Interesting Plants

June 24, 2022

The past week has produced a number of good finds. On Sunday I went to Borreraig in NG15 in the hope of re-finding a 1991 record of Neottia ovata (Common Twayblade). I failed on that, but right where I parked the car there was Glechoma hederacea (Ground-ivy), new to NG15. A path has been mown down to the shore and some benches placed there. There has also been some planting, including Carex pendula (Pendulous Sedge), Gunnera tinctoria (Giant-rhubarb) (both new to NG15) and Libertia formosa (Chilean-iris) (new to the vice-county).

Libertia formosa

All in all, I added eight species to the NG15 list.

A passing visit to Portree allowed me to check up on the Logfia minima (Small Cudweed) and take a photo of it before it has shrivelled up, though it is still not that impressive:

Logfia minima

On Tuesday, Steve and I surveyed a square in Broadford for the Urban Flora of Scotland project. Steve showed me his recent finds of Fumaria officinalis subsp. officinalis (Common Fumitory) and Arum italicum (Italian Lords-and-Ladies), both new to NG62 and each with only one previous record in VC104 (though F. officinalis with no subspecies specified has a few more records).

We added a few more garden escapes to the NG62 list and Pilosella caespitosa (Yellow Fox-and-cubs) to the vice-county list.

Pilosella caespitosa

I think that a rose, which was also present in the monad Neil and I covered a few weeks ago, is Rosa ‘Hollandica’ – a hybrid of Rosa rugosa (Japanese Rose) and an uncertain second parent.

Rosa ‘Hollandica’

Afterwards, I went to try and see some things that Joanna had found in an adjacent monad and stumbled over Trifolium campestre (Hop Trefoil), the first localised record for Skye – two earlier ones being at the 10 km square level and undated.

Trifolium campestre at Broadford

On Wednesday it was off to Waternish Point with Neil to try and locate something he spotted looking very dead in the depths of winter eighteen months ago. We couldn’t find whatever it was, which was a shame as it had a fungus on it that would probably have been easy to name if we had been sure of the host. However, we added 30, 41 and 25 taxa to the plant lists for three tetrads on the west side of Waternish Point and it was good to see Lysimachia tenella (Bog Pimpernel) in two of them.

We spotted some leaf mines on Cochlearia officinalis (Common Scurvygrass) which I am leaving Neil to sort out. They look like fly mines to me.

Mine on Cochlearia officinalis

A New Sedge and Other Matters

June 18, 2022

Joanna has found Carex riparia (Greater Pond-sedge) at Broadford during a survey for the Urban Flora of Scotland. This is a first for VC 104 and there is a good patch of it near the shore.

Carex riparia (Greater Pond-sedge)

A few days ago I visited Armadale Castle to survey orchids. We counted 367 Dactylorhiza fuchsii (Common Spotted-orchid) and 229 Neottia ovata (Common Twayblade) in a relatively small area. There were also two Dactylorhiza maculata (Heath Spotted-orchid), though one of these had the conical inflorescence more typical of D. fuchsii. However, the individual flower shape was entirely typical for D. maculata so short of molecular work to demonstrate a bit of hybridity, it has gone down as that.

Whilst there we saw a Red-necked Footman, a moth with few Skye records, and my hosts said they had seen a few recently.

I have started to look at Platanthera (Butterfly-orchids) in readiness for the next Skye Botany Group outing when we have a probably vain hope of finding the hybrid between Greater and Lesser Butterfly-orchids. This involves measurement of the angle subtended by the pollinia:

Platanthera chlorantha

Neil and I had a good day in Sleat, failing to re-find Hippuris vulgaris (Mare’s-tail) at an old site but finding a silk web of the micro-moth, Yponomeuta evonymella (Bird-cherry Ermine), something I have looked for before in Sleat where there is plenty of the host plant.

Yponomeuta evonymella web on Bird Cherry

Records by Tetrad

June 5, 2022

This diagram shows the number of vascular plant taxa recorded in each tetrad of vice-county 104 from 2000 to the present (records in my hands a few days ago):

There are various minor quibbles about what is included/excluded but as a comparative indicator, it may be useful to those recording in the vice-county.

Orchids, a Currant and More Garden Plants

June 5, 2022

Neil has been on fine form, finding Ribes spicatum (Downy Currant) in NG35, the first record in that hectad for 50 years and a new site for Pseudorchis albida (Small-white Orchid) in NG46, the only previous record being very vague and from 1954.

Pseudorchis albida (Small-white Orchid) Image N. Roberts

This could be a good year for this orchid as John reports 13 in flower in his garden in Waternish, well up on previous years.

There is a large patch of Kniphofia uvaria (Red-hot-poker) by the roadside near Brogaig, as Seth pointed out a few years ago. With it are Symphoricarpos albus (Snowberry), Symphoricarpos x chenaultii (Pink Snowberry – fifth VC record), Cotoneaster simonsii (Himalayan Cotoneaster) and this, which I am sure will be obvious once it is flowering properly but which at the moment I haven’t managed to identify:

To be identified…..

