Kirkcudbright Botany Group, Stroanfreggan and Culmark Moss 24th August 2019

This meeting was to replace one scheduled here last year but cancelled following days of very heavy rainfall and the threat of flooding.  But this time we were in luck as the weather was fine.

Seven of us met at the Cleugh (previously visited earlier this year) to leave some cars behind as parking was limited at the chosen site. I had planned to cover two monads; in the event we covered two but one of which was not previously chosen.  The first monad around Stroanfreggan Bridge quickly revealed surprises – the ground looked to be acidic; the quarry on the way up this ridge held Maidenhair Spleenwort Asplenium trichomanes, Lady-fern Athyrium filix-femina, Male-fern Dryopteris filix-mas, the creeping stems of New Zealand Willowherb Epilobium brunnescens, the inevitable Bracken Pteridium aquilinum and Jointed Rush Juncus articulatus and Lesser Spearwort Ranunculus flammula in the waterlogged rut. We quickly discovered that the top of the ridge and the NE side leading up to the hill fort and cairn was distinctly acidic with Purple Moor-grass Molinia caerulea, Deergrass Trichophorum germanicum, Mat-grass Nardus stricta, Heath Rush Juncus squarrosus, Heather Calluna vulgaris, Heath Milkwort Polygala serpyllifolia, Heath Bedstraw Galium saxatile, and surprisingly a single, still flowering, plant of Mountain Pansy Viola lutea.

The other side of the ridge with the SW-facing rock exposures was anything but. It was much more diverse with abundant clumps of Thyme Thymus praecox, some Fairy Flax Linum catharticum, Mouse-ear Hawkweed Pilosella officinarum, Pill Sedge Carex pilulifera, Heath-grass Danthonia decumbens, Bell Heather Erica cinerea, Common Dog-violet Viola riviniana, Heath Groundsel Senecio sylvaticus, Lady’s Bedstraw Galium verum, the bright yellow flowers of Trailing St John’s-wort Hypericum humifusum and Wood Sage Teucrium scorodonia.  The hill-top fort on this ridge proved equally interesting with Lady’s Bedstraw again, with several of the above species.

Back along the river which didn’t have any submerged or floating aquatics – too swiftly flowing over a stony bed – we only found some Common Spike-rush Eleocharis palustris and Water-pepper Persicaria hydropiper.  A small recently planted plantation near the bridge included scattered Aspen Populus tremula, Devil’s-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis and the inevitable Rosebay Willowherb Chamerion angustifolium.  The bridge gave us Black Spleenwort Asplenium adiantum-nigrum, Wall-rue, A. ruta-muraria and Hart’s-tongue Fern A. scolopendrium.

Back to the cars and move to the next monad to reconnoitre the nearby Culmark Moss.  Many years ago I’d been appalled to see that it had been ploughed preparatory to forestry planting, which fortunately had never been carried out.  Probably due to a change in FC planting which no longer grant-aid planting on ground where the peat exceeded 50 cm deep – which this site obviously was.  Being very acid we soon found both cottongrasses, Hare’s-tail Cottongrass Eriophorum vaginatum and Common Cottongrass E. angustifolium.  Followed closely by Cross-leaved Heath Erica tetralix, the sickle-shaped leaves of Bog Asphodel Narthecium ossifragum and surprising amounts of the slender trailing stems, and a few bright red berries, of Cranberry Vaccinium oxycoccus.

And while we were looking at fruiting, and a few still flowering, Round-leaved Sundews Drosera rotundifolia, a dramatically coloured ground beetle was seen scrambling through the bog-mosses.  Ross subsequently managed to get the beetle into his hand and Sarah took photos of it amongst the mosses.

It was subsequently confirmed, as Ross said on site, as Heath Goldsmith Carabus nitens for which there are few previous records for D&G.  It’s a Nationally Scarce species which cannot fly and is confined to places just like this mire/bog which is a new site for the species in D&G.  Unfortunately the site was still degraded with obvious signs of ATV use (rutted ground) and slow colonisation by scattered Sitka Spruce Picea sitchensis and may still be under threat of degrading further.

On the way back to the cars we diverted to a cairn/barrow beside which was a drain which held a few clumps of Water Mint Mentha aquatica, Pedunculate Water-starwort Callitriche brutia, surprisingly several shoots of the blue-flowered Water Forget-me-not Myosotis scorpioides and Marsh Speedwell Veronica scutellata, Marsh-bedstraw Galium palustre, Marsh Violet Viola palustris, Floating Sweet-grass Glyceria fluitans and Bog Stitchwort Stellaria alsine.  The cairn/barrow held little of note plant-wise.

In all, we had 135 plant species, the notable ones – for me – being Mountain Pansy, Cranberry and Water Forget-me-not, but all crowned by the Carabus beetle.

David Hawker

BSBI county recorder for Kirkcudbrightshire VC73

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