Archive for January, 2015

Peat Spotter

January 28, 2015

The European Space Agency’s Peat Spotter satellite makes it cheaper and easier to locate and monitor peatlands. See Satellites for peat’s sake.

The ESA points out that “Peatlands make up just 3% of land but capture twice as much carbon as all forests combined. They are also an important source of drinking water and provide a home to many rare and threatened animals and plants. Ecosystems work best when left intact but these wetland areas are being threatened by human exploitation, resulting in vast carbon emissions, frequent and uncontrollable fires and loss of valuable landscapes.”

Too right!

Omnivorous “Carnivorous” Plants

January 20, 2015

A paper in Annals of Botany shows that Utricularia (Bladderworts) trap pollen and algae as well as small animals. Aquatic bladderworts catch their prey with highly sophisticated suction traps consisting of little bladders that produce a reduced hydrostatic pressure.

A research team of the University of Vienna has screened the prey objects in more than 2,000 traps and shown that only 10% were animals whereas 50% of the prey objects were algae. In nutrient-poor habitats like peat bogs, algae were even more dominant in the prey. More than one third of the prey consisted of pollen grains from trees growing on the shore areas of the home waters. However Utricularia does not seem to select its menu; in fact, it sucks in everything small enough to enter the trap door.

What is more, plants that had successfully trapped numerous algae and pollen grains were larger and formed more biomass. More animal prey, on the other hand, led to a higher nitrogen content of the plant and to increased formation of hibernation buds,

The assumption that suction traps have to be triggered by movements of animal prey is shown to be incorrect as more than 50% of all bladders contained only non-motile prey like algae, pollen, bacteria and fungi but no animal prey able to trigger and open the trap.

More here.

More Analysis

January 16, 2015

The MapMate database requires queries to be written in SQL, which is a pain for the uninitiated. However, importing queries written by others is a cinch.  So……

New to VC 104 (Native to VC104 in red):

2012 2014
Dipsacus fullonum Dicentra formosa
Heracleum mantegazzianum Eucalyptus pulchella
Linaria vulgaris Nothofagus obliqua
Populus ‘Balsam Spire’ Saxifraga cespitosa
Rubus cockburnianus Sempervivum tectorum
Salvia pratensis Senecio inaequidens
Spiranthes romanzoffiana
2013 Tropaeolum majus
Allium triquetrum
Hyacinthoides x massartiana
Lysichiton americanus
Mentha requienii
Mimulus x burnetii
Ononis repens

and new 10km square records:

2014: 318 new 10km square records comprising 236 taxa in 31 hectads.
2013: 173 new 10km square records comprising 143 taxa in 26 hectads.
2012: 127 new 10km square records comprising 107 taxa in 27 hectads.

This is all light relief from updating the RPR – currently I have reached things beginning with E.

Do children and young people connect to nature enough?

January 15, 2015


Common as Muck (and Rum, Eigg, Skye…..)

January 11, 2015

As I may have mentioned before, there are officially 709 tetrads in VC104. For 42 of these there are no vascular plant records. Ten of these definitely or probably contain no vascular plants being almost entirely below the high water mark, and a further nine have <2% land, in some cases much less than 2%.  However, there are nine tetrads that are 100% land (or fresh water) with no records, and five more that are 20-80% land.

The following table shows the top twenty commonest plants in VC104 in terms of the number of tetrads in which they have been recorded. As it happens, there are at this moment twenty plants that have been recorded in 500 or more tetrads.

Taxon Vernacular Number of


Succisa pratensis Devil’s-bit Scabious 570
Calluna vulgaris Heather 562
Viola riviniana Common Dog-violet 557
Potentilla erecta Tormentil 550
Juncus effusus Soft-rush 549
Anthoxanthum odoratum Sweet Vernal-grass 545
Blechnum spicant Hard-fern 543
Plantago lanceolata Ribwort Plantain 538
Prunella vulgaris Selfheal 533
Eriophorum angustifolium Common Cottongrass 528
Erica cinerea Bell Heather 523
Trifolium repens White Clover 520
Ranunculus acris Meadow Buttercup 517
Hypericum pulchrum Slender St John’s-wort 508
Lotus corniculatus Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil 508
Primula vulgaris Primrose 504
Thymus polytrichus Wild Thyme 502
Holcus lanatus Yorkshire-fog 502
Carex panicea Carnation Sedge 502
Carex nigra Common Sedge 502 Again

January 10, 2015

The good people at have created a subset called Plants of Skye, Raasay & the Small Isles where you can see the observations made here by visitors. I have been made moderator of that group so, amongst other things, I can now get at the detailed records much more easily.

If you want to look at other (non-plant) records for the area you need to go to the main site, on the Geography tab click on Areas, select UK under Country and then on the second page click on UK – Scotland – Isle of Skye (or use this link directly). Here you are likely to want to adjust the date range and rows per page as well as selecting the species group(s) of interest,

This is somewhere to show images and discuss findings. For UK and Irish users it probably does not supplant iSpot but it certainly adds some otherwise unrecorded sightings.

On iSpot I have set up a project to show all observations in VC104.

As always, copies of plant records to me please so they can be included in BSBI’s database that is used for so many things such as the freely available distribution maps and the forthcoming Atlas 2020.

Talk in Portree on 20th January

January 10, 2015

Mike Watson will be giving a talk about a voyage around Spitsbergen in the high Arctic archipelago of Svalbard in 2012 on board the Dutch sailing schooner SV Noorderlicht with images and tales of encounters with Polar Bears, Walruses and Ivory Gulls.

Svalbard talk 2

Adele’s 2014 Records

January 8, 2015

Adele has sent me her records from the Cuillins and Strath last summer.  In Strath she found Ophioglossum vulgatum (Adder’s-tongue) in a new 10km square, NG52, which fills a gap in the distribution. She also made the first localised record in NG52 for Asplenium marinum (Sea Spleenwort) – previously there was only an unlocalised record from 1976. Botrychium lunaria (Moonwort) in tetrad NG62F was the first record for NG62 post-2000; it was also recorded in NG62F by John Birks in 1969.

In the Cuillins SSSI she and I went to check on the Arabis alpina (Alpine Rock-cress) in June since when she has refreshed records for Arabidopsis petraea (Northern Rock-cress), Cerastium nigrescens (Arctic Mouse-ear), Deschampsia cespitosa subsp. alpina (Alpine Hair-grass), Eriocaulon aquaticum (Pipewort), Draba norvegica (Rock Whitlowgrass), Poa alpina (Alpine Meadow-grass) and Saxifraga nivalis (Alpine Saxifrage). Records include a new tetrad for Deschampsia cespitosa subsp. alpina.