Plants in Vice-County 104: A Review of July-December 2015
The Skye Botany Group met three times in the second half of 2015, visiting Loch Chaluim Chille, Preshal Beg and Loch Duagrich for an aquatics-centred day.
A list of plants native to Skye was produced. With many caveats it includes just short of 600 species.
Two populations of Euphrasia were sampled for An Eye for Eyebrights, a project to investigate the evolution of British Euphrasia.
Arctium specimens from Skye and Raasay have been provisionally determined as A. minus subsp. pubens, but more work is needed.
Over 13,000 records were made in VC104 in 2015, a slight drop on 2014 but considering the weather this year, this is a tremendous achievement. Many thanks to all, too many to mention individually, who have contributed so much this year.
Mentha x verticillata (Whorled Mint (M. aquatica x arvensis)) was found by Loch Eadar dà Bhaile, a first record for Raasay.
Two grasses that have probably arisen from forage were found at Glam: Triticum aestivum (Bread Wheat), a first for Raasay outside cultivation and Anisantha sterilis (Barren Brome), with the last Raasay record being 80 years ago and the last vice-county record being in 1961.
Pseudorchis albida (Small-white Orchid) was found in a new area, near Brochel.
A collaboration with ceramicist Frances Priest Patterns of Flora ﾖ Mapping Seven Raasay Habitats resulted in maps of botanical walks, ceramic furnishings for Raasay House, Parian ware vases and adult colouring books, all featuring plants from the seven selected habitats. The project has been shortlisted in the Placemaking category of the prestigious Arts & Business Scotland Awards 2015.
Over 1000 records were added during a two day visit including seven taxa in NM48 and three in NM49 not seen since before 2000, including the locally scarce Epilobium parviflorum (Hoary Willowherb).
Polystichum setiferum (Soft Shield-fern) and Ranunculus sceleratus (Celery-leaved Buttercup) were new to Eigg. Raphanus raphanistrum subsp. maritimus (Sea Radish) was the first record in the vice-county since 1893 or 1895 – and in the same location! The old record is described as “being probably R. landra.” Raphanus raphanistrum subsp. landra as we now understand it seems pretty unlikely. It is similar to subsp. maritimus and that seems far more likely on Eigg.
Before an August visit tetrads NG20B, C & D had 0, 6 and 0 taxa recorded. Now that reads 33 (not much land), 147 and 2 (almost no land above the high water mark).
Two species were added to the Canna list: Rosa caesia subsp. vosagiaca (Glaucous Dog-rose) and Juncus ranarius (Frog Rush) and three re-found that had not been recorded since before 2000: Calystegia sepium (Hedge Bindweed), Carex x fulva and Nasturtium officinale s. s. (Water-cress).
Hammarbya paludosa (Bog Orchid) was found in a new tetrad on Rum, only the second post-1999 Rum record.
Ten taxa were added to the under-recorded 10 km square NG63 and many more were recorded for the first time since before 2000 (often long before 2000).
Raphanus raphanistrum subsp. maritimus (Sea Radish) at Waternish was the first record for Skye.
Calystegia pulchra (Hairy Bindweed) was found at Carbost; it is also known from Dunvegan, Uig and the Portree area.
Cephalanthera longifolia (Narrow-leaved Helleborine) was relocated at the last known Skye site where it had not been re-found recently, apart from Armadale Caste and another where a bungalow has since been built.
Helminthotheca (previously Picris) echioides (Bristly Oxtongue) was recorded at Waternish Farm, probably introduced with wildflower seed. The only previous record in VC 104 was from the roadside south of Sconser in 2004.
An autumn campaign to re-find Elatine hexandra (Six-stamened Waterwort) in various Skye lochs was very successful and two new 10 km squares were added for this species.
In Sleat, Loch na Doireanach had Utricularia stygia (Nordic Bladderwort) in flower, something I have never seen before, and Loch Mhic Charmhiceal had the locally uncommon Sparganium emersum (Unbranched Bur-reed).
Loch Chaluim Chille, once Skye’s largest loch, was drained nearly 200 years ago yielding good arable land but has now reverted to marsh. Carex diandra (Lesser Tussock-sedge) was re-found in a couple of places here and nearby on the Monkstadt track there was Salix pentandra (Bay Willow) where it had been previously recorded. This willow was also re-found in Staffin and at Orbost this year.
Rubus tricolor (Chinese Bramble), not previously known in the wild in VC104, was spotted in the Armadale area. Triticum aestivum (Bread Wheat) in Portree was the first VC record except for a reference in a 1964 paper about fungi on Rum which presumably referred to cultivated plants.
Saxifraga hirsuta (Kidney Saxifrage) is well established across the road from Gesto House. The only previous records for VC 104 are from Rum. Its presence in the mountains of Rum remains unexplained.
The second and third recent records for Rubus laciniatus (Cut-leaved Bramble) were made at Talisker and Sligachan.
A record for Mentha x verticillata (Whorled Mint) near Portree was re-found but other old sites need to be searched. Other Mentha hybrid specimens were taken for expert determination.
Atriplex x gustafssoniana (A. longipes x prostrata) was found at Edinbane. A. longipes (Long-stalked Orache) is unknown in VC104 but the hybridisation events are probably historical. This is the third known site on Skye and the first record since 1993.
Probable Vaccinium x intermedium (V. myrtillus x V. vitis-idaea) was found growing with both parents (Bilberry & Cowberry). There is a very high likelihood that it is V. x intermedium, but without flowers it was not possible to determine it with 100% certainty. A re-visit needed in 2016.
Eilean Trodday and Eilean Flodigarry
Thanks are due to the Wild Flower Society for a grant towards the hire of a RIB to get a group of us to Eilean Trodday and Eilean Flodigarry.
Trodday was last surveyed botanically in 1987 but the records were not split between the two tetrads and so none of them appear on tetrad distribution maps. The best finds were Dactylorhiza x formosa (D. maculata x purpurella), new to the 10 km square NG47, and Anagallis tenella (Bog Pimpernel) with only an unlocalised, undated but old record in NG47.
Flodigarry Island was also surveyed in 1987. New 10 km square records were Dryopteris borreri (Borrer’s Male-fern), Elytrigia repens (Common Couch) and Salix repens var. argentea (Creeping Willow).
Stephen J Bungard
23 December 2015