Posts Tagged ‘Plants’

Early April

April 8, 2021

This sort of weather is not very conducive to field work.

However, some things are afoot. Through the Skye Naturalists’ Network on Facebook and with the help of Skye Gardening Society, I have had a number of people locating and inspecting Quercus ilex (Evergreen/Holm/Holly Oak) and Pyracantha coccinea in the hope of finding leaf mines caused by moth larvae.

The firethorn leaf miner Phyllonorycter leucographella invaded the UK 30 or so years ago and has spread north rapidly. It is found up to the Highlands but there are still vice-counties where it hasn’t reached or hasn’t been noticed, such as ours.  It makes rather silvery blister mines on the upperside of Pyracantha (Firethorn) leaves and no other species is known to use this foodplant.

The European oak leaf-miner or Zeller’s midget Phyllonorycter messaniella makes blister mines on oak leaves (and also on beech).  Unfortunately, on our native oaks, there are a number of other Phyllonorycter species that can be confusing, but P. messaniella is a specialist species on the evergreen oak, Quercus ilex.  On Q. ilex in Scotland, this is the only Phyllonorycter mine to be found. 

It turns out that both host species are pretty rare on Skye/Raasay and so far no mines have been found.

Gall on gall:

This is Salix cinerea subsp. oleifolia (Rusty Sallow/Willow). I think the rosette, which is a common gall locally, is caused by a dipteran of the Rabdophaga strobilina/rosaria agg. However, there is another gall on the leaf midrib, upper surface, which is probably caused by a sawfly – Euura pedunculi or similar. The divisions shown are millimetres.

I have sent away a couple of stoneflies and Seth is kindly looking at a scuttle fly for me using a new key to the genus Triphleba provided by Henry Disney at Cambridge who is “King of Scuttle Flies”. Henry says this is the right genus and sent the key. Even then, quite a few of the outcomes are “possibly the unknown (fe)male of…..” so Good Luck Seth.

Scuttle Fly

I will write a separate entry about spiders.

On the plant side, I have found a large colony of Tussilago farfara (Colt’s-foot) on disturbed ground not very far from home. There really isn’t very much of this on Raasay:

The resin glands on Abies alba (European Silver-fir) are apparent at the moment and contain a rich red resin.

Inverts and Plants

March 18, 2021

Someone has planted two groups of three Monkey-puzzle trees (Araucaria araucana) on the lower slopes of Temptation Hill on Raasay. (There could be more.) This seems slightly strange to me, but perhaps no stranger than the Forestry planting little patches of cypress all over the place in the same area. They should perhaps have been planted more than one metre apart if they are to grow to full size.

Araucaria araucana (Monkey-puzzle)

Nearby a small forest of Ribes sanguineum (Flowering Currant – silly name as all Ribes species flower!) is coming into flower:

Ribes sanguineum (Flowering Currant)

Recent finds have included lots of this Globular Springtail on a picnic table (Thanks Stephen M for identification):

Dicyrtomina saundersi

and, yes, those marks at the bottom of the picture are millimetre divisions.

Larvae of The Drinker were out in numbers yesterday:

The Drinker

There were lots of this common fly sunning themselves on a wooden bridge across the Arish Burn:

Phaonia tuguriorum

I see this one pretty much all year:

The moth trap has been out a couple of times but has yielded nothing new for the time of year in the way of moths. Adults caught so far this year are Dotted Border, Hebrew Character, Mottled Grey, Pale Brindled Beauty and Red Chestnut.

However a coouple of days ago there were no moths in the trap, just a few gnats and this fine spider:

Clubiona phragmitis

According to the Spider and Harvestman Recording Scheme website this species is “very scattered…. in northern Britain”, “can be found in most wetland habitats, especially in emergent vegetation at the edge of water and occasionally on sand dunes” and “adults have been found throughout the year, but mostly in late spring to mid-summer and late summer to early autumn”. My specimen is not far from wetlands but I am not sure that it is late spring yet nor that being found in a moth trap is entirely normal. Something of an outlier as a record.

January

January 31, 2021

The weather and lockdown have limited activity considerably, but I have managed a few things such as second records for Raasay for Cupressus lawsoniana (Lawson’s Cypress) and Olearia macrodonta (New Zealand Holly), the former planted, the latter looking self-sown.

Yesterday the gorse near the shore yielded a spider, Metellina sp.

Metellina sp.

and several types of fly:

A window gnat. Sylvicola sp. probably S.cinctus

If it hadn’t escaped I could have got it to species as Seth pointed me towards a relatively simple key to the four British species. Also, there were a couple of Black Flies (I’m not tackling them), a common seaweed fly Coelopa frigida, though not so common in January, and a Heteromyza, possibly H. commixta but perhaps H. rotundicornis – it may be possible to sort this out with expert help. Later: confirmed as H. commixta.

Thanks to Seth (flies) and Katie (spider) for identifaction.

James’ Videos

December 7, 2020

James Merryweather posts videos on YouTube under the AuchtertyreAcademy imprint that may be of interest e.g.

