Archive for September, 2014

Bearraraig River and Bay

September 29, 2014

Yesterday, I tried to find two 1980s Skye records for Equisetum variegatum (Variegated Horsetail) and failed. However, one site was being seriously sprayed by water blown from the Bearraraig waterfall which was in a full spate, and I couldn’t really see what I was doing – as soon as I cleaned my glasses they were covered in water again. Worth another try when the water is down and/or the wind is blowing from the north.

Bearraraig Waterfall - Spray

Bearraraig Waterfall – Spray

The pleasure of Bearraraig Waterfall is that one easily can walk behind itIMG_4181a

From behind the curtain

From behind the curtain

and there is a fine horizontal row of boulders exposed in the eroding sandstone:IMG_4184a

I obtained a couple of specimens of Agrimonia that I am virtually certain are A. procera but have sent them to Mike to double-check.

There was still the occasional Dryas octopetala (Mountain Avens) flower out which was a pleasant bonus at the end of September.

Dryas octopetala in flower

Dryas octopetala in flower

New Sightings

September 26, 2014

Jim passed through Portree a few weeks ago and spotted a couple of interesting grasses near the harbour.  Phalaris canariensis (Canary-grass) is unlikely to be confused with anything else, but we are waiting for a referee’s verdict on  possible Poa imbecilla (Weak Poa).  Both these aliens would be new to VC104 except for a 1939 Rum record for the former on a waste heap; the latter would be only the second record for Scotland.

Meanwhile Nick has followed up my roadside record for Lythrum salicaria (Purple-loosestrife) in Portree with one at Earlish. The only previous record for the 10km square NG36 was not localised or dated. More curiously he also has Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima (Sea Beet) growing out of his compost heap. The only previous record for Skye is from Glenbrittle beach and it has not seen there since 1972, though it is present on Muck, Canna & Hyskeir.

Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima   Photo: N. Hodgetts

Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima                                   Photo: N. Hodgetts



September 20, 2014

I sent a specimen of the Agrimonia from Scorrybreac that Dorothy found to Mike Wilcox.  He compared it with A. eupatoria which grows in his area and says it is not that but rather A. procera.  This is how I have always recorded it from this area but some earlier records were made of A. eupatoria here. I now need to check the few sites where I have recorded A. eupatoria on Skye as I think it likely that I was in error.

I showed James Merryweather a specimen of the fern from Loch Sneosdal and he suggests that it a Dryopteris hybrid, perhaps a buckler fern crossed with a male fern. I shall send it away for further assessment but in the absence of sori I suspect I shall not get a definitive answer.

I have updated the Raasay Flora to take account of the new records from NG63. As always, if you spot errors, etc. I would be grateful to be told.


September 9, 2014

Today I have made a rod for my own back. In the Fearns – Hallaig area I had two sorts of objective in mind – refinding and refreshing three pre-2000 records and recording separately the tiny bits of land that lie in NG6037 and NG6038.

The first part was only moderately successful. I re-found the only known site for Equisetum telmateia (Great Horsetail) in NG53.

Equisetum telmateia north of Hallaig

Equisetum telmateia north of Hallaig

However, I failed on Elymus caninus (Bearded Couch) and Torilis japonica (Upright Hedge-parsley). As these are pre-2000 records the 6-figure grid references are from before the GPS signal was unscrambled but I have a reasonably clear memory of the Torilis japonica site. Today the site was covered in bracken which may just be hiding it or may have seen it off.

Torilis Site

Torilis Site

The other part of the exercise will mean a fair amount of office work at some point.  In, for example, my Raasay Flora I say that there are five 10 km squares that cover Raasay NG53, 54, 55, 64 & 65 and that I have used 98 recording units based on 1 km squares. After today I need to change that to six 10 km squares, adding NG63, and 100 recording units. I also say that thirteen specie are known in all 98 recording units. Now I would have to say that only one (Sagina procumbens (Procumbent Pearlwort)) is known in all 100 units.

I am almost regretting having recorded in NG6037 and NG6038 today. The former has a long narrow strip of land with vascular plants at one point reaching 11 metres into it and the latter a small area with vascular plants reaching 15m into it. I recorded 51 taxa in the former and 10 in the latter (both figures subject to minor revision once I actually put the data into the database).

The entire vegetation of tetrad NG63E

The entire vegetation of tetrad NG63E

Previously I had just amalgamated any records into the adjacent 1 km squares to the west. However, NG63 is a different 10km square and one that doesn’t have a lot of land – NE Scalpay, most of the Crowlins and a tiny piece of the mainland and Eilean Bà. And the two 1 km squares show up as two tetrads with no records on central databases. I shall worry about what to do about these results in the Raasay Flora in due course.

While I was in NG63 I recorded two galls, the very common Thyme Gall caused by a mite, Aceria thomasi, and the slightly less frequent Nettle Pouch Gall caused by the gall midge Dasineura urticae.

Nettle Pouch Gall

Nettle Pouch Gall

Other items of note included sea-level Saxifraga aizoides (Yellow Saxifrage) and some fine fungi such as Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria), Chanterelle (Cantharellus cibarius) – delicious – and the following which I have not yet attempted to identify:IMG_4165a


September 7, 2014

I have been away – and am going away again in a few days, but there are a few things to report.

Dorothy visited Skye and spotted the Linaria repens (Pale Toadflax) in Portree:

Linaria repens   Photo D. Moodie

Linaria repens               Photo D. Moodie

where it has been established for over 50 years.  She also sent me some photos of Agrimony (Agrimonia sp.) which have forced me to address an issue I have been largely ducking for years. There are quite a few records for both Agrimonia eupatoria (Agrimony) and Agrimonia procera (Fragrant Agrimony) for Eigg, Raasay and Skye and indeed I come across these plants reasonably frequently. Some populations have been recorded as both species at different times.

The images in Clive Stace’s Flora don’t match parts of the description (e.g. in text grooves on fruits of A. procera reaching less than 3/4 way to apex but shown in figure as full length of fruit. And for A. eupatoria the figure shows erect spines while the text says they can be patent which could give the impression some are reflexed).

The Plant Crib  only makes matters worse:

  1. The hypanthium may lose its characteristic bell-shaped shape in forms of procera in which a single seed is formed instead of the normal two, making it appear obconical.
  2. Large, glandular, distinctly aromatic forms of A. eupatoria which can be mistaken for A. procera; this form has been noted in Durham
  3. The bristles may be reflexed to 90° in A. eupatoria, which is more than usually illustrated.

I have usually used the Plant Crib comment and associated illustrations: “The stems and lower surface of the leaves have subsessile glands much more abundant than hairs in A. procera (Fig. a) and hairs much more abundant than subsessile glands in A. eupatoria (Fig. b).”

But I always remain uncertain.

I have now sought advice elsewhere but am still no happier as to the identity of our plants.  Further discussion in progress……. I will also try to have a late look at some specimens – it seems that two seeds in a fruit would confirm A. procera – though a single seed would not be diagnostic.


Steve sent 235 records from Skye in August – numbers down as he has been distracted by fungi and hoverflies.

My moth trap ten days ago caught 16 moths of which eight were Square-spot Rustics.

The Campanula rotundifolia (Harebell) found on the SWT walk was tetraploid so the Scottish ploidy map now looks like this:

Camp rot Scotland ploidy Sept 14

Hexaploids are red; tetraploids are yellow.