Skye Botany Group Trip – Updated

May 9, 2017

Nine of us, some from a considerable distance away, had a very pleasant day on the hill in the sunshine watching eagles but failing dismally to re-find 1982 records for Kalmia procumbens (Trailing Azalea).  Botanically the area was generally pretty thin but we added a few species to three tetrads.

The next day Ian went into the hills above Cluanie on the mainland and fell over the plant in question:

Kalmia procumbens

Kalmia procumbens   Photo: I Moir

In other news, Steve has added Sagina subulata (Heath Pearlwort) to the list for NG50 and Robin and Rachel spotted a male adder between Glen Brittle Beach and Rubha an Dùnain a couple of days ago.


May 6, 2017

Otherwise known as tetrad NG56B. NG56 as a whole needs a bit more work, though only 12% is land. NG56B has 97% land but until yesterday only 61 vascular plant species were recorded. Yesterday I recorded 171 (may rise to 172 once I have sorted out a young sedge) making the new tetrad count about 180. It turned out to be quite a rich tetrad, the highlight being a huge colony of Equisetum pratense (Shady Horsetail) including a few fertile shoots.

equisetum pratense NG56B

Equisetum pratense Shady Horsetail   Fertile and sterile shoots

After  some time on the moor, roadside , cliffs, etc., I expected to add a few more along the shore but even though I walked most of the shoreline I did not find any suitable habitat for things like Glaux maritima (Sea-milkwort) and Juncus gerardii (Saltmarsh Rush) or Tripleurospermum maritimum (Sea Mayweed) and Atriplex spp. (Oraches).

Coastal Woodland Herishader

Coastal rocky woodland below Herishader

and finally, a watercress garnish:

Nasturtium officinale agg

Nasturtium officinale agg.


May 4, 2017

I put the trap out a few nights ago and caught 33 moths including three species I hadn’t had before:

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Geary – Updated

May 3, 2017

In the past I have driven to the end of the road at Geary in order to hasten to the botanically rich Geary Ravine SSSI. Today I stopped a little sooner and had a go at tetrad NG25Q, in particular the coastal woodland.

This tetrad is unusual in VC104 in that there were lots of records (155) from before the year 2000 but none since. There is one other in a similar category with 96 earlier records but none recent, but that is more difficult to reach.

The reason for all these earlier records at Geary is a 1996 visit by Jackie Muscott and the Edinburgh Natural History Society. Despite the earliness of the season, I was able to re-find the majority of the previous records – and add some more.

The woodland ground flora was at its best, flowering before being shaded by tree leaves. Along the road there were some interesting escapes like Myrrhis odorata (Sweet Cicely), Tolmiea menziesii (Pick-a-back-plant), Rubus spectabilis (Salmonberry) and Symphytum x uplandicum (Russian Comfrey).

Some plants in flower, or nearly so:

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This little fellow dropped onto my recording card but I didn’t have the heart to take him home and try to determine exactly which land snail he is as he was unlikely to survive the experience:

Snail Geary 2

Clearly a Balea, just need to check the species….. see comments below.

There were interesting fungi on plants too, some awaiting determination; the one on  Veronica beccabunga (Brooklime) may be unusual:

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Later: Bruce has confirmed my tentative identifications of

Uromyces muscari on Bluebell
Ramularia calthae on Marsh-marigold
Puccinia obscura on Great Wood-rush

and says that the rust on Brooklime is probably Puccinia veronicae on a previously unknown host, but wants the specimen I took.


May 2, 2017

A couple of my recent offerings are now available via the Resources & Recording page of my website. These are my contribution to the Raasay Community Newsletter, Am Bratach, on the subject of horsetails and an item in BSBI News on Extracting Records from the Scottish Saltmarsh Survey.

An item I wrote for the Botanical Society Scotland Newsletter “On being BSBI Recorder for VC 104” should also be available shortly. Later: Now available via the link above.

Seth and I have an item almost ready to go for BSBI News on Mitella ovalis but this will not be published until August/September.


April 29, 2017

Seth showed me Bluebell Rust (Uromyces muscari) at Uig and also mentioned one found on Tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum). Once home, the first Tutsan plant I looked at, about two metres from my front door, had it:

Melampsora hypericorum 3 LR

Melampsora hypericorum

There are no Skye or Raasay records on the NBN Atlas, but I expect this is another very common thing that is seriously under-recorded.

The Plot Thickens

April 29, 2017

Iain Macdonald tells me he found Mitella ovalis (Bishop’s-cap) naturalised along a ditch in Inverewe Garden on 15th April. On balance, he thinks this does not count as being “in the wild”, leaving the Uig population as the first truly wild site.

As the ant flies it is 50 km from Inverewe to Uig (though 195 km by road).

Mitella ovalis at Uig

April 26, 2017

Seth showed me his Mitella ovalis (Bishop’s-cap or Oval-leaved Mitrewort) in Uig Wood today.  It is smaller than I had imagined from the earlier images and there are quite a few plants along a small watercourse.

Seth’s picture is better than any of mine so here it is:

Mitella ovalis Seth Gibson

Mitella ovalis     Photo: Seth Gibson

Note the absence of leaves from the flowering stems and the oval-shaped leaves.

The native range of this species is the Pacific coast of North America from British Columbia to California. Seed are available from at least one nursery in Scotland but presumably it has arrived in Uig Wood through the dumping of garden rubbish. We took a voucher specimen which will be deposited at RBGE.

I have asked for this species to be added to the MapMate and BSBI DDb taxon lists as this is a new species in the wild for the British Isles.

David Giblin, University of Washington Herbarium Collections Manager, who confirmed the identity of our plant, believes that the seeds have elaisomes (lipid- and protein-rich bodies that attract ants) and are dispersed by ants. We might look for elaisomes later in the year.

Seth showed me lots of his finds in his home monad – which added 52 taxa to the NG36W tetrad list – and he knows of more…..

Here is a link to his blog of our trip


April 24, 2017


The evening will also feature short talks from 3 speakers

Robin Harper – Chair of the SWT Council of Trustees

Bob McMillan – Skye Birds

Stephen Bungard – Local botanical finds in 2015/16

The Uchd Mòr & Cnoc an t-Sithein area

April 23, 2017

Tetrad NG33W had only five vascular plant records before today, two of which were mine. The count now stands at 154 which for an April visit feels like a pretty good step forward.

This tetrad is home to Skye’s largest population of Carex paniculata (Great Tussock-sedge). Deirdre pointed me towards this population and one miserable October morning I went and had a look.  Today I spent more time on the matter and found that the population extends along a small unnamed burn for over 300m, plus a couple of outliers another 250m north.

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Some things in flower today:

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Other interesting plants included Arabidopsis thaliana (Thale Cress) and Sambucus nigra (Elder) on cliffs above Loch Harport, the latter interesting because it is a long way from habitation.

Across Loch Harport there was a pleasing view: