Archive for June, 2019

To Coire Balaig

June 24, 2019

Today I walked from the Bla Bheinn car park to Coire Balaig. Coire Balaig itself turned out to be pretty dull botanically but on the way there and back I made some useful records. The best from my point of view was Carex pauciflora (Few-flowered Sedge) – two sites with plenty of plants. This had no records in NG52 post-1999 and the previous records were at the opposite (NE) corner of the hectad.

Carex pauciflora

Carex pauciflora (Few-flowered Sedge)

This is difficult to find except when the flowers/fruits are there and they don’t last all that long. Also, it tends to be in the middle of otherwise unexciting wet moor which is not that inviting for careful survey.

On Wednesday, I am off to Colonsay for a week in VC 102.

Hybrid Bluebells

June 23, 2019

There was an interesting paper earlier this year in Conservation Genetics by Peter Hollingsworth and Markus Rusham at RBGE, plus collaborators in Canada and New Zealand, concerning hybridization potential between native and introduced bluebells. Using an experimental array allowing natural pollination to occur among flowering plants, and determining the paternity of offspring using microsatellite markers, they conclude that “lower reproductive success of non-natives coupled with the massive numerical advantage of natives represents a substantial constraint against ‘extinction-by-hybridization’ of H. non-scripta in the UK”. Some good news then.

A Shrub at Skinadin

June 23, 2019

Steve has spotted this planted shub at Skinadin. Please can ayone tell us what it is?

Skinadin Shrub 3Skinadin Shrub 2

Skinadin Shrub 1

Photos: S. Terry

Later: Mike suggests  Photinia davidiana (Stranvaesia) which looks right to me. I knew it looked familiar……

The Week Just Gone

June 22, 2019

Last Saturday I headed across the Skye Bridge to help out with recording in the adjacent VC105 (W. Ross). Of relevance to my own patch was the finding of Veronica montana (Wood Speedwell) not far from Kyle in NG72 – it is not recorded in NG72 in VC104.

When I got home I broke my laptop. It failed whilst doing a System Restore and I couldn’t even open it in Safe Mode. To cut a long story short, I am now back in business with the same machine but I am trying to buy a new laptop (turns out to be more chaos!).

The upshot of all this is that whilst I have continued to get out and about, computer time has been dedicated to sorting this out rather than writing my blog.

So… back in VC104, fourteen member of Skye Botany Group went to Torrin on Tuesday and re-found Epipactis atrorubens (Dark-red Helleborine) amongst other nice things and added 13 taxa to the well-recorded tetrad NG52Q.

Rosa sherardii

Rosa sherardii (Sherard’s Downy-rose)

On Wednesday Seth, Neil and I went to Bay and Sgùrr a’ Bhàgh in search of an old record for Paris quadrifolia (Herb-paris). We failed on that but had an excellent day adding  Draba incana (Hoary Whitlowgrass) to the tetrad and finding daffodils on the top of a stack. Heaven knows who thought planting them there was a good idea.

Draba incana

Draba incana                   Photo: S Gibson (edited)

Yesterday I toured a number of sites in Trotternish and re-found Petasites hybridus (Butterbur) at Brogaig, last recorded in 1980 (not tricky given the details from the old record). The Carex diandra (Lesser Tussock-sedge) at Loch Cleat is flourishing. It is in large quantities in the marsh at the west end but also at intervals around the loch:

Carex diandra

I found this leaf-spot on Caltha palustris (Marsh-marigold) which I have only seen once before:

Ramularia calthae

There were large numbers of Gymnadenia borealis (Heath Fragrant-orchid) all over the place including road verges.

Gymnadenia borealis (Heath Fragrant-orchid)





What Else Has Been Going On

June 14, 2019

Joanna and Julian have had a look at parts of NG60P in Sleat that had not been surveyed before, particularly small areas of woodland. They added nearly 50 taxa to the tetrad including Platanthera chlorantha (Greater Butterfly-orchid) and new to NG60, Carex canescens (White Sedge).

Bridgette re-found the Kalmia procumbens (Trailing Azalea) on An Diallaid. Hoorah!

Les has helped me with some willow issues so that I have settled on Salix x fragilis  (Hybrid Crack-willow) without trying to be too clever for the trees near Borve, confirmed Salix phylicifolia (Tea-leaved Willow) from Kilmauag and sorted out records for Salix x ambigua (S. aurita x repens) that had previously been mis-identified.

A recent specimen with sericeous hairs on young leaves from the S. repens parent:


Here on Raasay, Lisa pointed me towards an Acer with curiously purple undersides to the leaves.


Purple Sycamore

It appears to be Sycamore but why it is that colour remains a mystery.

A Lay-by

June 14, 2019

Recently Neil reported Tellima grandiflora (Fringecups) as a garden throw-out from a lay-by in Glen Varragill and said there were other things in the discard pile too. On my way back from Geary I had a look and indeed there were, the most interesting of which is Geranium pyrenaicum (Hedgerow Crane’s-bill).

