Archive for April, 2009

The Flora (contd)

April 30, 2009

I have been spending quite a bit of time on publishing my flora of Raasay and Rona on the web. I am now on plants beginning with “s”.  In response to popular demand, I am also linking the list of common names to their entries in the main list.  This is quite time-consuming but I am sure it is worthwhile.  It is running behind the main listing.  I am planning a major upload tomorrow.

In the next few days I have to get any specimens of Ophioglossum that I want put through the DNA mill as Jane Squirrell is leaving RBGE shortly and has offered one last run of her DNA technique as long as I get samples to her by 11th May.  I am away part of next week and I doubt if O. vulgatum is showing yet.  O. azoricum should just about be up.

Spring really has Sprung

April 29, 2009

The first cuckoo has arrived and is “singing” across the road from here.  Now we won’t be able to escape their song anywhere on the island for a month.  The bats are busy in the evenings even though it has not been very warm.   Lady’s-smock (Cardamine pratensis) seems to be having a particularly good year with flowers appearing all over the place, particularly in gardens.

A Skye Weekend

April 27, 2009

On Saturday we went to hear Chris Marsh talk about polytunnels and show off his, as we are planning on getting a small one later in the year. 

At the top of the shore near Achnacloich there was an area where garden rubbish has been dumped which contained various garden plants growing strongly – Green Alkanet (Pentaglottis sempervirens) which was recorded from the area 30 and 27 years ago, so what one might call well established, daffodils, montbretia and a Sedum that will have to wait until later in the year for me to identify.  On the road back towards Sabhal Mòr Ostaig I spotted some Prunus whose fruit I would like to see later.  Could be damson/bullace – a spiny tree with the flowers and fruit out together.

After that to Portree to hear the Skye & Lochalsh Orchestra give the first of two Spring concerts. Overnight in the camper van.  Near where we parked was a long burnt-out house and by the road was a mature specimen of Leyland Cypress (X Cuprocyparis leylandii) – not frequent in this part  of the world.

On Sunday we went to Floddigarry for lunch which was excellent.  Before leaving the Portree area I spotted some Oil-seed Rape (Brassica napus subsp. oleifera) growing out of imported soil – it is not grown around here.  Slightly better was some Thale Cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) which is best classified as occasional on Skye.

Rubha nam Braithairean Reviewed

April 24, 2009

The visit to Brothers’ Point last Monday produced a list of 144 plants, which is not bad for this time of year in this part of the world.  It can easily be forgotten that while we have many excellent species that are not found widely in the British Isles, the actual number of different species here is very low compared with say, southern England.

There was lots of Juniper (Juniperus communis subsp. nana) on the cliffs, Marsh Hawksbeard (Crepis paludosa) along the burn and Danish Scurvygrass (Cochlearia danica) where it belongs – on the seashore rather than on a motorway.

Spring has Sprung

April 23, 2009

The same day I saw my first orchid in flower of 2009 (see below) the swallows appeared in my garden.  Behind them the herons stood like clichés along the shore and beyond that the eider and mergansers floated past.

Today I have put anti-fouling on the boat ready for summer use.  I put it back in the water with the help of my daughter, her fiancé and Calum about ten days ago.  A swallow is twittering on the telephone wire outside the house and a seal has its nose out of the water out in the bay.  I haven’t seen an otter in the bay for a few weeks.

The flora is coming along – over a third of the way there, now.  Comments still most welcome!

That Portree Horsetail

April 20, 2009

The first piece of the putative Equisetum x mideanum – see earlier post – that I sent to Heather McHaffie at RBGE last year produced the suggestion that is was probably just Field Horsetail (E. arvense). A second specimen elicited more doubt – both from Heather and from Chris Page.

Today I went to the site and found three fertile shoots of E. arvense.

So,  I definitely have that at the site but will something else appear later in the season?

Rubha nam Brathairean

April 20, 2009

Brothers’ Point is the most easterly point of the Trotternish peninsula on Skye and where  dinosaur tracks were discovered a few years ago.  There is some doubt as to which brothers are the source of the name. The walk is short but with a dodgy knee it was a good place to go today for an early tetrad-bashing day.

Accompanied by skylarks and raucous seabirds I found my first orchid in flower this year – Early Purple Orchid (Orchis mascula) in a sheltered cliff face.  There were lots of things in flower e.g. Sea Campion (Silene uniflora), lots of Juniper (Juniperis communis ssp nana) on the cliffs, and quite a few things it was posible to identify from young leaves plus last year’s dead inflorescence e.g. Distant Sedge (Carex distans)  and Crested Hair-grass (Koeleria macrantha).

I met a man at Culnacnoc who had worked on the extension to the Raasay cemetery a year or two ago.

Yet Another Sunny Day

April 19, 2009

The sun has shone all week.  Today we went to take photos of Sitka Spruce.  I know, the excitement of it.  The pictures show this evil weed encroaching on Loch na Leanna, a pretty lochan with palmate newts and the locally rare Yellow Water-lily (Nuphar lutea). 

Aliens on Raasay

There was Glabrous Whitlow-grass (Erophila glabrescens) in flower in the passing places plus violets and primroses in profusion.

We went on to the shore where we spotted a lizard taking advantage of the warmth and Grey Seals with pups basking on the rocks.  Reminded us why we came to live here – not that we need much reminding. The birch woods are particularly fine in Spring.

Sitka Spruce

April 17, 2009

Michael Braithwaite (VCR for Berwickshire and currently President of BSBI) e-mails seeking support for a campaign to make folks aware of the invasive nature of Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis).  Hoorah!

I have been on about this for years as large areas of moorland are vanishing under this pestilent invader.  In this part of the world it is far more of a problem than the usual suspects listed as invasive aliens.

Actually, Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta) is a bit of a pest too…..

There will be more on this.  I can’t think how I have avoided a rant here before.

Portree Horsetail

April 15, 2009

In my report on the second half of 2008 on my home page I mentioned a possible finding of  Equisetum x mildeanum, the hybrid between E. pratense (Shady Horsetail) and E. sylvaticum (Wood Horsetail).  Chris Page, the BSBI Equisetum referee had a look at a specimen but was not certain of its identity.  By the time I went back for a further specimen the area had been mown.  I promised to get some more early this year.

I have just been contacted by Marcus Lubienski of Hagen, Germany who had read my report and who has published widely on Equisetum. He is just finishing a paper about Equisetum hybrids in Europe, where he discusses his finding that E. x mildeanum is often mistaken for branched forms of E. pratense. He too would like some material. 

It would be nice to get this sorted out as E. x mildeanum would be new to the vice-county.