Posts Tagged ‘Plants’

Skye Botany Group at Brothers’ Point

September 23, 2021

A couple of days ago, we went to Brother’s Point on Skye to try and find Gentianella campestris (Field Gentian), last seen there in 1964 and last seen in the 10 km square NG56 in 1985. In this we succeeded though only one plant was found and that, unsurprisingly by late September, was somewhat past its prime.

We took a break from botany to check out the dinosaur footprints and the putative quernstone quarry, finding large numbers of Blue-rayed Limpets on the kelp, in passing.

We added four taxa to the NG56 list: Atriplex glabriuscula (Babington’s Orache), Atriplex prostrata (Spear-leaved Orache), Polygonum aviculare s.s. (Knotgrass), though there were records for P. aviculare agg. (1997) and P. depressum (previously P. arenastrum) (2019) and Spergularia marina (Lesser Sea-spurrey).

Polygonum aviculare on a promontory at Brothers’ Point

As well as the gentian, the following had not been recorded in NG56 since before 2000: Carex lepidocarpa (Long-stalked Yellow-sedge) (1997), Hydrocotyle vulgaris (Marsh Pennywort) (1997), Isolepis setacea (Bristle Club-rush) (1999) and Neottia ovata (Common Twayblade) (1958).

We also added Ervilia (Vicia) sylvatica (Wood Vetch) to one of the two tetrads we looked at, which is not common on Skye.

Both here and at Borve (see previous post) and also in the garden at home there were lots of Nettle-taps about.


A Couple of Hours near Borve

September 23, 2021

I had to get something checked by Highland Motors at Borve and so I was able to spend a couple of hours wandering along the road, then along the Lòn na h-Iolainn and back across the bog, all in the 1 km square NG4447.

This turned out to be unexpectedly good botanically with Carex hostiana x demissa, the hybrid between Tawny Sedge and Common Yellow-sedge and Impatiens glandulifera (Indian Balsam) both new to the 10 km square NG44. Additionally, I found a single plant of Artemisia vulgaris (Mugwort), a locally uncommon plant for which there was previously an old but undated and unlocalised record in NG44. Furthermore, there was Alnus cordata (Italian Alder) in only the fourth monad in VC104 and I made only the second vice-county record for Erythranthe (previously Mimulus) x burnetii (Coppery Monkeyflower). I made the first record for this in 2013 about two-thirds of a kilometre away in a different tetrad and on a different watercourse.

I also spotted the rust fungus Coleosporium tussilaginis on Tussilago farfara (Colt’s-foot). This fungus produces tubules containing rust spores on pine needles and later rust pustules on the leaves of Colt’’s-foot, Butterbur and other species.

Coleosporium tussilaginis on Tussilago farfara

Aphids & Hawkweeds

September 12, 2021

Prompted by Neil’s observations on Skye, I went looking for a couple of aphid species here on Raasay. I had to walk all of 200 metres from my front gate to find both:

Yarrow Aphid (Macrosiphoniella millefolii) on Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) The pink ones are males.
Large Knapweed Aphids (Uroleucon jaceae) on Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) The black cauda (“tails”) and tibiae (“calves”) distinguish it from Uroleucon jaceicola

My second 2021 batch of Hieracium (Hawkweed) specimens has been determined and it turns out that I had collected lots of the locally common H. triviale (Common Hawkweed) and H. shoolbredii (Shoolbred’s Hawkweed). At least the distribution maps for these are filling out, with these two species accounting for three new 10 km square records this year.

However, I also found H. strictiforme (Strict Hawkweed) near Flodigarry, only the second post-1999 record in the vice-county and Neil took me to see a plant that he found last year galled by the cynipid wasp Aulacidea hiercii. This turns out to be H. subcrocatum (Dark-styled Hawkweed), also only the second post-1999 record in the vice-county.

Aulacidea hiercii galls on Hieracium subcrocatum (Dark-styled Hawkweed)

Aquatics & Caterpillars

September 10, 2021

A sub-group of Skye Botany Group went to Loch Connan and Loch Niarsco, principally to look for Potamogeton berchtoldii (Small Pondweed), which had been recorded in the NCC Loch Survey in 1989 but not since in the 10 km square NG34. We succeeded in Loch Connan, but not in Loch Niarsco:

Potamogeton berchtoldii (Small Pondweed)

We found Potamogeton alpinus (Red Pondweed) at an old site in Loch Niarsco and also this unusual looking Sparganium that is probably the S. emersum x S. angustifolium hybrid, Sparganium x diversifolium, though a specimen has been sent for expert determination. This would be new to VC104. Later: Determined as most likely diminutive S. emersum – though there was a big patch like this. Disappointing.

