Joint meeting between Botanical Society of Scotland (BSS) and Botanical Society Britain and Ireland (BSBI) Dumfriesshire Botany Group (DBG) 24-27th May 2019
The long weekend meeting was planned to record in urban centres as part of BSS Urban Flora of Scotland Project, given that Dumfries and Galloway had to date received little coverage. BSS objective is to record in towns and cities with a human population over 1000, because these are often overlooked locations for plants. They record all plants (in their widest sense flowering plants, ferns, bryophytes, lichens, fungi and algae) in broad urban habitat categories. Urban flora is interesting because it includes many plants closely associated with human activity, either historical or current, and plants that like the opportunities the urban environment offers, which may be different to the surrounding countryside. This includes a warmer climate and many, often temporary, open ground opportunities suiting good colonists, or plants that like disturbance and built infrastructure micro niches.
The joint meeting gave the Dumfriesshire Group the chance to record in these urban areas of Dumfriesshire for the Atlas 2020 project. The two groups combined to give us up to 12 people on some days working in smaller teams, always with a BBS and BSBI contingent. This allowed us to cover a good deal of ground in Dumfries, including Heathhall, Annan, Sanquhar and Kirkconnel. Overall 12 monad cards were completed for Atlas 2020 complemented by records in the same squares based on urban habitat categories. While all of the records are not yet digitised for analysis we will have more than 1900 new records. Some of the interesting records are highlighted here below.
On the afternoon of Friday 24th May we met up at Brooms road car park in bright sunshine and recorded from here down to the riverside, through Dock Park, St Michaels cemetery and the back streets. Highlights included some species not seen for a long time such as Henbit Dead-nettle Lamium amplexicaule on the edge of the pavement, not seen in Dumfries for over 100 years and Northern bedstraw Galium boreale on the river wall, not seen in the Dumfries since 1936. The walls of the river were covered in Mexican Fleabane Erigeron karvinskianus, a plant just getting a foothold in other Scottish towns, but now widespread in England, Wales and Ireland.
On Saturday the weather turned wet late morning but the botany carried on. In the morning, one group went to Nunholm and recorded along the road, cycle track and riverside. Another group went to Heathhall and recorded on and around the old airfield and industrial estate. At Nunholm the standout find was a colony of Shady Horsetail Equisetum pratense growing below the old railway bridge that now carries the cycle path. Shady Horsetail is known from small populations further up the River Nith and may have washed down, but was well established. On the bridge was some very well grown specimens of Squirreltail Fescue Vulpia bromoides and Hop Trefoil Trifolium campestre. The Squirreltail Fescue appears to be spreading in the County especially on forestry tracks, the Hop Trefoil conversely has few recent records in Dumfriesshire and may have declined. The open ground at Heathhall also had Squirreltail Fescue together with Bird’s-foot Ornithopus perspusillus, Sand spurrey Spergularia rubra and Wild Pansy Viola tricolour, a plant which may also be declining in the county.
In the afternoon the rain started to ease. One group visited the new estates around the SWT Ladypark Reserve where building continues. In an area where the ground was stripped of topsoil in preparation for building some years ago, a very sandy substrate is colonising with much Small Cudweed Filago minima and smaller quantities of Trailing St John’s-wort Hypericum humifusum, Canadian Fleabane Coniza canadensis and one plant of Creeping willow Salix repens. The other group visited allotments and a playing field in the Greenbrae area to the south of the supermarket. Of note on disturbed ground, they found Fool’s Parsley Aethusa cynapium in flower, Sticky Groundsel Senecio viscosus and Hairy Tare Vicia hirsuta. They also found Goat’s-beard Tragopogon pratensis. This became a bit of a feature in grassland in all the urban centres we visited, which is good news as there were only three post 2000 records in the County before this weekend. We saw Goat’s-beard in 5 monads including the first record in upper Nithsdale.
On Sunday morning we all met at Tesco’s in Annan. It was windy but bright. We set off in three groups, two looking at East Annan, and a third at the centre of town and riverside. On vacant ground and walls in several parts of the town, there were good colonies of Rue-leaved Saxifrage Saxifraga tridactylites. Smooth Hawk’s-beard Crepis capillaris was just coming into flower alongside the other yellow flowered composites, Cat’s Ear Hypocharis radicata and Mouse-ear Hawkweed Pilosella officinarum. The best find was probably Northern Dead-nettle Lamium confertum a plant with only five previous records in the County, the last in 1981. This may easily be overlooked and demonstrates the value of working with a BSS colleague who is visiting the area and knows this from elsewhere..
In the afternoon we said goodbye to some people, but continued with two groups recording parts of the town beside the Nith river. One strange feature is the extent of Mind-your-own-business Soleirolia soleirolii, a member of the nettle family, growing profusely along the base of walls reached by the highest tides. Along the riverside Water Figwort Scophularia auriculata and Meadow Saxifrage Saxifraga granulata were good finds in more established grassland, while Purple Toadflax Linaria purpurea and Yellow Corydalis Pseudofumaria lutea are both uncommon plants in South West Scotland.
On our final day showers were forecast but as it turned out we had a dry warm day. We met at Sanquhar and divided into two groups for the morning, one looking at the Castle and town, the other the Blackaddie Bridge, riverside and industrial area. On the Castle Walls was Black Spleenwort Asplenium adiantum-nigrum, last recorded in the hectad in 1975. Near the river Giant Scabious Cephalaria gigantea, was refound. It had been recorded by Olga Stewart in 1997, showing that some garden escapes can persist! Unfortunately, the town lochan had a well-established fringe of New Zealand Pigmyweed Crassula helmsii, a scarce invasive non-native in SW Scotland.
In the afternoon we moved on to Kirkconnel. One team went across to Kelloholm, the other recording the main street, railway and riverside. Grassland in and around the town had good populations of the umbel Burnet Saxifrage Pimpinella saxifrage, and in one place Bulbous Buttercup Ranunculus bulbosus. In the base of walls on one street there was Wall Whitlowgrass Draba muralis, a larger cousin to the more ubiquitous Common Whitlowgrass Erophila verna we had seen everywhere. By the railway station disturbance had allowed Common Cornsalad Valerianella locusta and Black Medic Medicago lupulina to flower. Black Medic had only previously been seen at Sanquhar station in upper Nithsdale, so had clearly caught the train north. On the riverside there was a good stand of Water Sedge Carex aquatilis. This northern species is known above and below Kirkconnel on the River Nith, so it was nice to find it here.
BSBI county recorder for Dumfriesshire VC73 – see bsbi.org/dumfriesshire