Posts Tagged ‘Plants’

Geary Ravine and the coast to the North

April 15, 2018

Geary Ravine is a plant-rich SSSI that I have not visited since 2008. This time I was hoping to find Saxifraga oppositifolia (Purple Saxifrage), recorded there in 1972 and 1982. I failed on this but did find Carlina vulgaris (Carline Thistle), also 1972 and 1982, and Hymenophyllum wilsonii (Wilson’s Filmy-fern), last seen in 1972.

Carlina vulgaris Geary

Carlina vulgaris at Geary

The Equisetum hyemale (Rough Horsetail or Dutch Rush) was doing well:

Equisetum hyemale (Rough Horsetail) at Geary

Equisetum hyemale at Geary

I then headed north along the coast towards Caisteal an Fhithich though time and tide stopped be getting to it. It looks unscalable by mere mortals anyway.

Caisteal an Fhithich

Caisteal an Fhithich

This sits in a tetrad with no previous vascular plant records and I was able to find 91 plants, which feels OK for mid-April. There was Vicia sylvatica (Wood Vetch) and Orchis mascula (Early-purple Orchid) not yet in flower, but some of the Angelica sylvestris (Wild Angelica) and Geum rivale (Water Avens) was just about there.

Orchis mascula

Orchis mascula

Angelica sylvestris (Wild Angelica)

Angelica sylvestris

SNG in Dunvegan Woods

April 15, 2018

Skye Nature Group walked the Two Churches Walk at Dunvegan on Wednesday. We recorded various invertebrates – molluscs, insects, arachnids, myriapods – plus some birds, a frog plus many tadpoles and of course I made plant lists.

Gerris costae

The pondskater Gerris costae       Image S. Gibson

The route took us through two tetrads and we added 15 taxa to the northern one, NG24P, and 44 to the less well recorded southern one, NG24N.

The woods have various planted shrubs such as Olearia macrodonta (New Zealand Holly) and Griselinia littoralis (New Zealand Broadleaf), the latter making the first record in the wild in VC104.

Griselinia littoralis

Griselinia littoralis

Something we thought might be a Cotoneaster has leaves similar in shape to C. salicifolius (Willow-leaved Cotoneaster) but they are larger than reported in the literature and lacking a tomentose underside – both of which might be effects of shading. Once identified, the leafspot fungus will probably be straightforward! I shall have to go back in the summer – as I will to check putative Ulex minor (Dwarf Gorse) and Lonicera nitida (Wilson’s Honeysuckle).

Cotoneaster sp. maybe

Cotoneaster sp. maybe

Dwarf Gorse is thought always to be an introduction in Scotland where it is sometimes planted as an ornamental and can escape. Given the number of other planted/naturalised plants in this area, that would seem likely. It is not known from the NW Highlands or any of the islands and so I want to see it in flower before recording it. Well done Seth for spotting it!


April 3, 2018

My contribution to the April edition of the Raasay Newsletter concerns the primrose and is available via a link here.

North of Kilt Rock

April 1, 2018

There were four 10km squares in the vice-county where the only records for Saxifraga oppositifolia (Purple Saxifrage) were from before 2000. (There are also quite a lot of squares where it has never been recorded.) One of these was NG56 where it was recorded in 1980 from North of Kilt Rock, NG5066, on boulder scree.

Yesterday I went looking and found what is almost certainly the same site just over the monad border in NG5067 – fair enough given 1980 was well before GPS receivers were available.  I also found a few plants in NG5066 at the base of a cliff about 160m from the original site. No point in posting another picture of this plant – see previous post!

The Skye Botany Group went there last year and when Ro and I climbed up the scree we must have missed the saxifrage by a few feet at most.  Given that we were there last year it is not surprising that I only added two to the tetrad list.  However, one of these, Tripleurospermum maritimum (Sea Mayweed), was the first localised record and the first post-1999 record for NG56.

The fertile stems of Equisetum telmateia (Great Horsetail) were emerging:

Equisetum telmateia

Equisetum telmateia (Great Horsetail)

Oisgill and Elsewhere

April 1, 2018

On Friday Seth, Tony and I went to Oisgill so that I could show them Ribes spicatum (Downy Currant) and Saxifraga oppositifolia (Purple Saxifrage). They had to take my word that the Ribes is this species as it has yet to sprout any leaves let alone flowers, but there is a good population of over 60 plants there.

Ribes spicatum

Ribes spicatum (Downy Currant)

The saxifrage, however, was flowering well as expected at this time of year.

