July 25, 2016

Joanna kindly spent some of her holiday on Skye recording tetrad NG24K which only had 3 species recorded previously. It now has 121. She also spotted this fine Vicia orobus (Wood Bitter-vetch) near Roag.

Vicia orobus Roag

Vicia orobus           Photo: J Walmisley

Does anybody know what this is? Later: Consensus is Nostoc sp. There is lots about at the moment:


Three interesting (to me, anyway) papers that have come to my attention recently, though only one is recent work:

  1. All English Elm trees could be descended from a single tree brought here by the Romans (2004)
  2. Yeast emerges as hidden third partner in lichen symbiosis (2016)
  3. Researchers at Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew now believe there are hundreds more plants that catch and eat insects and other small animals than they previously realised. Among them are species of petunia, ornamental tobacco plants, potatoes and tomatoes and shepherd’s purse (2009)

Loch Coruisk

July 24, 2016

On Friday I took the boat from Elgol and had six hours at Loch Coruisk. The scenery was, of course, dramatic, but the plants largely confirmed the view that mountains that are good for mountaineers are not great for botanists.  Mind you, I did no climbing and there were a few things of note such as Salix phylicifolia (Tea-leaved Willow) which is known elsewhere near burns in NG42 but not in the south end where these were.

I also spotted four plants in NG41 that had not been recorded since before 2000 and two in NG42, though one of these was a tiny sapling of Viburnum opulus (Guelder-rose) which looks unlikely to survive the winter.

Some of the pools had these features in them which I imagine, perhaps rather fancifully, are caused by erupting gas from rotting vegetation:


The only rich area was near the Coruisk Memorial Hut where there were some relatively interesting cliffs and rocks, freshwater marsh and salt marsh. Here in tetrad NG41Z I found 127 species including some I hadn’t been expecting like Galeopsis tetrahit s.s. (Common Hemp-nettle) and Odontites vernus (Red Bartsia).

There was lots of Rosa spinosissima (Burnet Rose) growing in some of the freshwater beaches of Loch Coruisk and some actually in the river at its current level.

Rosa spin in river

Rosa spinosissima in Coruisk River

Some had this gall on it, caused by the gall wasp Diplolepis spinosissimae:

Diplolepis spinosissimae galls

D. spinosissimae galls

I found this a couple of years ago at Talisker Bay but there remain very few records on the NBN Gateway.

I also spotted these leaf mines on Lonicera periclymenum (Honeysuckle). The miners are yet to be definitively identified.

Raasay SSSI Part 4

July 20, 2016

Yesterday I completed the field work for this round of Site Condition Monitoring in the Raasay SSSI. The target species were Dryas octopetala (Mountain Avens), Epipactis atrorubens (Dark-red Helleborine) and Pyrola rotundifolia (Round-leaved Wintergreen).

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This remains the only known site in VC 104 for Pyrola rotundifolia; as in most years there were no flowers.

In passing, during the day I spotted this slug:

Raasay slug 1

Deroceras reticulatum

(Thanks to Chris du Feu for the determination)

and a Meadow Grasshopper (Chorthippus parallelus):

Chorthippus parallelus Meadow Grasshopper

Meadow Grasshopper

I checked up on the Chara vulgaris (Common Stonewort) at its only known site in VC 104, here being grazed by a pond snail:

Chara vulgaris

Chara vulgaris

By contrast, Chara virgata (Delicate Stonewort) is widespread:

chara virgata map copy

Raasay SSSI Part 3

July 16, 2016

I returned to one of the two known Arabidopsis petraea (Northern Rock-cress) sites on Raasay where I had failed to find any plants last week. This time, armed with images from earlier years I succeeded, though the natural cycle of erosion and colonisation is putting this colony in danger. There again, another erosion event might provide bare rock with crevices that would be very suitable for Arabidopsis.


I returned to the proliferative deergrass and found much more. A specimen sent to Jeremy Roberts confirmed it as the hybrid Trichophorum x foersteri.