Urban Flora of Scotland: Broadford

June 5, 2022

Members of Skye Botany Group have started to survey Broadford for the Urban Flora of Scotland project. Already, we have added Allium moly (Yellow Garlic) to the vice-county list and added Allium triquetrum (Three-cornered Garlic), Rubus tricolor (Chinese Bramble), Berberis thunbergii (Thunberg’s Barberry), Viola x wittrockiana (Garden Pansy) and Phormium tenax (New Zealand Flax) to the list for the 10 km square NG62. All garden escapes/throw-outs or planted in the wild.

Amusingly, Joanna recorded Allium moly in one monad on 31st May while Neil and I recorded it in another on the same day. According to the image properties one was four and a half hours before the other……..

Allium moly at Broadford amongst the Crocosmia

We also found Cotoneaster x suecicus (Swedish Cotoneaster) about 600 m from the only previous vice-county record (2007: myself, Mike W and Jesse).

Cotoneaster x suecicus (Swedish Cotoneaster)

A Day in Sleat

May 26, 2022

Tuesday was primarily Bird Cherry day for me. I was hoping to find caterpillars of the bird-cherry ermine moth (Yponomeuta evonymella) and failed, but I did find various things on the Bird Cherry:

When I stopped to inspect my first Bird Cherry of the day, I was delighted to find four fine specimens of Neottia nidus-avis (Bird’s-nest Orchid) – a long way from any previously known site for this locally rare plant.

Neottia nidus-avis (Bird’s-nest Orchid)

I caught three micro-moths, one of which (the smallest and least distinctive) turns out to be new to the vice-county.

Not Plants

May 22, 2022

I have been away for three periods of several nights in May and most of the nights I have been here were not suitable for moth trapping. I did manage to put out the trap on one night and added two to my May list, The Engrailed and Brindled Pug, but I have had both of these in the month of April, so no great surprise. Just before the end of April, I had a Puss Moth in the trap for the first time.

Out on the moor I have seen my first Silver Y moth of the year, a migratory species that usually arrives in May, and during the Skye Botany Group outing Neil spotted Clepsis senecionana (Obscure Twist). We also saw a Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata), the first dragonfly of the year for many of us.

This Mayfly was by a burn on Raasay and is Ecdyonurus torrentis, a useful record for northwest Scotland.

In the garden, something very small is mining a rose leaf and in leaf litter in nearby woodland I came across the object shown below. I do not know what this is. It is soft and I have put it in a pot in case anything emerges.

More Plants

May 18, 2022

An excursion along the side road that runs through Eyre on Skye led to a new VC record: Anchusa azurea (a garden escape) and also the third site for Pulmonaria saccharata (Bethlehem-sage) and the fifth for Allium triquetrum (Three-cornered Garlic).

Anchusa azurea (Garden Anchusa)

Yesterday Skye Botany Group visited the Ophioglossum azoricum (Small Adder’s-tongue) site at Dun Scaich in Sleat. It was still small but showing well (for its size) with some fertile fronds amongst the sterile ones. The Ophioglossum project looking for new sites for O. azoricum on Skye and O. vulgatum in the north of Skye can now get started in earnest.

We added Festuca ovina (Sheep’s-fescue) to the list for the 10 km square NG51 and a total of 35 new tetrad records split between the four tetrads we passed through, the majority of additions being in the Dun Scaich square.

Perhaps the most interesting find of the day was made when most folks had gone. Neil and Wilma wandered into a marsh that spans all four of the day’s 1 km squares (and as it happens, that also means four tetrads and two 10 km squares) and found Hippuris vulgaris (Mare’s-tail). This is quite uncommon in the vice-county and it was in all four squares. There was also Carex canescens (White Sedge) and a variety of other aquatics and semi-aquatics that merit a re-visit.

Hippuris vulgaris (Mare’s-tail) Image: Seth Gibson

Plant Records

May 5, 2022

As we approach 1000 plant records for the vice-county this year, I should report a few recent highlights. Joanna has found what she thinks may be young Rhus typhina (Stag’s-horn Sumach) near Dunvegan, whilst very close by Seth has spotted Veronica hederifolia (Ivy-leaved Speedwell), though a decision on subspecies will have to await flowers. Rhus would be new to the vice-county and the Speedwell has only three previously known sites on Skye.

Joanna has also found Fritillaria meleagris (Fritillary) in Harlosh where it has spread across the road from a garden – new to the vice-county.

Meanwhile, Steve has spotted Berberis thunbergii (Thunberg’s Barberry) in Broadford. This is new to Skye though known on Raasay and with an old (1959) record from Rum.

Further south, Seth has found Centranthus ruber (Red Valerian) at Kyleakin, the white-flowered form. This species has been known in and around the Gun Court at Dunvegan Castle since the 1950s and more recently (2016) elsewhere in Dunvegan, so Kyleakin is the third site in the vice-county.

All photos are by the recorders.

Insect News

April 23, 2022

Last night I had 76 moths in and around my moth trap. There were two Brindled Ochres, which I have not had before and an Angle Shades, which I have had as an imago in May, September, October and November, but not previously in April.

Brindled Ochre

A week previously the moth trap had attracted a Twin-spotted Quaker, another first for me.

Twin-spotted Quaker

In the garden I have had the large hoverfly Eristalis pertinax, sometimes called Tapered Drone Fly and not far away Bombylius major, the Dark-edged Bee-fly, has made an early appearance nectaring on primroses and occasionally, Lesser Celandine.

Dark-edged Bee-fly