Kirkcudbrightshire Botany Group at Wood of Cree, 08/04/2017
Another glorious day for the 10 of us, bright, sunny and warm. As is usual we spent the first half hour only metres from the cars, recording the plants in the grassland including a single and magnificent flowering fritillary Fritillaria meleagris obviously planted there as it’s only native to wet meadows in Oxfordshire. It’s often included in wildflower mixes now and so occurs UK wide. The usual grassland suspects – Knapweed Centaurea nigra, Meadow Buttercup Ranunculus acris, two vetches Vicia sepium and V. sativa as well as Yellow Vetchling Lathyrus pratensis with its large spear-shaped stipules.
Finally into the wood, via Sloes Prunus spinosa in flower and an at-first puzzling shrub with serrate-edged leaves and no flowers, plus a reddish stem. First thoughts were of a Prunus but it didn’t look right; finally decided by the end of the day that it was Snowberry Symphoricarpos alba. We soon found Barren Strawberry Potentilla sterilis in flower; Wild Garlic or Ramsons Allium ursinum; then the three wood-rushes, Greater Wood-rush Luzula sylvatica with its tall spreading flowering shoots, Field Wood-rush L. campestre with its dark compact flower and yellow stamens; and finally Heath Wood-rush L. pilosa with its delicate widely separated flowers, easy to miss due to the pale colour blending with the background. We quickly added Common Enchanters Nightshade Circaea lutetiana, Dog’s Mercury Mercurialis perennis, which is one of the few dioecious (separate male and female plants) species, Common Dog Violet Viola riviniana, Yellow Pimpernel Lysimachia nemorum, Wavy Hair-grass Descampsia flexuosa with its shiny mid-green fine leaves, and numerous, very early linear-leaved shoots of the semi-parasitic Common Cow-wheat Melampyrum pratense, eventually to be seen throughout the woodland.
As we walked up beside Cordorcan Burn, we were looking out for the dark green fronds of the tiny Wilson’s Filmy-fern Hymenophyllum wilsonii, like a dark green moss, in the shady and damp parts of the ravines. At lunch time we stopped by the waterfall and scrambled about the ravine slopes, eventually finding significant quantities of this species in a spot where spray from the waterfall would frequently keep the site damp. For the less adventurous we collected a few fronds so that all could look closely at this tiny pteridophyte.
There have been only 3 records for this species in VC73 since 2000, although there are numerous records from the Merrick-Glen Trool area from 1972. So much more searching in suitable habitat needed.
Lunch over and a gentle walk round and down to the cars. On route we looked at several damp patches, with Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris in bright yellow flower; a spearmint-smelling water mint which I have been unable to identify (a hybrid?); early shoots of the grey-green Bottle Sedge Carex rostrata and Marsh Violet Viola palustris with its rounded leaves and pale blue flowers with a short spur. At some point we’d been discussing English (or rather vernacular) names versus scientific names, eventually centering around Vaccinium myrtillus – you might like to google Wikipedia’s Bilberry entry for further insights. Just to confuse matters further, Lesser Celandine is a buttercup, but Greater Celandine is a poppy, while Ground Ivy and Common Ivy have nothing in common. We got three of these four on site……
A brief stop at the viewpoint overlooking the VC’s boundary of the River Cree and to retrieve plastic drinks bottles discarded over the steep slope – why are the Brits such a disgusting nation when it comes to disposing of their rubbish? And back to the cars, stopping to look at a mat of speedwell bordering a patch of blackthorn scrub – pale blue flowers on long stalks and round small leaves. This was Veronica filiformis, an all too frequent invader of gardens and lawns – an alien from N. Turkey and the Caucasus, introduced to the UK around 1808. Splendid all the same! Note the one pale, almost white, petal and the deeper blue one with its heavily coloured veins.
All in all, we got 80+ species, spread across two 1×1 km woodland squares, from an Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland consisting primarily of oakwood. Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta, Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa and Wood Sorrel Oxalis acetosella were all present.