Dumfries Botany Group at Barony College 16/09/2018

An additional meeting was arranged and this took place at the Barony College covering the Square NY0286 taking in part of the Barony College grounds and part of the Ae Water. Before the Barony became a college just after the second world war it had been a 300 acre landscaped estate and some of the policy planting dates from that period.

The Square includes woodland, parkland, an old walled garden, ruderal areas around the garden and college buildings and riverside woodland and gravels.

A couple of Poplars were encountered amongst the trees in the landscaped parkland. ID of poplars requires attention to detail as various species are involved in those that get planted. The BSBI handbook on Willows and Poplars is helpful though doesn’t deal with all the hybrid black poplar varieties. The two we found were obviously different when looked at more closely. In one case the leaves were much paler on the underside, were rounded at the base and there was a faint smell of balsam, especially on the shiny resinous buds while in the other the leaves were similar in colour above and below, the leaf base was truncate and there was no smell of balsam. These characters enabled these to be determined as Eastern Balsam Poplar Populus balsamifera and Hybrid Black –poplar Populus x Canadensis agg.

The walled garden provided a lot of interest though sadly the garden is not used by the college and the walls are suffering some collapse in places. On the wall there were good colonies of the widespread Grey headed Hawkweed Hieracium trivaleFairy Foxglove Erinus alpinus, Yellow Corydalis Pseudofumaria lutea and the hoped for Rusty Back Fern Asplenium ceterach which had previously been seen by Drew some years ago. The area outside the garden where plants had once been stored or discarded had some interesting colonists. This included Pale Galingale Cyperus eragrostis, the second time this has been found in Dumfriesshire (and Scotland). An evening primrose was identified as Small-flowered Evening-primrose Oenothera cambrica, a first for Dumfriesshire and Black Nightshade Solanum nigrum.

We had the luxury of having lunch in the greenhouse amongst a few surviving exotics. We then had a look for weeds in the overgrown garden and found a mysterious small plant with tiny green flowers on the wall of a raised bed. After some investigation this proved to be Hairy Rupturewort Hernaria hirsuta, a southern European relative of rare natives that must have stowed away on plants brought into the garden. It is not a garden worthy beauty, though Rupturewort is sold as an alternative to grass for busy lawn areas!

After spending some time in the garden we then made our way down to the Ae Water. This is a spatey river coming off Queensbury and Ae Forest and clearly prone to floods that bring down lots of stone and gravel. While it has been confined to a channel as farmland has been improved on its floodplain it retains some of its wild nature and has good gravel berms and islands and some nice willow scrub. On gravel here we found lots of Field Pansy Viola arvensis var segetalis, Small Cudweed Filago minima, Smiths Bittercress Lepidium heterphyllum and Marsh Yellowcress Rorripa palustris. There were also plants of Tomato Lycopersicon esculentum which is often present on river gravels presumably having passed through human guts (!) and Butterfly bush Buddleja davidii which is still an uncommon colonist here given the lack of open disturbed sites. Out of reach of the floods were splendid plants of Autumn Hawkweed Hieracium sabaudum, our second commonest Hawkweed.

As we retraced our steps back towards the cars we looked at the gravel around the buildings. Here to our surprise we found another colony of Lesser Swinecress Lepidum didymum, the 8th record for Dumfriesshire and first in Annandale since 1988. It was growing with Procumbent Yellow-sorrel Oxalis corniculata which had spilled out of an adjacent greenhouse.

Chris Miles

BSBI county recorder for Dumfriesshire VC73 – see bsbi.org/dumfriesshire

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