Plant Life of Trotternish

Isle of Skye

Page 3


Trees and bushes

RowanTrue woodland is scarce in Trotternish, though there is a fair amount of Hazel, Rowan, Downy Birch and Eared Willow scrub on the steeper slopes and along the edges of the burns. Holly, Aspen and Alder also grow by the waterside and if you follow a burn up into the hills you may be rewarded with a Tea-leaved Willow. Ash, Hawthorn, Elder, Osier, Gorse and Broom occur along the roadsides and on rough ground near sea level. The Rowan (right) is a magnet for birds when its berries turn red. From the rate at which they eat them you'd expect it to be picked clean in a day, but the splendid display of fruit persists for weeks. Most of the wild roses in Trotternish belong to the Rosa Villosa group; the purest forms have deep pink flowers and thin, perfectly straight, spines.

 


Woods

Wood Sorrel
Primroses

The Rha and Conon woods in Uig provide a glorious exception to the general lack of mature woodland. Planted long ago, they now contain a variety of native or naturalised deciduous and evergreen trees, the commonest being Ash, Wych Elm, Norway Maple and Sycamore. But it is the ground flora which is of the most interest. In spring these woods are carpeted with Bluebells and Wild Garlic, with Primroses (above left) and Wood Anemones also much in evidence, and the little white cups of Wood Sorrel (above right) sometimes growing high on the trees, which are hung with Polypody and various lichens. The Gaelic name for Wood Sorrel is Seamrag, pronounced Shamrock, the plant made famous by St Patrick. As the leaf cover thickens overhead, the ground cover becomes more varied, with grassGlobe Floweres such as False Brome and Tufted Hair-grass, and flowers like Pignut, once a welcome source of food, Yellow Pimpernel and Sanicle. Globe Flower (left) and Woodruff brighten up the shadiest places, and the damp areas have a good show of Meadowsweet and Water Avens, both in its pure form and as a hybrid with Wood Avens. As summer draws on, the Wood Sage and the Upland Enchanter's Nightshade come into flower, and thistles and Foxgloves grace the clearings. In autumn, Fuschias give the riversides an exotic touch, the Hazels yield their nuts and the Brambles their fruit. Ferns in the woods include Hartstongue, Brittle Bladder-fern and Hard Shield Fern, but the most common and striking is the Scaly Male-fern with its rusty stems.

Coast

ThriftMuch of the Trotternish shoreline consists of steep cliffs. These have certain species in common with the inland cliffs, including Roseroot and Moss Campion, but also have many specialties of their own, such as the glossy Sea Spleenwort and the chewy Scots Lovage. There is also plenty of accessible shoreline, and here some of the more noticeable flowers are those of Thrift (left), Common Scurvy-grass, Sea Mayweed, Skullcap and Sea Campion. Clumps of Yellow Iris (below) are often found in rough grassland near the shore, and tall herbs such as Wild Carrot and Perennial Sow-thistle make a striking display in the same habitat. Two rare shingle plants are found on the beaches of Trotternish: the Scottish Scurvy-grass and the orache Atriplex Praecox.


Lochs

Yellow Iris, Staffin SlipwayThe inland lochs tend to be very acid, but they are full of botanical interest. Their most noticeable inhabitants are the White Water-lily, the Bottle Sedge, the Bogbean, the Common Club-rush and the Common Reed. Closer examination will reveal countless stems of Water Lobelia protruding through the water bearing attractive blue flowers, and a number of less colourful species of interest to the specialist, including Quillwort, Awlwort, Alternate Water-milfoil, Broad-leaved Pondweed, Various-leaved Pondweed, Perfoliate Pondweed, Red Pondweed, Long-stalked Pondweed, Small Pondweed, Floating Bur-reed and Floating Club-rush.

Horsetails and Clubmosses

Trotternish is extremely well endowed with Horsetails; great stands of Marsh Horsetail are found on wet heather moors, Water Horsetail in waterlogged fields, Field Horsetail on rough ground and roadsides, and drifts of Wood Horsetail on heathery hillsides far from any wood but looking like a fairy forest themselves. Altogether 8 species and 4 hybrids are found in Trotternish, including rarities such as Mackay's Horsetail and the hybrids of Marsh Horsetail with Great Horsetail and with Field Horsetail. Fir Clubmoss is a notable plant often met with on the hills, and Alpine Clubmoss carpets certain exposed tops. The Stagshorn Clubmoss also occurs, but is not so easy to find.

 


Bryophytes

The Devil's MatchsticksSkye is, apparently, a veritable paradise for the lover of mosses, lichens and liverworts, owing to its pollution-free air and its boggy hills, humid woods and clammy caves, but I cannot enlarge on this except to say that many beautiful species are often met with and one day I will get round to learning their names.

The one in the picture on the right is known locally as the Devil's Matchsticks.

 

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

Email contact: carl@hunish.co.uk

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