Tuesday 11 August 2015

Botanising on Shetland 2: Arctic Sandwort and Heath Fragrant-orchid

Alex photographs "his" Arctic Sandwort on Unst
Image: I. Denholm 
Great to hear from BSBI President and Orchid co-Referee Ian Denholm with another update about last month's Atlas 2020 recording week on Shetland.

We left our intrepid botanists on Unst, fitting in a little plant-spotting while they waited for the rest of the party to assemble.

Ian takes up the story: "Recording work by the BSBI visiting northern Shetland included a lot of routine square-bashing but also attempts to relocate or update on some particularly rare plants on the islands of Unst, Yell and Fetlar. 

Close-up of Arctic Sandwort found by Alex
Image: I. Denholm
"One important target was Arctic Sandwort (Arenaria norvegica subsp. norvegica), which is well-known on the Keen of Hamar nature reserve but hadn’t been recorded recently at the Hill of Clibberswick on Unst other than as a single plant in 1989. 

"Alex Twyford (co-ordinator of ‘An eye for eyebrights’ project) proved he has an eye for sandworts also by finding a single diminutive flowering plant on a bare area of serpentine at the latter site. 

Heath fragrant-orchid, Keen of Hamar
Image: I. Denholm
"Following this, it was possible to identify a number of non-flowering plants indicating a reasonably healthy, if extremely localised, colony.

The fragrant orchids (Gymnadenia spp.) are represented on Shetland by a single small colony of Heath Fragrant-orchid (G. borealis) growing close to the foot of the Keen of Hamar. A survey of this colony disclosed 25 flowering and non-flowering plants, a slight increase from c18 plants recorded on a previous BSBI visit in 2006".

Thanks Ian! Will I sound like an absolute toady if I say how lucky BSBI is to have a President who is happy to travel to the limits of BSBI's geographical range (at his own expense, not on expenses!) to find wildflowers? And who shares with "ordinary members" the same child-like glee that all botanists feel when they see a new plant? Well it's true so I'll say it anyway! 

One more Shetland Recording Week report from Ian to follow - watch this space!

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