Posts Tagged ‘Plants’

Frog Rush

September 15, 2017

Following the discovery of Juncus ranarius (Frog Rush) as a roadside plant as well as a coastal plant on Skye by Ian Green and the Wildflower Society. I found it in two roadside places myself during my Roadside Mud expedition.

Andy Amphlett and Ian have been finding it elsewhere in the Highlands e.g. along the A9 and I am now wondering just how much of the J. bufonius agg. along our main roads (of which there is plenty) belongs to this species. At the end of the day it is not too surprising that this salt-tolerant plant is among those found on our roadsides.

There only seem to be two reliable differences – the distal end of the inner tepals and the seed surface.

J bufonius & ranarius tepals

Inner tepals: Juncus bufonius (LEFT) & J ranarius (RIGHT)       Photo M. Wilcox

Juncus bufonius agg seeds - A = J foliosus, B = J. bufonius, C = J ranarius

Juncus bufonius agg. seeds – A = J foliosus, B = J. bufonius, C = J ranarius

From Cope, T.A. & Stace, C.A. 1978. The Juncus bufonius L. aggregate in western Europe. Watsonia 12, 113-128.

I have included J. foliosus as that too is found in our area (rarely) but in very wet marshy areas – and that is distinctive in other ways such as having wider leaves.

Thanks to Mike, Ian and Andy for getting me up to speed with this.

Roadside Mud

September 7, 2017

On Tuesday, I toured quite a large part of Skye peering at muddy roadsides. My principal aim was to improve coverage for Centunculus minimus (Chaffweed) – so much easier than clambering along the rocky coasts that seem to be its natural habitat here. It seems to like the larger roads, perhaps because they get more salt, and is usually associated with Juncus bufonius (Toad Rush) and Gnaphalium uliginosum (Marsh Cudweed).

My Chaffweed Tour resulted in a record for one new 10 km square (NG62 in two sites) and records in two 10 km squares with no post-2000 records: NG33 and NG61.

In passing I made the first record in NG60 for Polygonum arenastrum (Equal-leaved Knotgrass). This is our common representative of the P. aviculare aggregate though P. aviculare sensu stricto does also occur. It likes ruderal habitats – tracks, field gates and muddy roadsides.

I intend to repeat the exercise next year in the northern parts of Skye I didn’t reach this week and where there are several 10 km squares with no records for Chaffweed.

I gave myself a little light relief and visited Tarskavig Bay, where I had last been in 2006, I had forgotten that it had nice things like Bolboschoenus maritimus (Sea Club-rush), Lycopus europaeus (Gypsywort) and Persicaria amphibia (Amphibious Bistort) as well as the locally very uncommon Artemisia vulgaris (Mugwort) (Six sites in VC104 post-1999). I was pleased to find Centaurium erythraea (Common Centaury) still in flower – another uncommon species on Skye.

In Tarskavig some Anaphalis margaritacea (Pearly Everlasting) has escaped from a garden. There are only two eariler records for this on Skye, one of which was within Lyndale House grounds, which feels a bit dodgy to me.

Anaphalis margaritacea

Anaphalis margaritacea (Pearly Everlasting)

I was checking more Calystegia (Bindweeds) and found some infected with the fungus Septoria convolvuli, which seems to be locally common.

Septoria convolvuli on calystegia sepium

Septoria convolvuli on Calystegia sepium



September 6, 2017

My contribution to the September issue of the Raasay Community Newsletter concerns Eelgrass and can be found via a link here.

Caol Rona

September 3, 2017

We walked to the north end of Raasay on Friday – about 4 miles from Arnish.  The weather was good – that was why we chose Friday – and we had encounters with Red Deer, Common Dolphins and a flypast by a fine Golden Eagle.

Some plant recording refreshed records from NG65; ideally more should be done before the Atlas 2020 cut-off in two years’ time.

Curiously, there were quite a lot of Chevron moths flying, though these are not noted daytime fliers.  Also a fine Knot Grass caterpillar:

Skye Botany Group September

August 31, 2017

On Friday September 29th (CHANGE OF DATE) we are returning to Loch Duagrich for another look at aquatic plants. Two years ago it looked like this:

Loch Duagrich LR

The equipment is ready:

Bathyscope & Grapnel LR

Bathyscope & Grapnel

…we didn’t try these last time. Please get in touch if you want to join us and are not on the circulation list. My contact details are here.

Meall Port (Mhealaraig)

August 27, 2017

The track between Kinloch and Kylerhea is like the curate’s egg – good in parts – especially at this time of year with the bracken at its peak. Close to the middle is Meall Port and until yesterday the tetrads there were virtually unrecorded: NG71N (84% land) had two plants recorded and NG71M (1% land) nil.

The track from Kinloch into NG71N is mostly pretty good and took me through other tetrads that benefited from more effort, notably a corner of NG71I which had only 25 taxa recorded.

So, 0, 2 and 25 have been improved to 101, 122 and 100 and I also added 50 to NG71H and 8 to NG71C.

Highlights included Rubus saxatilis (Stone Bramble) and Stachys sylvatica (Hedge Woundwort) which are common species (present in >200 tetrads in VC104) that had not been recorded in the 10km square NG71 since before 2000.  There are still six taxa in this category including three Equisetum spp. – and certainly I never saw a single horsetail yesterday.

Both the coastal tetrads M and N had Osmunda regalis (Royal Fern) where a burn enters the sea – the only previous record for NG71 was undated (1971-1986 ) and unlocalised.

