Patterns of Flora -Arts & Business Scotland Awards

February 7, 2016

We were “Commended” i.e. we came second in the Placemaking category of the Arts & Business Awards Scotland 2015.  Given the size and the budgets of some of the other organisations, we are delighted with the outcome.

A good time was had by all from Atlas Arts, Raasay House plus Frances and myself.

Orchids from Estepona

January 31, 2016

As I haven’t published anything else this month, I thought you should see something from where I have been…..

orchids LR

Orchids in Estepona’s Orchidarium on 19th January

July-December Report

December 23, 2015

My report on plant recording in VC104 for July -December 2015 is now on the BSBI VC104 page. There will be no surprises for attentive readers of this blog.

The Skye Native Plant list has been updated and the associated commentary improved.

Skye’s Native Plants

December 15, 2015

Caroline asked me if there was a list of plants native to Skye. There wasn’t, so I have created one. It turns out to have just short of 600 species on it, but there are many issues that had to be addressed along the way and there is no simple answer to the question “which plants are native to Skye?”

However, my list is here with an evolving commentary on some of the issue I faced here.

Update on Flies and Fungi

December 15, 2015

I sent Murdo 37 flies captured between late July and early November, all but one from our house and garden on Raasay. Two were notable. Firstly, a House-fly (Musca domestica) collected on 6th September made me the fourth person to have found it in Scotland! This has been a quest for HBRG recently, see:

Summer challenge 2015
The House-fly Musca domestica

Secondly, a related fly Mydaea urbana is also uncommon in Scotland and my record from Raasay represents the farthest west so far in the Highlands.

Meanwhile, Dave is having second thoughts about the species of Scutellinia – the eyelash fungus from the Loch Duagrich area and may need a second specimen next year.

Also, the small black fungus on fennel that I thought might be Heterosphaeria patella may not be – perhaps a pyrenomycete.

Frances Priest Talking about “Patterns of Flora”

December 15, 2015

This video show Frances at a Talking Heads event organised by Creative Edinburgh:


Sex Change in Trees

November 3, 2015

When Rita and I were walking in Lancashire a couple of weeks ago, we noticed that some ash tress had masses of keys on them whiilst others had none. I had to admit that I didn’t know off the top of my head whether ash is dioecious (separate male and female plants). After a  little research it turned out to be more complicated than I had expected. Male or female trees are common, but trees can also change sex from season to season, or even have flowers of different sexes on the same branch.

This came back to me when I received this news item:

“After 5,000 years, Britain’s Fortingall Yew is turning female”

You can read about it from the link but interestingly, author Max Cleman says “yews, and many other conifers that have seperate sexes, have been observed to switch sex. Normally this switch occurs on part of the crown  rather than the entire tree changing sex. In the Fortingall Yew it seems that one small branch in the outer part of the crown has switched and now behaves as female.”

November on Raasay

November 3, 2015

On Sunday Frances and I found a Red Admiral butterfly in the middle of the moor in perfect condition. Today the borage is covered in honey bees and bumblebees and there are bluebottles sunning themselves on the house in the sun.

The Impatiens is still flowering well

Impatiens in the Garden

Impatiens in the Garden

and we are still harvesting soft fruit:


Brambles & Raspberries

When I got home on Saturday evening after two weeks away there was an Angle Shades moth in the garage

Angle Shades in garage

Angle Shades in garage

and on the lawn there are these fungi that I have yet to try to identify but they look like a Coprinus, I think.



The old stems on the fennel have a small fungus which I suspect is Heterosphaeria patella which also grows on another umbelliferous plant, Angelica sylvestris. See post from 2013.


Heterosphaeria? (1)

Heterosphaeria 1

Heterosphaeria? (2)

Fungi News

October 24, 2015

Dave Genney has kindly looked microscopically at spores and hairs from the eyelash fungus from the Loch Duagrich area and found it not to be the common eyelash but rather one with no common name currently, Scutellinia trechispora, for which there appears to be very few Scottish records.

Meanwhile, this bracket fungus grew on a tree trunk that had washed up on the shore last Christmas. Liz Holden tells me it is a Ganoderma, probably G. australe (Southern Bracket), but it is too immature to determine with certainty as it had no spores. G. australe is the only Ganoderma recorded on Skye – and there is no record for Raasay.

Bracket above

Ganoderma sp. from above

Geoderma from below

Ganoderma sp. from below

I may try to bring one to maturity, the key thing being not to use the log it is on for firewood.

Loch Niarsco

October 13, 2015

Yesterday I went to Loch Niarsco to update Elatine hexandra (Six-stamened Waterwort) and Subularia aquatica (Awlwort) records – successfully. I also found Sparganium erectum (Branched Bur-reed) but no sign of the Iris pseudacorus (Yellow Iris) recorded there by the NCC Loch Survey in 1989, which leaves me a little suspicious. I ended up trying to swim in the bog to inspect the Sparganium, only to find another patch within easy reach a few minutes later.

Overall I recorded 142 species in NG34Y, increasing the tetrad count from 49 to 156 and one record, for Potentilla sterilis (Barren Strawberry), was the first record in NG34 since 1995.

A lot of the washed-up Isoetes lacustris (Quillwort) was unusually curled:

Curly Quillwort

Curly Quillwort

There were Black Darters (Sympetrum danae) and larvae of Northern Eggar and Broom Moth.

On the way I went to look for Mentha x verticillata (Whorled Mint) beside the River Varragill south of Portree (successfully) and by the River Snizort near Skeabost Bridge (unsuccessfully). The problem with the latter site was that both parents were present, Mentha aquatica (Water Mint) in huge quantities, Mentha arvensis (Corn Mint) rather less so, making it very hard to find any hybrid plants – especially when it was all quite grazed.  The R. Snizort did have a nice Whooper Swan on it:



I collected a couple of Mentha specimens from Portree and Sligachan. One of these populations has been recorded as Mentha x rotundifolia (M. longifolia x suaveolens) in the past and they could both well be that, but I find the far end of Stace’s Mentha key where this plant keys out to be unusable, so I shall send specimens away to the Mentha referee.


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