Kirkcudbrightshire Botany Group at Kirkconnell Flow, 05/05/2017

The good weather continues! Nine of us turned out to explore this great example of a raised bog which is surrounded by both birch and pine woodland. It’s part of the large area containing raised bogs both east and west of the River Nith where the Forestry Commission have been removing conifers, planted in the 1950s or thereabouts, from some of the (previously) best bogs (Longbridgemuir and Lochar Mosses).

The usual lengthy period covering the common species in and around the car-parking space was followed by a slow meander along the pathway through the fringing woodland – Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus, Heather Calluna vulgaris, Purple Moor-grass Molinia caerulea – otherwise known locally and appropriately as white grass or flying bent – just producing new shoots, Field Woodrush Luzula multiflora (subspp. congesta and multiflora) and its spring counterpart Luzula campestris. Both species of birch, Downy Birch Betula pubescens and Silver Birch B. pendula, dominated the woodland with scattered Scots Pine Pinus sylvestris, recognisable by its two needles per node, Rowan Sorbus aucuparia and somewhat surprisingly a clump of the shrub Yellow Azalea Rhododendron luteum in a small area. This last species has turned up elsewhere in two deciduous woodlands (Hannaston near Dalry and Castramon by Gatehouse).

Eventually we emerged into the bog spending some time in the surrounding lagg fen, below the raised mass of the central bog. Much of the lagg fen was covered with regenerating birch, it gave us abundant Common Cotton-grass Eriophorum angustifolium with its long gradually tapered and red-ended leaves and multiple flower heads, clumps of the fine-leaved Hare’s-tail Cotton-grass E. vaginatum with just a single oval flower head showing white, the red rosettes of Round-leaved Sundews Drosera rotundifolia and abundant trailing strands of Cranberry Vaccinium oxycoccus running over moss carpets and fallen dead wood trunks and branches. Nick pointed out male and female shoots of Crowberry Empetrum nigrum, also recognisable by the central white stripe along the underside of the narrowly linear leaves.

Then onto the raised dome of the bog which stood about 2 metres above the lagg fen. Because of the continued dry period, there was no surface water and at lunch we were able to sit on the ground without getting wet seats. Bog Rosemary Andromeda polifolia scattered sparsely throughout the area had a very dried-up appearance but still there were shoots with buds and a few with opened delicate pink flowers.

The distinguishing features of Heather Calluna vulgaris and bog or Cross-leaved Heath Erica tetralix were noted, as was the large number of birches spread across the entire bog. This will be a problem in the future as trees tend to dry the bog surface, leading to more trees able to colonise and so on in a vicious circle ending in woodland and eventual loss of the bog flora. A number of very small black ants accompanied us over lunch, retrieving after initial scepticism, little bits of dropped pastry and meat. Lunch over for all, we retreated back across the dome and the lagg fen, discovering White Sedge Carex curta along the path, with Carnation Sedge C. nigra and a few shoots of the almost inedible (to farm-stock) Heath Rush Juncus squarrosus.

Some of the group then had to leave, those remaining venturing along the edge of the lagg fen and its boundary ditch towards the open marshy grassland and grass to the north of the bog. We soon got a number of extra species, including Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta, Wood Sorrel Oxalis acetosella, Hard Fern Blechnum spicant, Hemlock Water Dropwort Oenanthe crocata, Brooklime Veronica beccabunga, before venturing into the grassy area. This was dominated by Purple Moor-grass M. caerulea, Soft Rush Juncus effusus and Yorkshire Fog Holcus lanatus amongst which were scattered Devil’s-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis, Tormentil Potentilla erecta, Greater Bird’s-foot Trefoil Lotus pedunculatus and what turned out to be Sheep’s Fescue Festuca ovina. Oh, and the creeping/scrambling stems of Climbing Corydalis Ceratocapnos claviculata with tiny white flowers just appearing.

All in all, we had 123 species (including some I recorded afterwards on the roadside) for this monad NX9670. And 2 Common Lizards, a Common Frog, butterflies—Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Orange-tip, Small White—as well as soldier beetles, the black ants, a Peregrine and Crossbills.

David Hawker

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