Dumfriesshire Botany Group at Euchan Water, 5th May 2022

Continuing the theme of visiting woodlands this early in the season 9 of us met at Blackaddie Bridge on the edge of Sanquhar with the aim of visiting the wooded parts of the Euchan Water. The Blackaddie Bridge spans the River Nith and as we were in one of the target squares we first recorded on the riverside by the car park. While the grassland beside the car park was a mauve haze of Lady’s Smock, Cardamine pratense we were challenged trying to identify some of the emerging shoots that were just pushing through on the river shingle. From the limited growth we pieced together a typical riverside assemblage including Yellow Loosestrife Lysimachia vulgaris, Wood Club-rush Scirpus sylvatica, Marsh Ragwort Jacobaea aquatica and Tall Fescue Schedonurus arundinaceus. We found a sedge with two stigmas showing it is part of the Carex nigra group but the shiny green leaves were distinct enough to determine this as Water Sedge Carex aquatilis. This part of the Nith is a stronghold for this species.

We walked from here for about half a kilometre along a back road that is part of the Southern Upland Way recording verge plants and garden escapes until we reached the Euchan bridge that spans the Euchan Water just before it enters the Nith. We then followed the well maintained path to the Euchan falls. The native woodland on the steep sides of the glen here are a mix of birch, ash, elm and oak with an understory of hazel, willows and bird cherry. The ground floor was carpeted with Wild Garlic, Allium ursinum and Dogs Mercury Mercuralis perennis with patches of Wild hyacinth, Hyacinthoides non-scripta and Wood Anemone Anemone nemorale. In more acid conditions there was a good growth of Common Cow-wheat, Melampyrum pratense. Redstart was calling from the still bare tree tops and was visible to several of the party.

Lunch was taken near the waterfall where we could appreciate the rock formation. The geology is interesting here as the Euchan has cut into the local outcrop of carboniferous sandstone surrounding the coal measures that made Sanquhar a coal mining area until late last century. Although the glacial morain remains the dominant influence the sandstone gives a little bit of calcareousness to the local soils . This is perhaps best illustrated by the presence of Betony, Betonica officinalis, an otherwise rare plant in Dumfriesshire and only found in quantity elsewhere in the county on the carboniferous area around Cannonbie.

After lunch we returned to the cars and drove a little further up the Euchan valley to explore the Glenmaddie Woods. These open woodlands have some really mature old trees and boast a good example of the Lobarian pulmonariae lichen community and has lovely moss covered rocks along the river. It was steep and  not often visited by grazing stock. The best additional old woodland plants not seen earlier in the day were probably Wood Horsetail, Equisetum sylvaticum, Oak fern  Gymnocarpium dryopteris and Moschatel, Adoxa mochatellina.

Chris Miles

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

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