Plants in Vice-County 104: a review of July - December 2014
The Skye Botany Group met twice in the second half of 2014, on the first occasion visiting the newly found Saxifraga cespitosa (Tufted Saxifrage) and nearby Woodsia alpina (Alpine Woodsia) and later on recording at Loch Sneosdal and Creag Sneosdal. On the first occasion there was one spot when we were within a few metres of six species of saxifrage.
A survey of sites of past records for Agrimonia eupatoria (Agrimony) has led to the conclusion that this plant is probably not present locally; all populations found being Agrimonia procera (Fragrant Agrimony).
Sibbaldia procumbens (Sibbaldia) was noted to be in seed by the beginning of July on the Trotternish Ridge. Most books say it flowers in July/August. Following a survey of other Scottish Vice-county Recorders, it seems that this species can flower over quite a long period but that June flowering is likely at lower altitudes.
Over fifty spikes of the Nationally Scarce orchid, Spiranthes romanzoffiana (Irish Lady’s-tresses) were found on Rum. This is the first record for the vice-county and a plant that has long been hoped for here as it has been known in adjacent vice-counties for many years.
Tropaeolum majus (Nasturtium) was found still flowering in late October. This garden escape/throw-out is a first record for VC104.
A single specimen of Prunus padus (Bird Cherry) was found near Screapadal; the only previous records of this tree as a native on Raasay are from Brochel woods by the shore in 1903 and somewhere unspecified in the southern part of Raasay in 1957, though it has been planted more recently as part of a native tree mix on Raasay and Fladday.
Tiny areas of land in NG63 were recorded separately for the first time. NG63 overall doesn’t have a lot of land – apart from these tiny areas on Raasay there is NE Scalpay, most of the Crowlins and a tiny piece of the mainland and Eilean Bà. The Raasay Flora was updated to take account of these records. It had stated that there are five 10 km squares that cover Raasay with 98 recording units based on 1 km squares. This has been changed to six 10 km squares and 100 recording units. There are thirteen species that were known in the 98 recording units but now only one (Sagina procumbens (Procumbent Pearlwort)) known in all 100 units.
Phalaris canariensis (Canary-grass) was found in Portree - presumably having arisen from birdseed. This is new to VC104 except for a 1939 Rum record on a waste heap.
At Earlish Stachys arvensis (Field Woundwort) was found – the first Skye record since 1975 and Beta vulgaris subsp. maritima (Sea Beet) was found growing out of a compost heap, perhaps introduced with seaweed used for gardening purposes. The only previous record for Skye is from Glenbrittle beach and it has not seen there since 1972, though it is present on Muck, Canna & Hyskeir.
Stellaria graminea (Lesser Stitchwort) was recorded in the Dunvegan area, the first record for 50 years in the 10 km square NG24 and a new site for Carex paniculata (Greater Tussock-sedge) was found in an otherwise unexciting area of moor in NG31 – a strong healthy group of large tussocks, better than anywhere else currently known on Skye.
A new site for Leymus arenarius (Lyme-grass) was found at Uig and Cakile maritima (Sea Rocket) was recorded from a completely new area of Skye: Kilmarie.
Centaurium erythraea (Common Centaury) was found by the Varragill River south of Portree, a long way from any previously known site and farther from the sea than usual – though not very far from the estuary.
Site Condition Monitoring of rare plants in the Cuillins SSSI allowed the audit of many species such as Cerastium nigrescens (Arctic Mouse-ear), Deschampsia subsp. alpina (Alpine Hair-grass), Draba norvegica (Rock Whitlowgrass) and Poa alpina (Alpine Meadow-grass). Equisetum variegatum (Variegated Horsetail) remains elusive.
Site Condition Monitoring of the Trotternish Ridge SSSI led to new sites for Juncus biglumis (Two-flowered Rush) not far from the known site near the Storr summit. A passing benefit was spotting Juncus trifidus (Three-leaved Rush), the first record for Trotternish for many years. Cryptogramma crispa (Parsley Fern) was also re-found where it has been known for over 50 years – and perhaps much longer, earlier records being a bit vague. This is a strangely rare plant on the Trotternish Ridge.
There was a good patch of Saussurea alpina (Alpine Saw-wort) on the Quirang. This plant has been recorded on the Quirang from 1868 to 1973, the latter occasion probably being from the same site as today – though no grid reference is available for that record. S. alpina was also recorded this year from the northern foothills of the Trotternish Ridge and from Healabhal Mhor (Macleod’s Table North), useful records as it is not frequent on Skye away from the Cuillins.
Coir’ an t-Seasgaich to the south of Sgùrr a Mhadaidh Ruaidh is the site of long-term vegetation monitoring to assess effects of grazing and erosion. However, actual plant records that had made their way into the BSBI database were nil. It turned out to contain many of the plants one might expect from knowing the Ridge to the north and the south such as Koenigia islandica (Iceland-purslane), Poa alpina (Alpine Meadow-grass), Poa glauca (Glaucous Meadow-grass), Saxifraga nivalis (Alpine Saxifrage) and Arabidopsis petraea (Northern Rock-cress), Draba incana (Hoary Whitlowgrass), Gentianella campestris (Field Gentian) and Minuartia sedoides (Cyphel).
The small part of the 10 km square NG82 on Skye was recorded for the first time and contained Juniperus communis subsp. communis (Common Juniper) which is anything but common here, unlike Juniperus communis subsp. nana (Dwarf Juniper).
Fladaigh Chuain and associated islands lie to the north of Skye were visited in July resulting in a list of over 90 vascular plants including Ligusticum scoticum (Scots Lovage), Asplenium marinum (Sea Spleenwort) and Ophioglossum vulgatum (Adder’s-tongue), plus a dozen specimens of Dactylorhiza purpurella (Northern Marsh-orchid) in one spot.
Profuse thanks are due to all, too many to mention individually, who have contributed to the above records and many more. By the time all records are in there will be over 14,000 records for VC104 in 2014.
Stephen J Bungard
14 December 2014