BLUEBELL deconstructing the English Jacinth. Part 1: Identity
BLUEBELL deconstructing the English Jacinth. Part 2: Life History
BRAINWAVE OR PIPEDREAM? will tree planting save us from climate change?
CHRISTMAS TREES IN SCOTLAND?
GETTING TO KNOW BRITAIN’S FERNS
GORSE: NURSERY FOR WOODLAND an ecological process vs destructive management
IS IT A FERN? (part1)
IS IT A FERN? (part 2) Now I can tell that’s not a fern, but . . .
MALE & BUCKLER FERNS MADE LESS DIFFICULT
MODERN FORESTRY PART 1
PICKING UP A CRAB

In the garden: Moths, Fungi & That Bramble

November 18, 2020

Two new moths have taken my total for adult moths here to 199 species:

There are fungi everywhere at the moment, but two pink ones in the garden recently are Coral Spot (Nectria cinnabarina)and Wood Blewit (Lepista nuda), both common enough generally but with rather few records locally. (None in VC104 on NBN for the latter.)

Meanwhile, it is looking more likely that the bramble in the last post is in fact Rubus subinermoides as determined by Alan Newton when he stayed with me in 2007, though I am waiting for a view on the pink petals.

Botanical Matters

November 5, 2020

It turns out that the bramble Rubus subinermoides recorded on Raasay and elsewhere in Scotland may in fact be different from R. subinermoides in England where the type species was first recorded. Amongst other things the large pink petals aren’t right. Those more skilled than I in batology will sort this out – it may be that a new microspecies will be recognised.

These pictures are from one of these plants on my drive yesterday:

I also spotted a single tree of Acer saccharinum (Silver Maple) in Inverarish. It was planted maybe a decade ago and is doing well, though last weekend’s storm did some damage.

Recent Sightings

October 29, 2020

An excursion to Skye meant I happened across Tropaeolum speciosum (Flame Nasturtium) sprawling over gorse near Lynedale.

Tropaeolum speciosum
Tropaeolum speciosum

This is a first for VC104, the sixth this year and, like most of the others, not a native.

Here at home, a caterpillar climbing up the outside wall of the house unexpectedly turned out to be that of a Small White butterfly. Green-veined Whites occur in huge numbers, but I have never recorded an adult Small White. Phil had some freshly-emerged adults in Sleat earlier in the year, so they are clearly now breeding locally.

Following the unsuccessful determination of an Epirrita moth recently, this morning I had two Autumnal Moths (Epirrita autumnata). This is most probably what the previous one was too.

Epirrita autumnata

Meanwhile, I am hoping for help with this Cranefly which is probably Tipula pagana.

Tipula pagana?

October Plants

October 19, 2020

Solanum nigrum (Black Nightshade) has been recorded at Cleadale on Eigg – a first for VC104.

Solanum nigrum on Eigg Image Neil Robertson

There are recent records from islands to the south, outside my patch – Coll and Colonsay.

Nick has found one or two more locations for Ulex gallii (Western Gorse) – one needs checking as only spotted from a moving vehicle.

In Kilmore, Sleat, I found a churchyard full of flowering Hieracium (Hawkweed). I would suggest that it had been mown and then flowered late, but across the road in very rough ground there were one or two specimens of the same plant, also flowering. I have sent a specimen away for determination.

Hawkweeds in October

Later: David McCosh says, “Your plant cannot be identified to species. There are many plants occurring throughout the UK which are currently undescribed and are known collectively and informally  as  H. exotericum agg. They share certain characters such as having a rosette, usually 0-1 cauline leaf, and predominantly glandular peduncles and phyllaries. S & M warn that all plants akin to these are plastic in their growth and should not be collected after mid July!”

Mock-orange

October 6, 2020

Seth has spotted a Mock-orange bush near the river at Budhmor:

Philadelphus near Budhmor Image S. Gibson

The underside of the leaves are pretty hairy suggesting that it is one of the hybrid groups, in which case full identification will have to wait until there are flowers next year.

Underside of leaf

More Plant Matters

September 25, 2020

Seth had a good day on Wednesday, finding two plants that are new to the vice-county. Firstly, Persicaria wallichii (Himalayan Knotweed) has encroached onto the road verge from a garden near Loch Bay House in Waternish:

Persicaria wallichii (Himalayan Knotweed) Image SJD Gibson

One of the key fatures of this species is the unequal petals:

Persicaria wallichii flower

Then he spotted Poterium sanguisorba subsp. balearicum (Fodder Burnet) beside a track at Edinbane.

Poterium sanguisorba subsp. balearicum (Fodder Burnet)
Poterium sanguisorba subsp. balearicum Image SJD GIbson

This plant is closely related to Poterium sanguisorba subsp. sanguisorba (Salad Burnet) and as the name suggests, used to be grown for fodder. However, it has also been included in “wildflower” seed mixes.

Meanwhile, Joanna has spotted Ulex gallii (Western Gorse) at two new sites on the Harlosh peninsula. This is a pretty rare plant on Skye though the golden yellow flowers now in evidence (with associated withered flowers rather than buds) make it stand out from a distance.

Ulex gallii (Western Gorse)

Mostly the common Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is not flowering at the moment but a few pieces are.

Ulex europaeus on left and Ulex gallii on right

Amongst other differences, in U. gallii the flowers are smaller and deeper yellow and the calyx has appressed rather than spreading hairs.

Yesterday I went to see these sites with Joanna and Julian and thus encouraged, I managed to re-find a 1998 site for U. gallii near Lonmore.