Cnoc Roll area

August 18, 2018

Just south of Duntulm is Cnoc Roll and to the south of that an old birch woodland. This is in tetrad NG47B and yesterday Skye Botany Group visited the area to improve a rather poorly recorded tetrad. It was a bit wet and windy but could have been far worse and we recorded 177 vascular plants of which 84 were new to the tetrad and six new to hectad NG47 (with a few qualifications around subspecies and aggregates).

Perhaps the most surprising of the additions (surprising that it was an addition, not that it was there) was Salix cinerea subsp. oleifolia (Rusty Willow) which is common across Skye at low altitudes.

We found Rose Pea Gall on Rosa sherardii (Sherard’s Downy-rose). There are two smooth RPGs (like this one) caused by gall wasps which “cannot be safely distinguished without rearing the adult”. There were no larvae or pupae so it goes down as Diplolepis eglanteriae agg. There are not many records for either species or the aggregate in Scotland.

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Rose Pea Gall on Rosa sherrdii

Botanists and horticulturalists are used to the concept of National Collections e.g. of Willows or Oaks. We think we may have spotted the National Bath Collection (thanks Wheldon!) yesterday:

National Bath Collection

On the way I had stopped at Lochan nan Dùnan to see Seth’s Lythrum portula (Water-purslane). As he had said, there is a great deal of it around and in the lochan.

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Lythrum portula (Water-purslane)

Rowan…. Bugloss….Idrigill

August 18, 2018

I started Thursday with a visit to Borve to see Neil’s oddly behaving Rowan. One branch has a leaf that has not divided like normal rowan leaves whilst the others have very fine leaflets:

Sorbus aucuparia odd Borve

Odd Sorbus aucuparia

The rest of the tree looks entirely normal. The only explanation anybody has come up with is a plant virus, but even Tim Rich, author of Whitebeams, Rowans and Service Trees of Britain and Ireland, says he has never seen anything like it.

On to Uig where Seth had found a verge full of garden escapes/throw-outs including Armoracia rusticana (Horse-radish), Echium plantagineum (Purple Viper’s-bugloss) and Iberis umbellata (Garden Candytuft) all new to the vice-county. Thanks to David for identification of the Echium.

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Echium plantagineum

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Iberis umbellata showing horned fruits

There was also a second, white, Iberis (so determined from the zygomorphic flowers i.e. two large and two small petals) but this does not have the distinctive fruits of Iberis umbellata, leaving us all a little puzzled.

Iberis sp

Iberis sp.

Seth, Neil, Wheldon and I then had a prowl at Ru Idrigill/Creagile in NG36R and recorded 148 plant taxa of which 52 were new to the tetrad. There was a variety of other things we spotted, but to pick out a couple of galls:

Aphid gall on Cerastium fontanum

Brachycolus cerastii (aphid) galls on Cerastium fontanum

and a stunning gall on hawthorn fruits:

Gymnosporangium clavariiforme on hawthorn

Gymnosporangium clavariiforme on Crataegus monogyna.      Image: N Roberts

Thanks to Seth for determinations – and to Neil and Wheldon (as well as Seth) for finding  fine collection of things.

Ullinish

August 14, 2018

A few days ago I discovered that a batch of records from the 1987 NCC Freshwater Loch Survey had an incorrect grid reference, putting them in tetrad NG33J rather than NG33Z. NG33J had looked moderately well recorded in terms of numbers of species and had not got onto my To Do list. However, once these incorrect records were reassigned it looked pretty poor, so yesterday I went to do something about it and recorded 213 taxa – with a couple of Atriplex specimens still to check.

Dun Beag lies within the tetrad and is the best preserved of the 50 or so brochs on Skye but I had never made the short walk from the road to inspect it.

It wasn’t much fun botanically, however. But the rest of the tetrad was: Cakile maritima (Sea Rocket), Carex otrubae (False Fox-sedge), Equisetum x litorale (Shore Horsetail) and Juncus ranarius (Frog Rush) were all new to the 10km square NG33, as were the planted Prunus avium (Wild Cherry), Saxifraga x urbium (London Pride) and Sorbus intermedia (Swedish Whitebeam).

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Cakile maritima

The Cakile is rare on Skye.

Asplenium ruta-muraria (Wall-rue), Bolboschoenus maritimus (Sea Club-rush) and Lycopus europaeus (Gypsywort) were the first NG33 records since before 2000, in the case of the Bolboschoenus, the first since 1915.

Additionally there were new sites for the locally uncommon Glechoma hederacea (Ground-ivy) and Sparganium erectum (Branched Bur-reed), though the latter has arguably lost that status owing to recent discoveries:

On the moth front there was a fine Knot Grass caterpillar on Salix repens (Creeping Willow) and I got a distant shot of a Shaded Broad-bar (Thanks, Nigel for i.d.), something I do not recall seeing before.

