Archive for June, 2009

Threatened Plants – Raasay Frog Orchids

June 30, 2009

I checked two known sites on Raasay yesterday for Dactlyorhiza viridis (Frog Orchid). Both were doing well, five small plants in one site and thirty-three up to 18 cm tall in the second.  They are not under much threat where they are – though I considered waving a stick at them.  These sites are on basic rocks – cliffs in fact, at 250 – 300 m altitude.  Many sites in the vice-county are on short coastal turf.   

The sites are near to the Arabis petraea – or should that now be A. lyrata? – (Northern Rock-cress) which is confined to a very small area on Raasay.  I counted a total of about 25 plants yesterday.  Lots of other nice things on the limestone like Draba incana (Hoary Whitlowgrass), Asplenium viride (Green Spleenwort) etc.

Things I have missed out

June 28, 2009

A couple of noteworthy records from the last week have escaped the blog!  I spotted Solanum dulcamara (Bittersweet) at Dunvegan where it has been recorded before, but this is one of only two known Skye sites.  It is present on Raasay and there is a 1957 record for Soay.

The second thing was Veronica filiformis (Slender Speedwell) near Glendale which is uncommon in the vice-county.

SWT Walk at Glendale

June 28, 2009

Yesterday I led a walk for the Skye & Lochalsh branch of the Scottish Wildlife Trust at Glendale in  northwest Skye.  Sixteen folks turned up and we followed the river to the shore and then looked at two things I had seen earlier in the month (see blog entry for 11 June) – Convolvulus arvensis (Field Bindweed) and Vicia orobus (Wood Bitter-vetch).  We made two noteworthy additions to my list from 10 June:  Equisetum pratense (Shady Horsetail) and Mimulus x caledonicus (a Monkeyflower triple hybrid: Mimulus guttatus × nummularius × variegatus) that occurs in the north and west of Skye.

Orchids in the North of Skye

June 28, 2009

I took a couple of folks to inspect some orchids north of Uig on Wednesday.  We counted 180 Dactylorhiza lapponica (Lapland Marsh-orchid) at a  site I found in 2006 and also found a single specimen a little way off which is in a different tetrad.  There were 6 specimens of Dactlyorhiza incarnata ssp coccinea (Early Marsh-orchid) in a coastal location I also first found three years ago.

We looked at various orchids in other locations and a good day was had by all.


June 23, 2009

Wiay (Skye) rather than Wiay (Benbecula) was today’s expedition, thanks entirely to friends Bill and Deirdre who took me there in their boat.  We made a good plant list but the highlight was re-finding cranberry, last recorded in 1982 and one of only two sites in the vice-county.  There was lots of it and the minutely pubescent pedicels made it clear that the species is Vaccinium oxycoccos (Cranberry) rather than V. microcarpum (Small Cranberry). There has been some confusion in the past over which species was present.

The other Skye site (Loch Meodal) has not been re-found despite attempts in recent years. 

There were bonxies on Wiay today!


June 22, 2009

On Sunday I went to Portree to meet Gordon, who may be able to help with a bit of recording on Skye.  Having discussed what is possible we went to Camustianavaig (this Gaelic/Norse name contains both languages’ words for “bay”, while the first Norse element may be dyn, “noisy” according to Iain Mac an Tàilleir.

Not a lot of excitement botanically, though Ceratocapnos claviculata (Climbing Corydalis) was nice.  A lizard and a skylark’s nest with 4 eggs added to the day.

Islands in Vice-county 104

June 20, 2009

 VC104 is officially the “North Ebudes” but I prefer to call it “Skye, Raasay and the Small Isles” because then people have some chance of knowing where it is.

Perusing Wikipedia last night, I assembled this list of island areas: 

Island Area (ha)  
Skye 165,600 86.15%
Rum 10,463 5.44%
Raasay 6,405 3.33%
Eigg 3,049 1.59%
Scalpay 2,483 1.29%
Canna 1,130 0.59%
Soay 1,036 0.54%
Rona 930 0.48%
Muck 559 0.29%
Sanday 184 0.10%
Wiay  144 0.07%
Pabay 122 0.06%
Isay 60 0.03%
Longay 50 0.03%
Total 192,215  100.00%

The BSBI list of vice-counties by area gives VC104 as 196,200 ha which is 2% more. I don’t believe that can be accounted for by the numerous small islands not listed above – anyway, these may be included in the Skye figure (as indeed may e.g. Wiay and Isay).  Not to worry.

This confirms my comment yesterday that Soay is bigger than Muck.  Indeed, Rona is bigger than Muck.

Scalpay is bigger than Canna, Soay, Rona or Muck.

