Dumfriesshire Botany Group at Newbie, 08/04/2018
Three brave folk met at Newbie shore in a stiff wind on Wednesday morning. The day improved and by the end of the afternoon the promised warm weather had finally arrived. High tide was at about 14:00 and so by mid afternoon the lower and mid saltmarsh on the other side of the Annan was flooded. Our stretch of coast has a low eroding soft cliff and a backshore area of scrubby vegetation and no saltmarsh so the tide made little impact on our day. Much material and concrete has been put on the shore over the years to try to protect properties. This has resulted in a narrow band of shingle and rocky debris suitable for some shoreline species with a hinterland of industrial, housing and agriculture. Barnkirk point once had a lighthouse marking the entrance to Annan Harbour and has remains of old gardens presumably once associated with this. All of the intertidal is part of the Upper Solway Flats and Marshes SSSI. The good numbers of Oystercatcher and Redshank on high tide roosts underlined the shores importance.
Plants were still very early in growth and we had to look hard to find clues to what might be very evident a month from now. We walked along the shingle or followed the Annandale Way along the back of the shore. We saw the leaves of Sea Campion Silene uniflora. This is one of a group of coastal specialists that also grow on some of our mountains and can be found in the Moffat Hills. Thrift Armeria maritima is another which also grows in the Merrik Hills. We also saw the rough leaved rosettes of Sea Raddish Raphanus raphanistrum ssp. Maritimus which can dominate the shore with multiple branched yellow inflorescences a couple of years after storms have disturbed the soil. There were also plants that are more frequently found on the coast in Dumfriesshire. For example Teasle Dipsacus fullonum has a good population here and we saw the young leaves of Hemlock Conium maculatum.
After a hunt on eroding soil at the margin of scrub amongst the Red Campion Silene dioica we did find Common Cornsalad Valerianella locusta just coming into flower. This is currently only known from this habitat in the County with only 3 post 2000 records. It is a small plant on the shore and largely vanishes after June. The photo is from just along the shore at Powfoot.
Another plant in flower was Whitlowgrass Erophila. They have quite showy white flowers for a small plant with white petals divided to half way. These are small spring annuals that can be abundant on shallow soil on pavements, concrete or path edges. They are tricky taxonomically and the three species currently recognised are poorly mapped. Those we found had sparce hairs on the leaves and short petioles and so are Erophila verna, Common Whitlowgrass.
Much of the backshore is dominated by Gorse, Bramble and scrub of Blackthorn and Hawthorn. In the shelter of these there were some bulbous plants with leaves only. Occasional Snowdrops Galanthus nivalis had finished flowering. Spanish Bluebell Hyacinthoides hispanicawith broad leaves over 30mm wide and the hybrid Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta x H. hispanica = H. x massartiana had both established no doubt washed out of gardens. Another leaf puzzled us. It had a white stripe on the upper side and was quite long and robust though often rabbit nibbled. It seemed too fleshy to be a Crocus. At home a look through Poland (A Vegetative Key) helped. These were Star-of- Bethlehem Ornithogallum umbellatum ssp. campestre with hooded ends to the leaves. This is thought to an introduced species long established in cultivation and escaped from it.
Another introduction seen was Lords-and-Ladies Arum maculatum growing in a hedge bottom. This is very infrequently seen in the County and thought to be non-native north of Cumbria.
BSBI county recorder for Dumfriesshire VC73 – see bsbi.org/dumfriesshire