Plants in Vice-County 104: a review of January - June 2014
The Skye Botany Group met only once owing to time pressures on the leader, but had a successful day in NG31 leading to greatly improved coverage there.
A talk on the Plants of Sleat led to considerable interest and feedback, following which a significant proportion of recording during the first half of the year was devoted to that area of Skye.
Many tetrads with no previous records were visited during the first half of the year.
By far the most important find so far this year was of Saxifraga cespitosa (Tufted Saxifrage) on the Trotternish Ridge by Gordon Rothero. This species was not previously recorded from any Scottish island and has a very restricted number of sites on the Scottish mainland, the nearest being on Liathach at Torridon about 45 km due east of the new site.
A different sort of new vice-county record was provided from the gravel surrounding the Edinbane Wind Farm turbines - Senecio inaequidens (Narrow-leaved Ragwort), a species from Southern Africa that is now found across Europe. It was first found in Europe in Fife in 1834 but this is a first for northwest Scotland. It will be interesting to see whether it manages to cross the surrounding moorland and appear elsewhere on Skye.
Different again, being garden escapes, there were first vice-county records for Dicentra formosa (Bleeding-heart) looking well-naturalised, and Sempervivum tectorum (House-leek). A second vice-county record was made for Saxifraga x arendsii (Garden Mossy Saxifrage).
It turns out that the Peltaria alliacea (Garlic Cress) at the top of the shore at Rubha Pḥile was planted about 25 years ago – though it now reproduces by seed.
Linaria vulgaris (Common Toadflax) was spotted in a garden in Portree and it is still in the Raasay garden where it appeared mysteriously a couple of years ago. It has not been recorded outside a garden in the vice-county – yet.
Epipactis atrorubens (Dark-red Helleborine) and Paris quadrifolia (Herb-paris) were rediscovered in the Coille Thogabhaig SSSI after a gap of at least 45 years.
A single plant of Cakile maritima (Sea Rocket) at Harlosh made only the fourth site for Skye, though it is more common on the Small Isles.
At the north end of the Trotternish Ridge Dryas octopetala (Mountain Avens) was re-found having previously been recorded in 1968 and 1992. Further south on the Ridge the Cerastium nigrescens (Arctic Mouse-ear) re-found last year was seen in in flower and Equisetum pratense (Shady Horsetail) was found with fertile fronds, which is unusual in these parts.
Another attempt to re-find Mertensia maritima (Oysterplant) on Skye failed. The only recent records in the vice-county are from Sanday (Canna).
Rubus latifolius infected by the smut Hapalospheria deformans, giving it large flowers, was recorded in a couple of places on Skye and George Ballantyne suggests that this may be the source of old records for Rubus caesius (Dewberry).
A second Skye example of Dactylorhiza traunsteinerioides x incarnata was found at Kilbride, at the opposite end of Skye from the first in 2008.
It was possible to confirm Empetrum nigrum subsp. hermaphroditum (Mountain Crowberry) from the Cuillins as plants were found with fruits. Previous records on Skye had only been at the 10 km square level.
Records for Ophioglossum azoricum (Small Adder’s-tongue) on Skye are increasing and one near Earlish, a long way from previously known records, opens up the possibility of other sites around the Skye coast.
A number of new sites for the Locally Scarce Lepidium heterophyllum (Smith’s Pepperwort) were found.
Cotoneaster bullatus (Hollyberry Cotoneaster) was recorded for the first time on Raasay at Oskaig where there was also Cryptogramma crispa (Parsley Fern) on a wall, unlike all previous records which are from scree or natural rocks.
It turns out that the Mentha requienii (Corsican Mint) found on Raasay last year used to be grown in a garden at Balachuirn, about 500m from its main site now.
The Small Isles
Calystegia soldanella (Sea Bindweed) is still in the Kilmory dunes on Rum at its only site in the vice-county. Pseudorchis albida (Small-white Orchid) was found on Sgaorishal, Rum and in several other places in the vice-county this year.
A trip to Soay allowed records for this island to be significantly improved. One partial tetrad with zero previous records now boasts 95 taxa and various additions were made to the island list such as Carex lasiocarpa (Slender Sedge), Carex paniculata (Greater Tussock-sedge), Carex x fulva, Juncus bufonius (Toad Rush) and Juncus ranarius (Frog Rush).
Unlocalised 1961 Soay records for Vulpia bromoides (Squirreltail Fescue) and Carex arenaria (Sand Sedge) were located, the latter in a surprising habitat on a cliff top with Empetrum nigrum (Crowberry), Eriophorum angustifolium (Common Cottongrass), Carex nigra (Common Sedge), etc.
The finding of Isoetes echinospora (Spring Quillwort) in Loch Doir' a' Chreamha makes the only recent record in the vice-county apart from those on Rum.
Stephen J Bungard
2 July 2014