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Highlights of Botany in 2010 (by Ken Butler)

1st June 2013

This article was first publishedin the Caithness Field Club Bulletin 2011

In May I was looking for the Celery-leaved Buttercup along the banks of the Wick River. It has been recorded from the tidal stretch between the supermarket car park and the Fairies Hillock. I could not find it at all. This is the only place for it in Caithness and it is the most northerly current record in Britain. You have to go to Dornoch to see the nearest colony because it grows in that stream that runs through the middle of the town. By June the Wick riverside is overgrown with tall herbs and the little buttercup is unlikely to be found. Has it disappeared? Perhaps you know where it is?

Also in May (on the 14th to be precise) I rediscovered the Mossy Saxifrage (Saxifraga hypnoides) on the braes south of Dunbeath harbour at ND16172901 where there is a really good colony which look beautiful when in flower. This is the wild native plant with white flowers and it comes up the east coast as far as Dunbeath. There is an old record for it on the Keiss to Frewick stretch of coast.

The above two paragraphs are about re-finding rare or scarce plants known to be (or to have been) in the county at particular locations. I am now well advanced with a book about them though in fact it will be an electronic book in .pdf format on the internet. When it is there I will advertise it.

Sandy Payne, a very good botanist from Inverness was working in the county again this year. He was looking at places where the Marsh Saxifrage (Saxifraga hirculus) might grow and indeed he found four new sites. So now there are seven sites in Caithness for this plant. It is classed as Nationally Rare, Rare in Europe and on the UK Red Data List as Vulnerable, so it is an important plant for Britain. The strongholds left in Britain are in the Pennines, Aberdeenshire and Caithness with a few other small sites. We are now, with seven sites and at least one of these a big site, one of the best places to see the plant. In Caithness it occurs in remote peatland places where the underlying rock has a spring which flushes out calcium-bearing water to produce a grassy green circle amongst the peat. It will have lived, confined to these green circles for a thousand years and more.
Caithness is also a good place for the Lesser Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera bifolia) where it is found around Dunbeath and Latheron . Ron and Moira Webster found a new colony at Harpsdale which spreads the range somewhat. There are also old records for Reay which could do with re-finding.

The Wall Lettuce (Mycelis muralis) was unknown in Caithness until 2008 though I saw it frequently around Inverness and south of there during the last 20 years. It turned up in Halkirk in 2008. It is now widespread across the county in gardens and roadsides. Have you noticed? You can Google search for any of the plants I have mentioned to get a photo or description.
Plenty to do next year then

 

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