Saxifraga oppositifolia

Saxifraga oppositifolia (Purple Saxifrage)

We added eight taxa to the tetrad plant list, though two of these were the result of subspecies recording, captured some ants and spotted other invertebrates before moving on Abhainn an Lòin Mhòir near Dunvegan.  Here we added 12 to the tetrad plant list – the result of my not having recorded along the river gorge before – and did well for stoneflies, river limpets and native flatworms. Seth tells me that a large stonefly that had to be collected from my face was Perlodes mortoni, a recently split endemic (previously lumped with the Continental P. microcephalus).

After that, as a special treat,  I took them to my favourite quarry, east of Dunvegan where material from Dunvegan Castle gardens has been dumped years ago, plus an exciting collection of rusting white goods. Here apart from the unusual plants I have reported before, we spotted a New Zealand Flatworm (Arthurdendyus triangulatus), Field Vole (Microtus agrestis), Palmate Newt (Lissotriton helveticus), Water Cricket (Velia caprai) and Garden Snails (Cornu aspersum)

The Plant-hunting Season Begins

March 27, 2018

Records are beginning to arrive

  • Saxifraga oppositifolia (Purple Saxifrage) in flower at sea level on 18th (Roger).
  • Huperzia selago (Fir Clubmoss) in a bog in a new tetrad (Seth).
  • Pinguicula lusitanica (Pale Butterwort) – only the second record earlier than June in VC104 – and only the 9th March record on the BSBI database for all of Britain & Ireland (Seth).
  • Hymenophyllum wilsonii (Wilson’s Filmy-fern) and a second site for Erica vagans (Cornish Heath) at Kinloch (Ro and Roger). This is interesting as it was not thought to spread this far north and the first plant could easily have been planted but the second in nearby woodland looks like naturalisation.
Wilson's FF - Kinloch - NG70950 15573 - 260318

Hymenophyllum wilsonii at Kinloch       Image R. Cottis

and they also found a female adder basking:

Female Adder Kinloch - 260318 - 1

Adder at Kinloch              Image R. Cottis

Next Friday, I have been tempted out by Seth – report in due course……

Musings on Mycoheterotrophs

March 13, 2018

The recent rediscovery of a plant called Thismia neptunis (Fairy Lanterns) in western Sarawak, 151 years after its only previous record ( leads me to blog about “mycoheterotrophs”.

Thismia neptunis

Thismia neptunis            Image from M Sochor et al.

These are plants like T. neptunis that parasitise fungi and generally have no or very little chlorophyll and therefore cannot make their own food. Until quite recently these plants were commonly called saprophytes – though there was never any experimental evidence to support the myth that these plants derive their carbon directly from decaying plant material. Even the New Atlas of the British Flora (Preston et al., 2002) describes the four higher-plant species of mycoheterotroph in the UK (Neottia nidus-avis (Bird’s-nest Orchid), Corallorhiza trifida (Coralroot Orchid), Epipogium aphyllum (Ghost Orchid) and Hypopitys monotropa (Yellow Bird’s-nest)) as ‘saprophytic perennial herbs of leaf litter’.

Neottia nidus-avis (Bird’s-nest Orchid) is recorded from Skye and Raasay in a few locations – seen here near Fiskavaig in 2009:

Neot nid Skye 2009 2

The mycoheterotrophs comprise over 400 plant species in 87 genera that are parasitic upon fungi, and exploit them as their principle source of carbon. In addition, there are estimated to be over 30,000 species, comprising approximately 10% of the plant kingdom, that depend upon mycoheterotrophy for establishment from dust seeds or spores. (Jonathan R. Leake, Mycologist, Volume 19, Part 3 August 2005 p113-122.)

So ….. never call a vascular plant a saprophyte!

The Shore

March 4, 2018

Yesterday Skye Nature Group went to Broadford Bay at low tide. We found lots of nice things such as the following – thanks to Seth Gibson for the images (see his blog of the event here):

and the Eelgrass (Zostera marina) was looking good:

Zostera marina LR

So today I went to Eyre on Raasay at low water to see if I could find the source of Zostera wash-ups there. I found a nice piece with root (apologies for image quality):


Unfortunately, it was not attached to the substrate. Today the tide was not as low as yesterday and there was quite a strong onshore wind driving the tide higher and making waves that beat wellies. I suspect that f I had gone yesterday and been able to wade a bit further out I would have found the source.

Anyway there were other things like several seven-armed starfish (Luidia ciliaris), something we didn’t see yesterday:

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March 4, 2018

My contribution to the March edition of the Raasay Newsletter concerns bluebells and is available via a link here.

Where Do Plants Belong?

February 16, 2018

I am giving a talk with this title to the Skye Gardening Society on Friday 23 February at Tigh na Sgire, Portree, starting at 1.30pm. All welcome. Contents Slide:

SGS Contents slide

(Liable to change – there is still a week to go!)