Dumfriesshire Botany Group at Devils Beeftub, Sunday 5th June 2022

The meeting was attended by four of us on a fine day. Most of the Beef Tub is owned by Borders Forest Trust as part of their Corehead property. In the last year BFT have removed grazing from the Beeftub and this visit was a first chance to see what impact that was having on the flora. There are historic records for some interesting plants in the Beeftub from the 1886 Flora including such rarities as Oblong Woodsia Woodsia ilvensis and Wood Bitter-vetch Vicia orobus. These have long gone (though still occur elsewhere in the Moffat Hills) but other things may now be able to show up more clearly. Perhaps surprisingly given the accessibility the 4 monads which include parts of the Beeftub there were only a few records in the system apart from NT0613 which had been visited by Jan Davidson last year.

The steep slopes of the Beeftub require some scrambling and so we took our time to work through the three squares we targeted. In the absence of grazing, regrowth of vegetation was evident in the thicker sward and improved flowering. Descending down from the parking area soon showed how the vegetation was enriched by running water and seepage. Higher up on the hill tops the acid grassland and wet heath has typical species like Deergrass Trichophorum germanicum, Hare’s-Tail Cotton-grass, Eriophorum vaginatum, Heath Rush Juncus squarrosus and Cross-leaved Heath Erica tetralix.  Once you find a flush or burn you start to see more interesting things. On this visit there were particularly spectacular displays of flowering Mossy Saxifrage Saxifraga hypnoides down most of the rocky sikes. From a distance this looked like residual snow patches. We also saw Beech Fern Phegopteris connectalis and Limestone Bedstraw Galium sterneri on the NT0512 crags and the latter on the NT0613 crags. The bedstraw was last recorded in the Beeftub in 1988 and where grazing has been removed or reduced this species becomes much more evident. We found a small group of planted Downy Willow Salix lapponum, an early attempt to establish some shrubs as I understand  there is no intention to plant extensively in the Beeftub itself.

The main crags in NT0613 look interesting and merit further exploration than we had time to give. We did find Common Rock-rose Helianthemum nummularium  Hairy Rock-cress Arabis hirsuta (not recorded in the Beeftub since the Victorians saw it)  and Mountain Male Fern Dryopteris oreades.

It was perhaps too early in the season to gauge overall what plants will recover post sheep grazing. We were too early for orchids for example. So it may well be worth revisiting in a couple of years’ time at a later date to see what other plants are thriving again.

Chris Miles

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

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