Archive for August, 2019

Agrimonia & Melilotus Again

August 31, 2019

Paul Green, who last year kindly agreed to referee Agrimonia following my issues with it says “I reckon here in Ireland Agrimonia eupatoria is over-recorded for Agrimonia procera ………. All populations I have seen of both species this year seem to be 120 cm or taller. Usually about 150 cm for A. procera. All the A. eupatoria I have looked at this year in Ireland have leaves that are green on the underside, plus they have scattered hairs on the upper side. Books always seem to imply the underside is white-greyish. I have found some populations of A. procera where I can smell the scent before touching the plant, and others it seems almost impossible to get any scent. ”
He also says that in his populations, stipules of A. eupatoria are almost identical to those of  A. procera and so not much help for identification::

Agrimonia eupatoria stipules

Agrimonia eupatoria stipules      Image © Paul R Green

However, as well as the different shape of the hypanthium, he is finding that his A. eupatoria fruits are hairy so this may help when A. procera fruits are single-seeded and therefore shaped more like those of A. procera.


A. procera above, A. eupatoria below         Image © Paul R Green

Meanwhile, back on the Melilotus front, the piece I took is dying off and I am about to go away so I have thrown it away. The fruits are not yet ripe enough to say if they will be black or brown but one thing is clear – they contain more than one seed:

Melilotus seeds

Melilotus seeds

Sell & Murrell: M. officinalis seeds mostly 1; M. altissimus seeds mostly 2. Please no-one tell me M. exoticus seeds mostly 3.

Convolvulus Hawk-moth

August 31, 2019

Look what Ali next door brought home on his car (it hadn’t been off-island):

Convolvulus Hawk-moth

Convolvuus Hawk-moth

This is a big beast. There have been several in moth traps on Skye in the past couple of weeks.


August 27, 2019

The daughter is performing in Portree on Tuesday:ECP

Beinn Dubh a’Bealaich and Beinn na Seamraig

August 27, 2019

Yesterday proved a windy but sunny and warm day for a walk in the Kinloch & Kyleakin Hills. I had hoped to find Epilobium anagallidifolium (Alpine Willowherb) and Gnaphalium supinum (Dwarf Cudweed) from slightly vague records made last century, but it was not to be.

There were masses of Lycopodium clavatum (Stag’s-horn Clubmoss) for over 2.5km along the track and the dwarf version of Goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea subsp. minuta) higher up. I am not consistent about recording the latter as it seems to me to me just that – dwarfed by exposure.


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I was surprised to see that I had recorded Equisetum sylvaticum (Wood Horsetail) for the first time ever in NG71 and also the first post-1999 records for Equisetum fluviatile (Water Horsetail) and Equisetum palustre (Marsh Horsetail), earlier records being for just “NG71”.  I knew NG71 needed more work this season but had forgotten the apparent absence of horsetails.

Up the top there was this harvestman, probably Mitopus morio (Thanks, Seth) with a mite attached – possibly Trombidium breei.

Harvestman with mite

Harvestman with mite

Agrimony – Sorted

August 27, 2019

Skye and Raasay populations of Agrimonia have caused confusion for a very long time with different recorders reporting the same populations as Agrimonia eupatoria (Agrimony) or Agrimonia procera (Fragrant Agrimony). Specimens I have shown to experienced botanists have divided them equally, and in one case led to vociferous claims that anyone saying it was the other species from his determination was just wrong! (He was wrong, it turns out.)

On Sunday I collected specimens from widespread sites on Skye – in NG44, NG45 and NG51. With minor variations, they are all the same – and it is my view that all known populations on Skye & Raasay are the same.

I copied and took with me the relevant pages of

  • Sybil J Roles Flora of the British Isles Illustrations Part II 1960
  • Tim C G Rich & A Clive Jermy Plant Crib 1998
  • Clive Stace New Flora of the British Isles 4th Edition 2019
  • Peter Sell & Gina Murrell Flora of Great Britain and Ireland Vol 2 2014

I also prepared a list of differences mostly, but not exclusively, from the detailed accounts in Sell & Murrell. I propose to go through these for the sake of posterity. Feel free to jump to the conclusions at the end!


Sell & Murrell: A. procera height to 120cm. A. eupatoria var. eupatoria to 35cm; var major to 150cm known only from Norfolk and Cambridgeshire and probably introduced. Stace: A. eupatoria to 100cm, A. procera not stated to be different. Rich & Jermy warn of large glandular forms of A. eupatoria from County Durham that have been mistaken for A. procera.

