Plant Life of Trotternish

Isle of Skye

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FoxgloveAccording to "The Botanist on Skye", the number of flowering plant and fern species growing wild on the Isle of Skye stands at 750, excluding hybrids. This remarkable number is due to the wide variety of habitats found on the Island. Although much of the interior consists of mountain and moorland, the great diversity of the Island's geology and the different patterns of land use produce a wide range of plant communities. Croftlands, woods, lochs and the island's extensive shoreline all contribute their share of interesting and attractive species, and it is hard to say who appreciates the flora of Skye more, the expert botanist or the ordinary visitor with an eye for beauty and colour.

The island's mild climate allows many southern species to flourish at a latitude where they would not be found anywhere else in Europe, while the high tops - of many different geological types - support a great variety of arctic-alpine species, many of which can be seen without any strenuous climbing if you know where to look. Some of them can be found growing in river gravel at the foot of the mountains, where they have germinated from seeds washed down from the tops, and a few kinds are found on sea-cliffs. Also, the hill road between Uig and Staffin provides access to the Trotternish Ridge with its montane flora that is full of surprises.

While the whole island is a fascinating place for the lover of plants to explore, the two most botanically famous areas are the limestone outcrops of Strath in South Skye, and the Trotternish Ridge in North Skye. These pages are intended to give a rough guide to the plant life of Trotternish as a whole.


Lesser CelandineThe croftlands around Uig burst into colour early in the year with Celandines (left) and Primroses, and when the Marsh Marigolds join them in April the effect is dazzling. The Primrose, now a rare plant in many parts of the country, grows abundantly and luxuriously in Trotternish and has a four-month flowering season. Cuckoo Flower, Ragged Robin, Meadowsweet and Sneezewort are other typical plants of these damp fields, which are mostly used for grazing cattle.

Marguerites in a Skye meadowThere are still a good number of hay meadows among the Trotternish crofts, and these provide an ever-changing spectacle of colour as the summer progresses, featuring Yellow Rattle, Marguerite (right), Zigzag Clover and numerous other species, including an abundance of orchids. There are 17 kinds of orchid found on Skye altogether. Among the kinds common on the crofts and roadsides are the Lesser Butterfly Orchid, the Fragrant Orchid and the Common Spotted Orchid. This last hybridises with the Northern Marsh Orchid to produce a spectacular range of forms.

Spear ThistleAs autumn approaches, the dominant colours become the rich blues and purples of the Scabious, the Knapweed and of course the famous Scottish thistle, which comes in four varieties, the Spear Thistle (right), the Creeping Thistle, the Marsh Thistle and the Melancholy Thistle. This last is not named because it is thought to be unhappy, but because it was formerly taken as a herbal cure for melancholy, and to come upon a clump of them growing in the tall heather or among the burnside scrub is as good a cure for melancholy as any medicine. The Foxgloves (top of page) are also out in force at this time, growing on roadsides, old walls, in woods and on open grassland; the sheep have enough sense to leave them alone.

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Plant Life of Trotternish - Page 1
Plant Life of Trotternish - Page 2
Plant Life of Trotternish - Page 3

New - Skye Botany Site
Wild Skye - Report your sightings

Birds of Trotternish
Trotternish - The Scenery
Walking in Trotternish
Trotternish Ridge Picture Album
Skye Scene Highland Ceilidh
A Short History of Crofting in Skye
The Early Church in Skye
Skye Museum of Island Life
Bed and Breakfast Accommodation
Self-Catering Accommodation
Mallorca property for sale in botanical paradise

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Pictures strictly copyright Sue Watkins (1,4), Patrick Butler (2) and Laurie Campbell (3)

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