On the shore I spotted some leaf mines on Caltha palustris (Marsh-marigold) which Seth determined as being caused by Phytomyza calthophila. This was confirmed by the national scheme recorder as a first for the Inner Hebrides.

And, for something different, recent moth larvae from the garden:

From the top: Angle Shades, Bright-line Brown-eye, Brimstone Moth and Knot Grass

Loch na Crèitheach

September 1, 2021

Ten members of Skye Botany Group went to Loch na Crèitheach, north of Camasunary on Skye last week. We were in search of Potamogeton epihydrus (American Pondweed) based on a putative record from 1989. It was never fully confirmed and as a native plant it is only known in a few lochans in the Outer Isles. Despite our best efforts including snorkelling, wading, grapnels from the shore, a boat with grapnels and bathyscope, and shore searches, the only Potamogeton we found was the common P. polygonifolius.

On reaching Loch na Crèitheach Image J Walmisley

However, at Camasunary we re-found Carex arenaria (Sand Sedge), last recorded there in 1974 and we added about forty taxa to the list for the Camasunary tetrad (NG51E).

Whilst using a grapnel from the boat we obtained an unusual looking moss of which Nick says, after seeing a specimen: “I was really puzzled by it for a while until I did a cross section of the leaf and found it had vestigial lamellae on the surface of the nerve, so it must be a submerged form of Polytrichum commune (Haircap moss).”

Polytrichum commune

Mountain Sorrel & Hawkweeds

August 9, 2021

Last year a visitor to Skye reported Oxyria digyna (Mountain Sorrel) from Greshornish Point, just above sea level. This was an unusual site, this plant being found at least moderaely high up or else where it has been washed down along the course of a river. In the absence of an image or specimen, I didn’t add it to the database until it could be confirmed. A week or two ago Skye Botany Group went to look for it, but despite pretty clear instructions as to its location, we failed. However, Catherine, the original recorder, has now produced a photo of it and I am convinced she was right all along.

Oxyria at Greshornish Image C. Mowat (edited)

So, apologies to Catherine for ever doubting her – and congratulations on a new 10 km square record!

Fourteen Hieracium (Hawkweed) specimens from VC104 have been determined by David McCosh. Hieracium grampianum (Grampian Hawkweed) from Coire na Creiche on Skye, appears at first glance to be a first record for VC104 but a deeper look at the database shows that a 1979 record from Braes has recently been marked as rejected because “it is outside the known range”. This will need to be reviewed – and perhaps the plant should be looked for at the 1979 site: Balmeanach, Braes. I am grateful to Dave G for spotting this as something unusual when we were that way a couple of weeks too early to take a specimen.

Hieracium grampianum from Skye

Joanna found a hawkweed that has been determined as Hieracium beebyanum (Beeby’s Hawkweed), only the second post-1999 record. The following were all worthwhile in the sense of there being few recent records:

  • Hieracium cerinthiforme (Clasping-leaved Hawkweed) from The Storr
  • Hieracium eucallum (Spreading-toothed Hawkweed) from Stockval
  • Hieracium langwellense (Langwell Hawkweed). from Glenbrittle and The Storr. Plenty of pre-2000 records for this one.

Urban Finds

July 26, 2021

The survey of Portree for the Urban Flora of Scotland continues to yield useful results. The following three garden escapes are new to VC104:

and this is the first Skye record for 52 years (though known on Rum):

Astrantia major


July 20, 2021

I see that it is nearly two weeks since I last posted. Here are a few items from that period. John has found Luzula luzuloides (White Wood-rush) by a woodland path on Eigg. This is a neophyte that is grown for ornament, naturalised in woods and by shady streams, scattered throughout most of Britain, but mainly in Scotland. However, this is the first record for vice-county 104.

Luzula luzuloides from Eigg

Seth, Joanna, Caroline and I have been surveying Portree for the Urban Flora of Scotland project. Seth has found a patch of Ligustrum vulgare (Wild Privet) which has either been missed before or overlooked as Ligustrum ovalifolium (Garden Privet), the commoner of the two on Skye.

