Saturday, 7 June 2014

BSBI Summer Meeting: Part Three

More from Day 1 of the Summer Meeting, where Alistair Godfrey gave a talk on The history of recording in Perthshire and some of the plants our botanists were likely to see during their visit. 

Agrimonia eupatoria
Image: J. Crellin
Jon Shanklin reports that "Rannoch Moor has many small pools which provide homes to plants such as Scheuchzeria palustris (discovered in England but now extinct there) and Carex limosa. There are remnants of old Caledonian pine forest, Silene acaulis and Salix lanata are found in montane regions, and there are interesting plants on Ben Lawers, though it takes some effort to get to the top! Agrimonia eupatoria - widespread in southern England - is largely coastal in the north and Scotland, though it is found round some of the larger lochs in Perthshire, which ameliorate the climate. 

Martin & Sally recording on the Shiants
Image: L. Marsh
"The plants themselves provide the earliest records, for example a Bronze Age logboat made from a tall oak. Gaelic culture leaves a residue in place names, with several named for trees, eg Fearna for Alder. The earliest written records date from 1667 when Robert Sibbald and Andrew Balfour established a botanic garden in Edinburgh. Alistair then took us through a chronology of notable botanists formerly active in the region, along with stories of their travels. Charles McIntosh, for example, enthused Beatrix Potter who illustrated some fungi for him".

"Martin Robinson picked up the thread with his talk on The rare plants of Perthshire. He defined rarity by looking at the number of hectads in Perthshire compared to the UK total and took us through his Top 10. Carex vaginata has its stronghold in the central to southern Highlands, so it can be quite common in Perthshire when you are in the right habitat. Carex norvegica is another sedge with a northern centre of distribution. Astragalus alpinus has only five sites in the country, but some may see it on Friday, although in some locations it is declining due to competition from graminoids. In this case lack of grazing may be contributing to the decline. Gentiana nivalis only grows in two areas.  Blue Heath Phyllodoce caerulea was only known to grow in one site and is difficult to find, as it is a shy flowerer and tends to grow with Empetrum nigrum. It is more obvious when in flower. In the 1960s a further site was discovered, so there may be others. 

Tofieldia pusilla
Image: C. Robson
"Kobresia simpliciuscula prefers the band of calcareous ground running through the Highlands, growing in open stony flushes.  It also grows in Upper Teesdale. The next two are both Ben Lawers specialities: Carex atrofusca and Carex microglochin, plants of the high flushes. Schoenus ferrugineus was historically only known around Loch Tummel, but after hydro-electric works that might destroy it some was transplanted, although it only survives at two of these sites, then it was found two new sites. Finally the top rarity was Polygonatum verticilatum which has twelve extant sites, often in gullies on bare leaf litter.  Some of the sites are quite difficult to get to!  There has definitely been a decline, so the RBGE has propagated some from a rhizome and returned it to the wild, where in at least one site it has done well.


"A few other plants might be included, eg Scheuchzeria palustris and Bartsia alpina, though these mostly occur outside Perthshire. There is one calcareous crag which has Oxytropis campestris and Veronica fruticansOxytropis halleri might be seen on Ben Vrackie, along with Cerastium alpinum and Astragalus alpinus. Other rarities include Minuartia rubella, Sedum  villosum, Lychnis visicaria, Carex capillaris, Gentianella amarella, Potentilla krantzii, Tofieldia pusilla and Dactylorhiza incarnata".

Thanks Jon - more to follow!