae (P. interjectum x vulgare) – a major target of our project with the Darwin Tree of Life folks. Hers are near the Coral Beach north of Dunvegan, but a sample taken at Ardnish may also be that. I have returned to Ardnish for a further sample, hoping for more mature spores and we await the verdict of the BSBI Polyodium referee.

Dolerite Dyke at Ardnish, site of possible Polypodium x mantoniae

I think a mature Eucalyptus at Broadford is E. gunnii (Cider Gum), but in the apparent absence of flowers or fruit it is hard to be certain. In any event, some of the leaves have an unusual appearance that I thought might be a gall. However, I can find no larvae and Robert Maidstone suggests it may be oedema, a disorder caused by the roots taking up more water than the leaves can transpire so that the excess water ruptures the cells,

Disfigured Eucalyptus leaves

Also in Broadford, the Sorbaria is confirmed as S. kirilowii (Chinese Sorbaria) rather than S. tomentosa (Himalayan Sorbaria) as the longest anthers are considerably longer than the petals.

I have not found much time for moths but my last moth trap had, unusually, lots of different micro-moths including:

The micro-ermine cannot be reliably determined to species as an adult. Yponomeuta cagnagella is very unlikely as the larvae feed on Spindle, the nearest known plant of which is on Rum two stretches of sea and about 40 km away. However, that still leaves two possibilities. All these micros except the really easy ones were determined or confirmed from images by Nigel Richards.

Also, in the garden, there was a Beautiful Plume (Amblyptilia acanthadactyla) determined from images by Colin Hart, the man who wrote the book about these moths.

Beautiful Plume (Amblyptilia acanthadactyla)

The larvae feed on Lamium spp. and this adult was close to some Lamium maculatum (Spotted Dead-nettle).