Frustratingly, the Philadelphus he found last autumn is not flowering this year, presumably because it is shaded. It is luxuriant enough, just not flowering. I may have to grow some on.

Joanna has re-found the Vicia orobus (Wood Bitter-vetch) in NG25, last recorded in 1958 but now with a precise grid reference.

Vicia orobus at Coral Beach Image: J Walmisley

I have been finding new fungi on various plants:

July has been good for moths. I had 44 in the trap about a week ago and then on Sunday I moved it about 200m to a spot with various trees, Bog Myrtle, Bell Heather, Purple Moor-grass etc. and caught over 100. They have taken a lot of sorting out but I have had lots of generous help from various folks. New to my West Suisnish list of adult moths:

Barred RedHylaea fasciaria
Scalloped OakCrocallis elinguaria
Dark Pine Knot-hornDioryctria abietellaR
Mountain PearlUdea uliginosalisR
Inlaid Grass-veneerCrambus pascuella
Satin Grass-veneerCrambus perlellaR
Straw DotRivula sericealis
Welsh WaveVenusia cambrica
Marsh Oblique-barredHypenodes humidalisR
Species in green are micro-moths. Species marked “R” have few records in VC104

Two Days in July

July 8, 2021

On Tuesday I visited Phil at Drumfearn who is managing his croft for wildlife. He has changed areas of Molinia into havens for a large variety of plants, invertebrates, birds and other vertebrates. This has been achieved largely by natural regeneration plus native tree and shrub planting from locally-sourced material.

There were lots of Greater Butterfly-orchids (Platanthera chlorantha) and I saw my first Golden-ringed Dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii) of the year. He showed me where Galeopsis speciosa (Large-flowered Hemp-nettle) had emerged from disturbed ground a few years back and there were quite a few specimens of Malva moschata (Musk-mallow), both pretty rare on Skye.

Afterwards, I walked the southern shore of Loch Eishort from Drumfearn to where the Abhainn Ceann Loch Eiseoirt feeds the loch in the east. Much of this is in a tetrad (NG61T) that did not get well covered in the Atlas 2020 recording but it is quite rich botanically and I increased the vascular plant taxon count from 131 to 184. I found this bug, which is not rare but was new to me:

Neolygus contaminatus

Then yesterday, half a dozen of us went to inspect Ophioglossum azoricum (Small Adder’s-tongue) on Raasay. The main site we visited had over 1000 plants and another known site still had about 10 – not too different from when I last checked these two sites in 2008. Nick and Seth each discovered new sites not far away and are now inspired to look for them on Skye. This was a particularly large specimen:

Ophioglossum azoricum (Small Adder’s-tongue)

We also found two different Plume Moths, Thyme Plume and Twin-spot Plume, Satyr Pug and a micromoth that is Bryotropha sp., a Gelechid. Later: B. boreella (Mountain Groundling) Not the greatest moth pictures, but for the record:

Stockval & Loch Sleadale

July 5, 2021

Ten members of Skye Botany Group visted Stockval & Loch Sleadale in NG32 a few days ago. This was partly a first go at looking for notable species not recorded since 2000 as per BSBI’s new SHARP Project. The target species for this in NG32 are

  • Atriplex praecox (Early Orache) – on the shore rather than where we were
  • Callitriche hermaphroditica (Autumnal Water-starwort) – probably a recording error
  • Carex vesicaria (Bladder-sedge) – probably a recording error
  • Hippuris vulgaris (Mare’s-tail) – probably a recording error
  • Pseudorchis albida (Small-white Orchid)

We didn’t find any of these. The only one I had hopes for was P. albida but we only had a six-figure grid reference from before the days of GPS. It was probably a single spike in 1993 and it is well known to come and go from year to year. So, a bit of a needle in a haystack job.

We did, however, re-find the following less notable species with no records in NG32 since before 2000:

  • Diphasiastrum alpinum (Alpine Clubmoss)
  • Eleogiton fluitans (Floating Club-rush)
  • Nymphaea alba (White Water-lily).

Also, Neottia cordata (Lesser Twayblade) was completely new to NG32, and just over the border Dryopteris expansa (Northern Buckler-fern) was new to NG33.

Skye Botany Group in Action Image I Moir