Purple Saxifrage & Bumble Bees

Steve Terry has been busy updating records for Saxifraga oppositifolia (Purple Saxifrage) in the Cuillins in NG42 and 52 and has made a significant difference to the recent distribution data.  I decided today to have a look for it in NG53 the only site being near Ben Tianavaig where it was last recorded  in 1981. It has never been recorded from Raasay which comprises the majority of land in NG53. There was a lot of it in NG5139 but also in NG5140, in a tetrad where never recorded before in the adjacent hectad NG54:

Saxifraga oppositifolia

Saxifraga oppositifolia

I was left wondering why a plant with such diminutive leaves has such large showy flowers or rather what might pollinate such an early-flowering species.  A search of the web brought me here:

Stenström, M. and Bergman, P. (1998),  Ecography, 21: 306–316. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0587.1998.tb00568.x

This suggests that for  bumblebees at an alpine site  in northern Sweden, the flowers of Saxifraga oppositifolia are the main pollen and nectar source in the early part of the season. One of the few insects I saw on the hill today was a white-tailed bumblebee. (The whirligig beetles on McQueen’s Loch didn’t seem a likely candidate.)

In passing, the Saxifraga hypnoides (Mossy Saxifrage) looks distinctive at this stage:

Saxifraga hypnoides

Saxifraga hypnoides

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3 Responses to “Purple Saxifrage & Bumble Bees”

  1. John Says:

    What a characteristic alpine!! Great.

  2. Nick Hodgetts Says:

    Excellent! What a lovely plant.

  3. More from Skye’s East Coast | Plants of Skye, Raasay & The Small Isles Says:

    […] and added 45 taxa to the tetrad. I had been there at the beginning of April 2013 – see here and here hoping to re-find Saxifraga oppositifolia (Purple Saxifrage) and Dryas octopetala (Mountain […]

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