Dumfriesshire Botany Group at Crawick Multiverse, 22 May 2022

A different kind of meeting with a focus on recording on the site of the 55 acre Crawick Multiverse. We were invited by the team running the site to undertake a botanical survey and 5 of us met in the car park under showery conditions. The Crawick Multiverse is an amazing landscape art project created on the site of an old open cast coal mine. It was instigated by the Duke of Buccleuch working with the locally based Charles Jenks. The design is based around space, astronomy and cosmology and has created a new visitor and creative space in Upper Nithsdale.

The Mulitverse looking south from Belvedere along the north south path.

One of the challenges for the creators has been to stabilise the ground around the landscape artifacts by establishing vegetation. This has clearly been challenging on the poor material excavated during the coal mining. So the site offered acid grassland, some old unvegetated spoil, rocks, scrub woodland, paths and pools. A wooded glen runs along the western edge, clearly untouched by the previous coal excavations and so with a natural vegetation.

The poor bare ground suited pioneers like Mouse Ear Hawkweed Pilosella officinalis and Fox and Cubs Pilosella auranticum and a range of annuals like Early Hair-grass Aira praecox, Thyme-leaved Sandwort Arenaria serphyllifolia, Common Whitlowgrass Erophila verna, Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus, Changing Forget-me-not Myosotis discolour and Squirreltail Fescue Vulpia bromoides.

Where a sward had developed there was Soft Lady’s-mantle Alchemilla mollis, Pale Lady’s-mantle  Alchemilla xanthochlora and Smooth Lady’s-mantle Alchemilla glabra, much Glaucous Sedge Carex flacca,  one extensive stand of Wood Horsetail Equisetum sylvaticum, Field Wood-rush Luzula campestre, Lesser trefoil Trifolium dubium and Colt’s-foot Tussilago farfareaNorthern Marsh-orchid Dactylorhiza purpurea was just coming into flower on the banks of the Void.

In the pool at the Milky Way there was Round-leaved Crowfoot Ranunculus omiophyllus, with leaves more lobed and larger flowers than its close lookalike Ivy-leaved Crowfoot Ranunculus hederaceous which was in the sun amphitheatre pool. In the pools there was Common Spike-rush Eleocharis palustris, Bulrush Typha latifolia, Water-purslane Lythrum portula (looking like a Callitriche with no flowers) and both Common Duckweed Lemna minor and Fat Duckweed Lemna gibba. Unfortunately there was also New Zealand Pygmyweed Crassula helmslii. This is one of the invasive non natve species that cause concern as it can exclude native species in shallow water. It pretty much covered the whole of the pool by the picnic tables but was present in most of the others too. This has a foothold in this part of Upper Nithsdale but thankfully only one other location in the County.

In the afternoon the weather brightened and we walked from the Multiverse into the Crawick Water glen. This has lovely native woodland along the steep banks of the dramatic Crawick Water. The main objective here was to see the nice population of Shady Horsetail Equisetum pratense. This grows just by the Soldiers Pool bridge as well as further up the water course. Its delicate branches are rather like E. sylvaticum but they are not divided. This has a very restricted and scattered distribution in Dumfriesshire but recent finds have extended its known occurrence and it is always worth looking for.

Chris Miles

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

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