I also checked up on some Orthilia secunda (Serrated Wintergreen) in a site I hadn’t visited for over twenty years and nearby found a new site for Gymnocarpium dryopteris (Oak Fern).

There were several very fine specimens of Northern Eggar larvae around:

Northern Eggar Larva

Northern Eggar feeding on Calluna vulgaris

On Wednesday, members of the Skye Botany Group joined me to complete the southern part of the Raasay SSSI Site Condition Monitoring. We looked at two sites, one for Epipactis atrorubens (Dark-red Helleborine) and one for Dryas octopetala (Mountain Avens).

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Raasay SSSI Part 2

July 11, 2016

I have started Site Condition Monitoring of the Raasay SSSI vascular plants in earnest with populations of Arabidopsis petraea (Northern Rock-cress), Orobanche alba (Thyme Broomrape), Potamogeton filiformis (Slender-leaved Pondweed) and Sorbus rupicola (Rock Whitebeam) monitored last Friday.

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I also found a new site (in fact a new tetrad) for Polystichum lonchitis (Holly-fern)

Polystichum lonchitis

and some proliferative deergrass at an early stage. I haven’t decided yet whether it is Trichophorum germanicum (Deergrass) or the hybrid between that and Trichophorum cespitosum (Northern Deergrass), Trichophorum x foersteri.

Hallaig 04

January to June 2016

July 10, 2016

A review if the first six months of the year is available on the BSBI VC104 page. The second half has started rather more slowly, one way and another.

Dryopteris sp

Broadford to Loch Loncahan

July 7, 2016

This week has seen the final round of my annual surveys at Loch Lonachan. It is still full of minnows.

On the way along the track from the Heaste road, put in by Scottish Water a couple of years ago, there was this cup fungus which I take to be a Peziza, but as these cannot be distinguished without microscopy and I did not take a specimen I shall not be bothering my mycologist friends with this one. Presumably there is something organic under the stones.

Peziza sp.jpg

Peziza sp.

There were a couple of sites for Eriophorum latifolium (Broad-leaved Cottongrass) by the path and one of these was accompanied by a good patch of Carex pauciflora (Few-flowered Sedge), a plant that is reasonably obvious for only a few weeks of the year and is in need of more old records being re-found.

Carex pauciflora LR

Carex pauciflora

Two days running there was a Hen Harrier in the area, which was nice.

Raasay SSSI

July 5, 2016

My July article for the Raasay Community Newsletter concerns notable plants of the Raasay SSSI. It is available via a link on the Recording & Resources Page of my website.

I took the Inverness Botany Group up to a part of it last Saturday to see Dryas octopetala (Mountain Avens), Epipactis atrorubens (Dark-red Helleborine), Persicaria vivipara (Alpine Bistort), Polystichum lonchitis (Holly-fern) etc.

In a couple of weeks’ time the Skye Botany Group can repeat this trip and help me with Site Condition Monitoring.

Steve’s June Records

June 30, 2016

Steve has sent over 860 Skye records from June including many interesting additions, such as X Dactylodenia st-quintinii (Gymnadenia borealis x Dactylorhiza fuchsii) near Torrin, Dactylorhiza traunsteinerioides (Narrow-leaved Marsh-orchid) with unmarked leaves from Coire-chatachan and Baldellia ranunculoides (Lesser Water-plantain) from the Broadford River downstream from its known location in Loch Cill Chriosd.

He also passed on some records from Tim, including a new site near Calligary for Cephalanthera longifolia (Narrow-leaved Helleborine). This is not far from a known site but five days later the single plant had disappeared.

Scottish Moth Caterpillars by Habitat

June 28, 2016

The East Scotland branch of Butterfly Conservation has been busy again. They now have pages of Scottish Moth Caterpillars by Habitat split into

Grassland & Marsh
Road verges & Woodland edges
Hedge, Scrub & Carr


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