Skye plants to 150cm

Agrimonia Height 2 copy

Marker is at 150cm

A. eupatoria leaves often in a basal rosette, cauline few; A. procera leaves not forming a basal rosette, fairly frequent on stem.  Skye plants have no basal rosette and leafy stems.


A. procera green both sides. A. eupatoria dark green above, white/greyish below.

Skye plants:

Agrimonia leaves- upper and lower surfaces

Upper and lower surfaces

A. eupatoria leaves glabrous on upper surface, A. procera not stated. Skye plants – some leaves have hairs on the upper surface.

I shall return to the shining glands at the end….


A. eupatoria leaf-like, A. procera large clasping and deeply dentate. Illustration of A. procera from Roles:

Stipules - Roles

Skye plants:

Agrimonia stipule


A. eupatoria usually not emarginate, A. procera emarginate. Skye plants always emarginate.


A. procera hypanthium including bristles c. 11 x 11mm, turbinate (top-shaped), broad shallow grooves for about half its length, lowest bristles distinctly deflexed. A. eupatoria hypanthium 7-10 x 5-7mm, obconical, grooved throughout its length, outer bristles ascending, patent or deflexed. Rich & Jermy warn that the hypanthium may lose its characteristic bell shape in forms of A. procera in which a single seed is formed instead of the normal two, making it appear obconical.  Illustrations from Stace:

Stace fruits

A. procera above, A. eupatoria below.

Skye plants:

Skye fruit

Skye fruit

I rest my case. Skye plants are Agrimonia procera (Fragrant Agrimony). What is interesting is that the shining glands on the underside of the leaves are not very frequent and hence the plants are not fragrant, at least by this time of the year. Given that the presence of numerous shining glands as opposed to nil or few is one of the main characteristics used by all floras to distinguish these two species, it is unsurprising that there has been confusion in the past.

Raasay Flora

August 23, 2019

I stopped updating the Flora of Raasay & Rona some time ago but I have decided that additions to the Raasay list should be added. So Leycesteria formosa (Himalayan Honeysuckle or Pheasant Berry) and Crocosmia pottsii (Potts’ Montbretia) have been added.

There has been wildflower seed planting at Raasay Distillery last year and near the Larch Box this year but I am ignoring these plants unless they persist and spread.

I have put a list of the taxonomic and name changes that affect the Raasay flora here. One day I may find the time and energy to update the published Flora with the these changes.

There are further changes that affect the rest of the VC104 flora such as:

  • Saxifraga nivalis and S. stellaris to Micranthes nivalis and M. stellaris
  • All Mimulus to Erythranthe
  • Persicaria bistorta to Bistorta officinalis
  • Aster x salignus to Symphyotrichum x salignum
  • Senecio x ostenfeldii to Jacobaea x ostenfeldii
  • Apium nodiflorum to Helosciadium nodiflorum
  • Carum verticillatum to Trocdaris verticillata
  • Ruppia cirrhosa to Ruppia spiralis
  • Elytrigia juncea to Elymus junceiformis


August 22, 2019

As Skye Nature Group, we went back to Dorothy’s croft at Tokavaig on Tuesday and added quite a few tetrad records to NG61A and B including Ilex x altaclerensis (Highclere Holly). Reputedly this hybrid was developed at Highclere Castle (Hampshire) in about 1835, by hybridising the Madeiran Ilex perado (grown in a greenhouse) with the local native Ilex aquifolium.

Whilst I have seen it in gardens locally, this was the first record in the wild for VC104 – thanks to Seth for spotting it. I suspect I have ignored it elsewhere on occasions.

Highclere Holly

Ilex x altaclerensis

There was Scutellaria minor (Lesser Skullcap) in wet woodland:

Scutellaria minor

Scutellaria minor

and lots of other nice things such as Artichoke Galls on oak caused by the wasp Andricus foecundatrix:

Artichoke Galls

Artichoke Galls

A tiny cup fungus on an oak leaf:

Cup Fungus on Oak

Cup Fungus on Oak

and dog vomit slime mould (Fuligo septica) or similar:

Slime Mould

Slime Mould

Honeysuckle Moth (Ypsolopha dentella), knocked out of a tree by Seth, looks to be new to the vice-county:

Honeysuckle Moth

Ypsolopha dentella

That Melilotus

August 17, 2019

The Melilot from Lower Breakish has survived well in water and continues to develop:

Melilotus 2

Melilotus from Lower Breakish

I noted these long stipules



and looking at the illustrations by Sybil Roles that accompanied Clapham, Tutin & Warburg (1965) this clearly suggested Melilotus altissimus (Tall Melilot).

