Plant Life of Trotternish

Isle of Skye

Page 2


Common Bog-CottonThe uplands divide into heather and grass moorland. In wetter places the ground is broken up into great peat haggs with heather growing on top of them and bare squelchy peat in between them, which after a prolonged spell of dry weather becomes crusty and cracked as in the picture on the left. This kind of country is difficult to walk, but can be rewarding for the botanist, particularly for insect-eating plants such as sundews and butterworts. All nine species of insect-eating plants native to Britain can be found in Skye. One of these, the Common Butterwort, is shown below right. Bog-cotton is typical of this habitat, its feathery seedheads giving a snowy appearance to certain stretches of moorland at a distance. In the picture above-left a few stems of it have colonised the bare peat where they are free from all competition. The Bog Asphodel (below, centre) brightens up the dreariest trudge through the bog, and where there is standing water the Bogbean (below. left) adds to the glory of the scene.

Bogbean, Glenhinnisdale

Bog Asphodel

Bog Asphodel

Common Butterwort
Common Butterwort

Field GentianAt lower elevations the wet moorland flushes can be very beautiful in summer with Creeping Forget-me-not, Lesser Spearwort, Marsh Willowherb, Marsh Lousewort and Marsh Cinquefoil prominent. Drier moorland also has its colourful characters, with Tormentil, Common Lousewort, Heath Milkwort (which comes in a variety of colours), Field Gentian (right) and Wild Thyme, which in places plays host to the rare parasitic plant Thyme Broomrape. The heather itself comes in three varieties: Ling, which is the dominant form that carpets the moors, Bell Heather, which comes into flower earlier and forms clumps on dry ground, and Cross-Leaved Heath, with pink flowers, found in the wetter patches. Any of these can be found with white flowers on occasion and they all count as "lucky white heather". Heather was used for bedding by the people of Skye until the eighteenth century, also for making Crowberryrope, thatching, dyeing (it gives a yellow colour) and many other uses in the days when self-sufficiency was a necessity and not an ideology. Several other wiry little shrubs are found on our moors, of which the Crowberry (left) and the Bilberry are noted for their edible fruit, and Bog Myrtle for its midge-repellent properties.

High tops

GoldenrodThe Trotternish Ridge holds a variety of arctic-alpine species, some of them national rarities. Those that grow on the cliff face will have to be appreciated at a distance by most people; even so, the tight pink cushions of the Moss Campion are unmistakable, and many attractive lowland species such as Valerian, Angelica and Globe Flower also grow on these rock ledges where they are safe from grazing, along with upland herbs such as Goldenrod (right), Stone Bramble and Roseroot. To scan the rock face with binoculars turns up endless treasures; look out for the Holly Fern, the Moonwort and the Purple Saxifrage (below), which comes into flower in March. Other alpines grow on the accessible side of the ridge. The thin dry windswept gravelly soil at the very edge of some of the higher summits is dominated by Dwarf Willow and Mossy Cyphel, but it is a little lower down, away from the cliff edge, where the first springs of water appear, that the really interesting hunting is to be had. Purple Saxifrage at Quiraing, Isle of SkyeHere the star of the show is the tiny Iceland Purslane, a plant not known in Britain until it was discovered on the Trotternish Ridge in the 1950's. It has since been found on the Isle of Mull as well, but not yet anywhere on the mainland. It grows in muddy flushes along with the Three-flowered Rush. Plants such as Sibbaldia and Alpine Meadow-rue will often be found close by. Needless to say it is important that visitors do not disturb or damage these plants. Take photos, not specimens. This web page will be most grateful for any pictures you care to send in.

As well as those mentioned above, the mountain flora of the Trotternish Ridge also includes: Alpine Pearlwort, Arctic Mousear, Alpine Saxifrage, Mossy Saxifrage, Starry Saxifrage, Yellow Saxifrage, Alpine Lady's-mantle, Alpine Willowherb, Chickweed Willowherb, Northern Rockcress, Hairy Rockcress, Hoary Whitlow-grass, Alpine Bistort, Mountain Sorrel, Whortle-leaved Willow, Mountain Crowberry, Alpine Saw-wort, Three-leaved Rush, Two-flowered Rush, Spiked Woodrush, Alpine Meadow-grass, Glaucous Meadow-grass, Mountain Meadow-grass, Alpine Hair-grass, Stiff Sedge, Parsley Fern, Mountain Male-fern and Alpine Clubmoss.

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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

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Pictures strictly copyright Carl Farmer (1,7), Patrick Butler (2,3,5,6,8) and Sue Watkins (4)

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