Geranium pyrenaicum

Geranium pyrenaicum (Hedgerow Crane’s-bill)

But there were also local weeds like Arabidopsis thaliana (Thale Cress) and Veronica arvensis (Wall Speedwell). These will presumably not survive for many winters out there.


June 14, 2019

Yesterday Neil and I went to the Geary Ravine SSSI and then moved south to take in some woodland along the coast in the same tetrad. We got to parts of the Geary Ravine that I had never managed before but still failed to re-find any of the quite long list of things found by John Birks over 45 years ago that have not been recorded since. I suspect as a young man doing his PhD work he got to parts that I never will now.

However, having inspected the Equisetum hyemale (Rough Horsetail) and so on, we moved south to the known site for Neottia nidus-avis (Bird’s-nest Orchid) and found just one:

Neottia nidus-ais

Neottia nidus-avis (Bird’s-nest Orchid)

Nearby, and also a bit further away, we spotted new sites for Cephalanthera longifolia (Narrow-leaved Helleborine), past flowering and sadly not having set any fruits.

Cephalanthera longifolia

Cephalanthera longifolia (Narrow-leaved Helleborine)

We also found Bromopsis ramosa (Hairy-brome), previously recorded from the ravine but not since 1982 and Scrophularia nodosa (Common Figwort) never before recorded from this tetrad but one that had been recorded in NG26 pre-2000 only.

A very useful and enjoyable day, and nobody died.

North of Loch Cuithir

June 14, 2019

Tetrad NG46Q was unique in the vice-county in having 100% land but no records since before 2000. In fact it only had eleven ever. On Tuesday Neil and I sorted that out with the total now being 148. Much of the lower area was pretty dull until we reached the Abhhainn Gremiscaig (as it is on the OS Map – surely Abbhainn isn’t right?). From there on, heading up the hill to the 300m mark, things perked up with Botrychium lunaria (Moonwort), Diphasiastrum alpinum (Alpine Clubmoss), Epilobium alsinifolium (Chickweed Willowherb), Saxifraga hypnoides (Mossy Saxifrage), Thalictrum alpinum (Alpine Meadow-rue), etc.

Epilobium alsinifolium

Epilobium alsinifolium

Botrychium lunaria

First time I’ve been on a bike for a serious ride in I don’t know how many years – but neither of us fancied taking our cars along the Lealt track.

Loch Coruisk and Beyond (Updated)

June 9, 2019

On Friday, I took the boat from Elgol to Loch Coruisk and circumnavigated the latter. At the north end I went part way up Glac Mhòr, though only to about 300m.

Loch Coruisk

Loch Coruisk from Glac Mhòr

This area is generally very species-poor but along the northeast side of the loch there is a small area of birch and hazel that yielded quite a few species not seen in the surrounding moor.

At about 300m on Glac Mhòr there is a surprisingly rich overhang with an unexpected mix of plants. As well as the unsurprising Cystopteris fragilis (Brittle Bladder-fern), Chrysosplenium oppositifolium (Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage), Hieracium sp. (Hawkweed) etc., there were Ficaria verna subsp. fertilis (Lesser Celandine), Geranium robertianum (Herb-Robert) and Rumex obtusifolius (Broad-leaved Dock) none of which have been previously recorded for some distance in any direction.

I should have taken a photograph but I was concentrating on wriggling back out of the overhang. The day much improved the status of recording in NG42L which is now off the  bottom of the Cuillin tetrads in terms of post-1999 taxa at 79 cf 19 at the beginning of the year. Thanks to mountaineers who have contributed high-level records.

There were some fine old hollies:

Ancient Holly

Ancient Holly

and a few nice insects.

Small Pearl-borderd Fritillary

Small Pearl-borderd Fritillary

Sawfly probably Tenthredo olivacea TBC

Sawfly: Rhogogaster viridis (Thanks, Jenni.)

and a stonefly:


Stonefly:  Siphonoperla torrentium (TBC, Thanks, Craig)


Skeabost & Dunvegan

June 6, 2019

Ranunculus bulbosus (Bulbous Buttercup) grows in the dunes at Glenbrittle beach and elsewhere in the Inner Hebrides it is to be found on sandy ground by the sea. However there are also records from Skeabost Hotel and Dunvegan Castle and yesterday I had a look at both places without success. I don’t know whether these were typical native sites or whether they had been brought in as weeds – it is a common plant farther south.

However the day was far from wasted as I found a rich stretch of river bank along the Snizort I hadn’t visited before and had a useful discussion with the Head Gardener at Dunvegan Castle where we have plans for a small project.

By the Snizort I found Iris sibirica (Siberian Iris) looking quite at home:

Iris sibirica

Iris sibirica

This is the first record of it in the wild in VC104 but it is known from mainland Scotland not far away. There was also Barbarea intermedia (Medium-flowered Winter-cress) and a Hawkweed (Hieracium sp.) that I took a specimen of for expert determination.

At Dunvegan I added a few to the tetrad including Carex extensa (Long-bracted Sedge) in the saltmarsh below the castle.  Carex otrubae (False Fox-sedge) is by the shore, seen here with a background of  Ligusticum scoticum (Scots Lovage):

Carex otrubae

Carex otrubae