Given my shorthand for the vice-county and taking Skye to include Soay, Wiay and Isay and taking Raasay to include Rona, Scalpay, Pabay and Longay (something of a liberty – better called the Eastern Isles) then the split is:

Greater Skye 166,840 86.80%
Small Isles 15,385 8.00%
Eastern Isles 9,990 5.20%
Total 192,215 100.00%

Just shows how much there is to do on Skye!

The Small Isles

June 19, 2009

I never made it to Muck this time as the weather was set to turn and I didn’t fancy heavy rain and strong winds in a one-man tent with all my gear.  I shall go to Muck in a while.

I also failed to find Dactylorhiza viridis (Frog Orchid) at an old site on Eigg – as I did on Canna.  I am wondering if it is flowering later this year (as suggested on the UK Botany Yahoo Group) as last year we found it at a different Eigg site on 12th June.

I appear to have made the first Canna record for Epilobium brunnescens (New Zealand Willowherb), the only major island in the vice-county from which it was missing (unless one counts Soay, which I guess one should as it is bigger than Muck).  I also made only the second Canna record for Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima (Sea Beet), the previous one being an anonymously collected specimen from 1938 in the University of Glasgow herbarium.  Perhaps irrelevantly, 1938 was the year that Canna was bought by John Lorne Campbell, who had met and married Margaret Fay Shaw, whilst they had both been collecting and recording Gaelic songs – he on Barra and she on South Uist.  The 1938 specimen is most likely from Heslop Harrison’s expedition to Canna written up in Proc. Univ. Dur. Phil. Soc. 1939.

There may be more first or second records like this to report; I am only halfway through sorting out my Canna records.

Some plants on the northeastern coast of Canna left me wondering about the causes of large hairy forms of common plants.  This for example is not Plantago media (Hoary Plantain) as one might at first think, but rather P. lanceolata (Ribwort Plantain):


and there are specimens at all intermediate levels from this to standard, lanceolate P. lanceolata. (Note the acute/apiculate leaves.)  Also, there are large hairy specimens of Vicia sepium (Bush Vetch) and Ranunculus acris(Meadow Buttercup).  I see this sort of thing elsewhere in the vice-county occasionally but there was an unusual concentration in this part of Canna.  Don’t start me on Ranunculus acris var. villosus – as one moves up certain hills on Skye R. acris starts glabrous and gets longer and longer hairs until at a certain height one can call it var. villosus.

Something to do with exposure to extreme conditions, no doubt.

The Great Eigg Sedge Race

June 19, 2009

Last year we found a sedge on Eigg that confounded the experts, though after much rumination the majority view was for Carex paniculata (Greater Tussock-sedge).  After Canna I went to Eigg to obtain some more.  This year it is clearly that species though only some is in tussocks. A specimen was sent to Mike Porter who has confirmed this determination.

Carex paniculata on Eigg

Carex paniculata on Eigg

This is a first record for Eigg, though it is plentiful just across the water on the north side of Muck.

Other additions on Eigg were mostly planted trees and shrubs, though Arenaria serpyllifolia (Thyme-leaved Sandwort) was a useful addition to the southeastern corner in terms of recent records and two tetrads were added to the previous one for Epilobium ciliatum (American Willowherb).

The Hypericum perforatum (Perforate St John’s-wort) that I recorded in May in a vegetable patch, had all been weeded out.

The nose of An Sgurr on Eigg:



June 17, 2009

Canna was great.  Pretty much wall-to-wall sunshine and lots of plants that are unknown or rare on Skye and Raasay.  The worst moment was when I came over a small hill almost on top of a nest belonging to a pair of bonxies (more formally known as the Great Skua,  Stercorarius skua). There was a second nest not far away so I had four very angry birds determined to take the top of my head off.  However, here I am to tell the tale.

It will be a while before I have sorted out all the plant records but highlights included Anchusa arvensis (Bugloss), Erodium cicutarium (Common Stork’s-bill), Hypericum elodes (Marsh St John’s-wort), Ranunculus sceleratus (Celery-leaved Buttercup), Scilla verna (Spring Squill) and  a sand dune/machair area with all sorts of goodies like Elytrigia juncea (Sand Couch),  Carex arenaria (Sand Sedge), Ammophila arenaria (Marram), Arenaria serpyllifolia (Thyme-leaved Sandwort), Dactylorhiza incarnata subsp. coccinea (the red form of Early Marsh-orchid) and  Thalictrum minus (Lesser Meadow-rue).  Depending on where you live, some of these may not sound very interesting but on Raasay there are no sand dunes or machair and on Skye there is only one small area at Glen Brittle.

I was able to re-find a previous record for Vicia orobus (Wood Bitter-vetch) and so was able to complete a Threatened Plants Project form.  However, I failed on the Dactlorhiza viridis (Frog orchid) front.

I shall probably add to this account in a while.  In the meantime here is a picture of Sanday from Canna with Rum in the background: