Dumfriesshire Botany Group at Drumlanrig, 1st September 2019

With permission from the Buccleuch Ranger Team, nine of us met at the front of the impressive Castle on a bright though initially showery day. The aim was to explore the 4 lochans while recording in the square NX8499 to the west of the Castle.  The square is largely woodland made up of mixed broadleaved and conifer, in long term retention spaced trees or denser plantation. There are some impressively large specimens of the three Silver firs which need careful identification. We saw Noble Fir Abies procera, Giant Fir Abies grandis and European Silver-fir Abies alba . Among  some interesting broadleaved specimens the Scarlet Oak Quercus coccinea with shiny deeply lobed leaves was more unusual. All these are often difficult to get samples from, the foliage being so high up!

On the way to the first lochan, we passed a bank of bright green leaves which you could have dismissed as a Luzula though this was Broad-leaved Meadow-grass Poa chaxii with flattened stems and the remains of its ornamental flower heads. It was last recorded here in 1976. It has been planted on Estates as an ornamental  since Victorian times and is native to montane woodland in Europe.

At Druid Loch we found some floating water lily leaves. There were flowers with one of these, which were white but they were small compared to normal White Water-lily Nyphaea alba. These key out as N. alba ssp occidentalis which is native on the Western Isles and NW Highlands so how they got to Drumlanrig is unknown.  The other small floating leaf did not have flowers associated with it. But it did have  a scalloped edge to the leaf and was a different colour and texture. It was the leaf of Yellow Fringed Water-lily Nyphoides peltata, a plant that is an invasive problem on the Mill Loch at Lochmaben. At the top end of the loch and even more obviously at Coldstream Loch, we could see in the reed swamp a large buttercup flower.  Closer inspection  showed this to have the spear shaped leaves of Greater Spearwort Ranunculus lingua. This is a very uncommon plant in Dumfriesshire currently only known from the Drumlanrig Esate.

At Coldstream Loch there is active management to enable fishing so the vegetation around the loch is mown. There remains good edge and aquatic flora though and we initially thought there was a water crowfoot growing in the water all around the loch. It had finely divided leaves but closer inspection showed that this has fruit and flowers of Lesser Marshwort Apium innundatum. Despite its appearance the tiny flowers are in an umbel and this is an umbellifer. This is scarce being known from only 9 sites in Dumfriesshire and not apparently recorded at Drumlanrig before.  Lunch in the sun at Coldstream Loch was accompanied by several damsel and dragon flies including Common and Black Darter.

After lunch we headed for Hillhead Loch. This had a different feel and a less managed appearance. Here the zonation of Carex rostrata and Phalaris was more developed.  Some leaves of another umbel were found without flowers. These though are shiny above and this identifies it as Fools Water-cress Apium nodiflorum. This is a southern plant that is uncommon in Scotland and even scarcer in Dumfriesshire (5 sites) than the Lesser Marshwort.  This is the second loch at Drumlanrig to have it.

Other plants in and around  the lochs included Water Plantain Alisma plantago-aquaticaSpiked and Alternate Water-milfoil  Myriophyllum spicatum and M. alternatifolium, Marsh Pennywort Hydrocotyle vulgaris, Small Pondweed Potamogeton berchtoldii and Ivy-leaved Duckweed Lemna trisulcata.

Overall a good day for aquatic plants and a list of over 200 species for the square.

Chris Miles

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

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