Osmunda regalis

Osmunda regalis

Also Lycopus europaeus (Gypsywort):

Lycopus europaeus LR

Lycopus europaeus

plus Carex otrubae (False Fox-sedge) and Senecio sylvaticus (Heath Groundsel) and several sites for Hymenophyllum wilsonii (Wilson’s Filmy-fern) and Carex laevigata (Smooth-stalked Sedge).

Things in flower, Dactylorhiza maculata (Heath Spotted-orchid) and Hyacinthoides non-scripta (Bluebell) (!):

There were spangle galls on Quercus robur (Pedunculate Oak) caused by the cynipid wasp Neuroterus quercusbaccarum.

Spangle Galls

Spangle Galls

and this bee-mimic, the hoverfly Eristalis pertinax, which is apparently common – but as for many insects there are limited Skye records on the NBN Atlas – and none in NG71.

DSC05100 cropped

Eristalis pertinax



Sparganium erectum (Branched Bur-reed)

August 25, 2017

Mike Wilcox is seeking fruits of Sparganium erectum (mature as possible) in order to have a good look at the subspecies. If anyone would care to collect some, I can provide his address, or you can give them to me and I will send them on.

The current distribution map for Skye looks like this:


I can provide more details of locations if required.


A Bit of a Bindweed

August 25, 2017

Mike Wilcox has got me looking at Calystegia rather more closely than I have previously. Yesterday I collected multiple images of four Skye plants, which are roughly speaking C. sepium (twice), C. silvatica and C. pulchra. These are what I thought they were and Mike more or less agrees – but there are complications in this group.

The first C. sepium (Hedge Bindweed) has winged petioles:

Cal 1 f2 4 closeup

which is not really in the books but apparently is OK and within the range of C. sepium subsp. sepium.

The C. pulchra (Hairy Bindweed) is probably OK but I need to go and measure a few things to check for Calystegia x howittiorum (C. pulchra x silvatica):

A previously identified Calystegia silvatica subsp. silvatica (Large Bindweed) can be called var. zonata because of the zones of purplish colour on the outside of the flowers:

Cal 4 f3 3 cropped LR

The Lythrum salicaria (Purple-loosestrife) by the A855 in Portree is doing well this year with two robust plants, one on each side of the road.

Lythrum salicaria Portree LR

Lythrum salicaria in Portree

I added Scrophularia auriculata (Water Figwort) to the list for Trotternish and found a new site for Mentha x villosonervata (Sharp-toothed Mint (M. spicata x longifolia)) south of Portree close to where I spotted Hawthorn Shieldbug nymphs on Cotoneaster frigidus (Tree Cotoneaster):

Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale nymphs 3LR

Stephen Moran says “Hawthorn seems almost second choice up in the Highlands. Any Sorbus, Ilex and Cotoneaster is preferred. I noted some on holly and rowan on Tuesday slap bang next to hawthorn in full fruit…..where I was unable to find any nymphs at all.”

Holly seems a bit odd – the rest are all relatively close members of the Rosaceae family.


August 21, 2017

Apart from playing with grandchildren by the causeway in Caol Fladda, I have not been to Fladday for ten years. Yesterday I did something about that and visited all six partial monads on Fladday with the intention of refreshing some pre-2000 records and also recording in the small northern area that forms all the land in tetrad NG55W. When I was creating the Flora of Raasay I did not record these little bits of land separately and so there were only three taxa recorded.  There are now 72, which isn’t too bad considering the tetrad is 97% sea and not endowed with a wide range of habitats.

Fladday N end

The North End of Fladday

I was surprised to add two taxa to the list for NG55: Salix repens var. argentea (the silvery variety of Creeping Willow), which I did not record separately during the Raasay Flora days, and Triglochin maritima (Sea Arrowgrass).

There was a sallow near Torran which is very close to Salix cinerea subsp. oleifolia (Rusty Willow)  – a decent-sized tree with smooth grey bark, leaves that are dark and shiny above with rust-coloured hairs underneath – but with persistent stipules (“ears”).

Sx x multinervis 1

Sx x multinervis 2a

Updated: From discussion with Irina Belyaeva-Chamberlain I learn that persistent stipules are frequent on this and related willows (e.g. S. caprea), so Salix cinerea subsp. oleifolia it is.

It was a good day for butterflies, moth larvae and dragons and damsels. This female Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) was particularly obliging:

Common Darter Female

Female Sympetrum striolatum

Heather Flies (Bibio pomonae) with their dangling red legs are now out in large numbers – it is that time of year.

Records from Rum

August 18, 2017

Nick Stewart has sent over 800 records from three days on Rum, adding Alchemilla filicaulis subsp. vestita (Common Lady’s mantle), Rosa canina (Dog-rose) and Hieracium latobrigorum (Yellow-styled Hawkweed) to the 10km square NG30. The only previous record for this hawkweed on Rum was by W A Clark, J W Heslop Harrison’s son-in-law, in 1938 and appears to have been arbitrarily assigned to NM39. Perhaps it should have been NG30…?

He made new tetrad records for various plants including Carex pauciflora (Few-flowered Sedge), Chara virgata (Delicate Stonewort), Drosera intermedia (Oblong-leaved Sundew) and Epilobium obscurum (Short-fruited Willowherb).

Centunculus minimus (Chaffweed) at Harris refreshes a JWHH record from the 1930s and Nitella translucens (Translucent Stonewort) in NG3501 may explain JWHH’s record from Glen Shellesder, not previously re-found.