Melilot Stipules Roles

Melilot Stipules – Roles

However, more modern floras do not mention the stipules except that Sell & Murrell say for M. altissimus stipules 5-6mm, subulate, dentate at base and for M. officinalis stipules 5-7mm, subulate, dentate at base. Hmm… not much difference there and if anything the length on my plant suggests M. officinalis.

Stipule length

Stipule length

The fruits are developing but not yet ripe. However, the calyx is hairy as in M. altissimus (though not very) and the fruit shows no sign of the ribs typical of M. officinalis

Hairy Calyx

Hairy Calyx

Melilotus fruits from Stace

Melilotus fruits from Stace

Oh, and there appear to be two seeds per fruit, typical of M. altissimus:

Two seeds

Two seeds

and the flowers seem to have the keel ± equalling the wings, again a feature of M. altissimus (Tall Melilot). So that is my current conclusion, though it will be good to check mature fruits which should be black rather than brown when mature.

Busy B(otanist)s

August 15, 2019

In no particular order….

Following on from my last post Seth has toured the north of Skye recording Crocosmias, adding records for C. pottsii (Potts’ Montbretia) and sowing confusion about some other specimens. See his blog post. With an addition of my own, Potts’ is now recorded in 15 tetrads, 10 hectads

As well as other forays, Martin has been to tetrad NG46J, a mostly very dull piece of moor with few plant records, but found the NW corner (the farthest from the road of course) to be more interesting and so added 20 species including Silene acaulis (Moss Campion).

John has had a good go at Heribost adding 67 taxa to tetrad NG24S including Salix x fragilis (Hybrid Crack-willow), new to NG24.

Alistair invited me to his croft in Lower Breakish with the promise of some very interesting records and indeed that is what we found. Melilotus officinalis (Ribbed Melilot) is a first vice-county record. I have asked Alistair to check ripe fruits as I am not certain that it is this rather than Melilotus altissimus (Tall Melilot) and ripe fruits will be diagnostic. Either would be new to VC104. (But see next post!)



Amsinckia micrantha (Common Fiddleneck) is new to Skye, though recorded on Muck in 1996.  The only previous record for Thlaspi arvense (Field Penny-cress) in the vice-county was from Soay in 1946. Viola arvensis (Field Pansy) had only two previous records in modern times.

At least the first three of these have come from imported topsoil purchased from the local builders’ merchant in Broadford. The provenance of the soil is unknown but it is likely to have been used all over Skye so these species may start to turn up elsewhere.

We added nine further species to the tetrad list including Chenopodium album (Fat-hen), Salix x multinervis (S. aurita x cinerea) and Veronica persica (Common Field-speedwell).

Yesterday, Skye Nature Group came to Raasay and I was able to show them Pyrola media (Intermediate Wintergreen) and Orthilia secunda (Serrated Wintergreen) along the Glam Burn. We saw this fine group of late instar Parent Bugs (Elasmucha grisea) between Glam and Inver:

Birch Shieldbug

Parent Bug Nymphs

Montbretia & Galls

August 11, 2019

It took me a long time to register that some of the Montbretia in my patch is not Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora (C. aurea x pottsii) but one of the parents – Crocosmia pottsii (Potts’ Montbretia).

Duncan told me a couple of years ago that the latter was frequent in the southern part of VC105  – across the water on the mainland. Then Ian recorded some on Skye and showed it to Seth who has been pointing it out ever since.

I now have it in eight tetrads in seven 10km squares, but I am sure it is in many more. The flower shape and colour are different but perhaps the easiest character is the zigzag nature of the flowering stem in the hybrid compared with being almost straight in Potts’:


Hybrid (left) and Potts’ Montbretia (right). Both West Suisnish, Raasay

Both seem capable of fairly invasive behaviour.

Also a couple of galls near the house today:

Taphrina tosquinetii

The gall caused by the fungus Taphrina tosquinetii on Alder.

Aceria pseudoplatani

Galls caused by the mite Aceria pseudoplatani on Sycamore