Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Scottish botanists return to Kittyfield Farm

Carduus nutans Musk Thistle
Image: J. MacKinnon
Scottish botanist Jay MacKinnon is having a busy year! Last month she reported from the BSBI recording week in Ayrshire and now she has sent us a report and some images from a BSBI training meeting she attended earlier this month. 

The meeting was held at Kittyfield Farm, near Melrose (VC80) and was led by Luke Gaskell. It followed on from a successful beginners' field meeting held at the farm in 2011, and this time the focus was on how ‘improvers’ could get more familiar with farmland weeds. 

Botanists at Kittyfield Farm near Melrose
Image: J. MacKinnon
Jay says "The agricultural weeds teaching day at Luke Gaskell's farm was smashing. It's a stunning location, on steep slopes above the flat valley of the River Tweed. We could look down on the traces of vegetation differences in arable fields showing where the river used to meander.

"The location was unusually luxurious for a field meeting: we had ample quantities of tea, delicious home-made scones on arrival and ‘comfort breaks’ that were actually comfortable!

"Cattle and sheep are raised at Kittyfield Farm and fodder crops (kale, silage, hay, barley and others) are grown for them. 

Galeopsis speciosa at Kittyfield Farm
Image: J. MacKinnon
"We saw long-established pasture, nice unimproved grassland, newly re-seeded pasture demonstrating the weeds that had lain in the soil seed bank, seed crops sown for birds and the differences between more acid and more neutral-to-basic grassland.

"Luke worked hard to teach to the levels and interests of all those present. We covered the identification of common grasses and learned which are unpalatable to stock, met five thistles including Carduus nutans (musk thistle/nodding thistle), and I learned that I'm not the only one who can't get rid of creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense) by any means fair or foul. 

Botanists on a flowery slope
Image: J. MacKinnon
"We differentiated Geranium pusillum (short hairs on petiole) from G. molle (short and long hairs on petiole); Lamium purpureum from L. hybridum and L. confertum; and Atriplex from Chenopodium. Highlights included Sherardia arvensis, Cerastium arvense, and jammy scones!"

Thanks to Jay for this. I hear that she is hoping to attend the Aberdeenshire Recording Weekend at Ballater/Aboyne on 22nd-23rd August. 

This meeting aims to record across a range of habitats from river shingles, acid grassland and peatland through to native pine-woods and possibly some montane sites - many of the sites lie within the Cairngorms National Park

Let's hope that Jay is kind enough to send us another short report and some more of her fabulous images!