Archive for August, 2018

Cnoc Roll area

August 18, 2018

Just south of Duntulm is Cnoc Roll and to the south of that an old birch woodland. This is in tetrad NG47B and yesterday Skye Botany Group visited the area to improve a rather poorly recorded tetrad. It was a bit wet and windy but could have been far worse and we recorded 177 vascular plants of which 84 were new to the tetrad and six new to hectad NG47 (with a few qualifications around subspecies and aggregates).

Perhaps the most surprising of the additions (surprising that it was an addition, not that it was there) was Salix cinerea subsp. oleifolia (Rusty Willow) which is common across Skye at low altitudes.

We found Rose Pea Gall on Rosa sherardii (Sherard’s Downy-rose). There are two smooth RPGs (like this one) caused by gall wasps which “cannot be safely distinguished without rearing the adult”. There were no larvae or pupae so it goes down as Diplolepis eglanteriae agg. There are not many records for either species or the aggregate in Scotland.


Rose Pea Gall on Rosa sherrdii

Botanists and horticulturalists are used to the concept of National Collections e.g. of Willows or Oaks. We think we may have spotted the National Bath Collection (thanks Wheldon!) yesterday:

National Bath Collection

On the way I had stopped at Lochan nan Dùnan to see Seth’s Lythrum portula (Water-purslane). As he had said, there is a great deal of it around and in the lochan.


Lythrum portula (Water-purslane)

Rowan…. Bugloss….Idrigill

August 18, 2018

I started Thursday with a visit to Borve to see Neil’s oddly behaving Rowan. One branch has a leaf that has not divided like normal rowan leaves whilst the others have very fine leaflets:

Sorbus aucuparia odd Borve

Odd Sorbus aucuparia

The rest of the tree looks entirely normal. The only explanation anybody has come up with is a plant virus, but even Tim Rich, author of Whitebeams, Rowans and Service Trees of Britain and Ireland, says he has never seen anything like it.

On to Uig where Seth had found a verge full of garden escapes/throw-outs including Armoracia rusticana (Horse-radish), Echium plantagineum (Purple Viper’s-bugloss) and Iberis umbellata (Garden Candytuft) all new to the vice-county. Thanks to David for identification of the Echium.


Echium plantagineum


Iberis umbellata showing horned fruits

There was also a second, white, Iberis (so determined from the zygomorphic flowers i.e. two large and two small petals) but this does not have the distinctive fruits of Iberis umbellata, leaving us all a little puzzled.

Iberis sp

Iberis sp.

Seth, Neil, Wheldon and I then had a prowl at Ru Idrigill/Creagile in NG36R and recorded 148 plant taxa of which 52 were new to the tetrad. There was a variety of other things we spotted, but to pick out a couple of galls:

Aphid gall on Cerastium fontanum

Brachycolus cerastii (aphid) galls on Cerastium fontanum

and a stunning gall on hawthorn fruits:

Gymnosporangium clavariiforme on hawthorn

Gymnosporangium clavariiforme on Crataegus monogyna.      Image: N Roberts

Thanks to Seth for determinations – and to Neil and Wheldon (as well as Seth) for finding  fine collection of things.


August 14, 2018

A few days ago I discovered that a batch of records from the 1987 NCC Freshwater Loch Survey had an incorrect grid reference, putting them in tetrad NG33J rather than NG33Z. NG33J had looked moderately well recorded in terms of numbers of species and had not got onto my To Do list. However, once these incorrect records were reassigned it looked pretty poor, so yesterday I went to do something about it and recorded 213 taxa – with a couple of Atriplex specimens still to check.

Dun Beag lies within the tetrad and is the best preserved of the 50 or so brochs on Skye but I had never made the short walk from the road to inspect it.

It wasn’t much fun botanically, however. But the rest of the tetrad was: Cakile maritima (Sea Rocket), Carex otrubae (False Fox-sedge), Equisetum x litorale (Shore Horsetail) and Juncus ranarius (Frog Rush) were all new to the 10km square NG33, as were the planted Prunus avium (Wild Cherry), Saxifraga x urbium (London Pride) and Sorbus intermedia (Swedish Whitebeam).


Cakile maritima

The Cakile is rare on Skye.

Asplenium ruta-muraria (Wall-rue), Bolboschoenus maritimus (Sea Club-rush) and Lycopus europaeus (Gypsywort) were the first NG33 records since before 2000, in the case of the Bolboschoenus, the first since 1915.

Additionally there were new sites for the locally uncommon Glechoma hederacea (Ground-ivy) and Sparganium erectum (Branched Bur-reed), though the latter has arguably lost that status owing to recent discoveries:

On the moth front there was a fine Knot Grass caterpillar on Salix repens (Creeping Willow) and I got a distant shot of a Shaded Broad-bar (Thanks, Nigel for i.d.), something I do not recall seeing before.

Shieldbug and Diving Beetle

August 12, 2018

Two recent visitors to our garden: a Spiked Shieldbug (Picromerus bidens)


Picromerus bidens

not all that common in the northwest, and a Diving Beetle (Dytiscus semisulcatus)


Dytiscus semisulcatus

that appeared to mistake our black car for a dark peaty pool. It took off and flew around for a while but came back for another try.  This is a species I have recorded before on Raasay, but not at home.

Plant Updates 2

August 5, 2018

Back in June, Joyce and I found Inula Hookeri (Hooker’s Fleabane) at Knott and now, in addition to the clump by Storr Lochs, Seth has found a third colony at Uig.


Inula Hookeri

There were no previous records for VC104.

Martin has been finding Cryptogramma crispa (Parsley Fern) around Glamaig and Carmen, Fred and friends visited a number of botanical hotspots on Skye. From my point of view their best new find was Drosera anglica (Great Sundew) in NG26 where it had never been recorded before – though I suspect they were more impressed by Koenigia islandica (Iceland-purslane), Arabis alpina (Alpine Rock-cress) and Saxifraga cespitosa (Tufted Saxifrage).

There was a report on iRecord of Gunnera tinctoria (Giant-rhubarb) on the Aros Nature Trail with a grid reference, but I failed to find it yesterday. However, there is a patch of 13 plants by the road near Aros. Gunnera is new to NG44. (Sale of Gunnera tinctoria in Europe is now banned. See here.)


Gunnera near Aros, Portree

Records for the year to date now exceed 10,000. I have stopped producing plant notes for the Raasay Community Newsletter but may start again in the autumn. My half-year report (Jan-Jun 2018) is available here, as it has been for some time but I forgot to mention it….


Plant Updates

August 3, 2018

John has found Acaena inermis (Spineless Acaena) on the Quiraing path – a totally new area:

Seth, Tony and I went to the Storr yesterday to check out some of the rarities but on the way back Tony spotted a large yellow fleabane by the roadside which turns out to be Inula hookeri (Hooker’s Fleabane), described by Skye Shrubs who identified it for me as a thug.

They also identified this which Tony and Seth brought from Uig:

Pratia pedunculat

Pratia pedunculata (Matted Pratia)

Whilst it has gone rampant through a lawn, it is not (yet) known to have reached the wild in Uig. RHS call this one a thug



August 3, 2018

If I could get our cucumber to do this all the time, I reckon they would be worth a fortune


Cuke 1

Surely chefs would love this:


cuke 2