Shieldbug and Diving Beetle

August 12, 2018

Two recent visitors to our garden: a Spiked Shieldbug (Picromerus bidens)

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Picromerus bidens

not all that common in the northwest, and a Diving Beetle (Dytiscus semisulcatus)

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Dytiscus semisulcatus

that appeared to mistake our black car for a dark peaty pool. It took off and flew around for a while but came back for another try.  This is a species I have recorded before on Raasay, but not at home.

Plant Updates 2

August 5, 2018

Back in June, Joyce and I found Inula Hookeri (Hooker’s Fleabane) at Knott and now, in addition to the clump by Storr Lochs, Seth has found a third colony at Uig.

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Inula Hookeri

There were no previous records for VC104.

Martin has been finding Cryptogramma crispa (Parsley Fern) around Glamaig and Carmen, Fred and friends visited a number of botanical hotspots on Skye. From my point of view their best new find was Drosera anglica (Great Sundew) in NG26 where it had never been recorded before – though I suspect they were more impressed by Koenigia islandica (Iceland-purslane), Arabis alpina (Alpine Rock-cress) and Saxifraga cespitosa (Tufted Saxifrage).

There was a report on iRecord of Gunnera tinctoria (Giant-rhubarb) on the Aros Nature Trail with a grid reference, but I failed to find it yesterday. However, there is a patch of 13 plants by the road near Aros. Gunnera is new to NG44. (Sale of Gunnera tinctoria in Europe is now banned. See here.)

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Gunnera near Aros, Portree

Records for the year to date now exceed 10,000. I have stopped producing plant notes for the Raasay Community Newsletter but may start again in the autumn. My half-year report (Jan-Jun 2018) is available here, as it has been for some time but I forgot to mention it….

 

Plant Updates

August 3, 2018

John has found Acaena inermis (Spineless Acaena) on the Quiraing path – a totally new area:

Seth, Tony and I went to the Storr yesterday to check out some of the rarities but on the way back Tony spotted a large yellow fleabane by the roadside which turns out to be Inula hookeri (Hooker’s Fleabane), described by Skye Shrubs who identified it for me as a thug.

They also identified this which Tony and Seth brought from Uig:

Pratia pedunculat

Pratia pedunculata (Matted Pratia)

Whilst it has gone rampant through a lawn, it is not (yet) known to have reached the wild in Uig. RHS call this one a thug

 

Snozcumbers

August 3, 2018

If I could get our cucumber to do this all the time, I reckon they would be worth a fortune

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Cuke 1

Surely chefs would love this:

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cuke 2

Strange Fruit

July 29, 2018

My granddaughter Amy found this on the beach:

It is near-spherical, 6 cm diameter, rock-hard and the inside is highly (and pleasantly) aromatic but not citrus-like. Petrified orange? Escape from pot-pourri (probably too large for that)? Exotic fruit that has travelled by sea?

Recent Insects and a Tar-spot Fungus

July 29, 2018

I’ve not been plant-hunting as such this last week but here are a few recent sightings:

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Dark Arches found in the house

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Map-winged Swift

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Barred Yellow

From Acer campestre (Field Maple), a planted specimen on Raasay, a flower bug:

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Anthocoris nemoralis, not the commoner A. nemorum

And from the top of Dun Caan, Raasay:

Willow Tarspot on Salix herbacea

Willow Tarspot on Salix herbacea

Sròn nan Aighean and Beinn a’ Sga

July 19, 2018

This is the ridge running east-west as a spur of the Trotternish Ridge that I had intended to cover a couple of years ago but then had to return to the top of Flasvein to retrieve my camera.

Yesterday’s visit was well worthwhile with Poa glauca (Glaucous Meadow-grass), four species of saxifrage, the Nationally Scarce Euphrasia ostenfeldii (Ostenfeld’s Eyebright) and oddly, my first record of the year for Botrychium lunaria (Moonwort). June is normally the peak month for Moonwort records on Skye, but maybe the extreme dry weather has held it back. Also: Carex bigelowii (Stiff Sedge) checked as having stomata only on the underside of the leaves at a modest altitude for this plant of c.450m and Luzula spicata (Spiked Wood-Rush).

Two patches of Epilobium alsinifolium (Chickweed Willowherb) were nice, and down below on the bank of a burn there was Lycopodium clavatum (Stag’s-horn Clubmoss).

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I thought I had found Empetrum nigrum subsp. hermaphroditum (Mountain Crowberry) but close examination of fruits did not support this.

On the way home I went to see Morag’s find of Galium verum (Lady’s Bedstraw) in Portree – the first localised record and the first post-1999 record in NG44 (much commoner in the west of Skye):

Galium verum Portree

Galium verum in Portree

 

and I was shown this rather fine wasp nest in Portree:

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Wasp Nest Portree