Dumfriesshire Botany Group at Wanlockhead – 28th July 2022

Six of us met at the overflow car park at Wanlockhead to explore another section of hill ground with no previous records. The weather was overcast with little breeze and this made it a bit midgy in the valley bottoms. Last year we had visited squares to the east of the Mennock road. This year we stayed west of the road.

A track soon took us off the road and up towards Middle Moor. The tracks here are for the shepherd and the keepers who maintain the muirburn cycle for the grouse shoot and sheep grazing. The moorland has extensive heather and the expected range of acid hill species with the exception of Cloudberry Rubus chamaemorus which we did not see. One feature of the day were the spectacular caterpillars and occasional adults of Northern Eggar Lasiocampa quercus moth.

Given most of the ground is acid heath plant variety has to be looked for. This is usually found where there is flushing or along stream sides. We cut over and down to the Glenclach Burn. Springs and flushes erupt in places on the hillside showing green amongst the heather. They are not all the same but the presence of Wild Thyme Thymus drucei and Fairy Flax Linum catharticum indicates a higher base status than the surrounding slopes.  In some places there was plenty of Scottish Eyebright Euphrasia scottica and in one flush the probable hybrid between Arctic Eyebright Euphrasia arctica and Slender Eyebright Euphrasia micrantha which is not unusual in this habitat where both parents grow close together. Some sedges of richer ground were also present including Dioecious Sedge Carex dioica, Glaucous Sedge Carex flacca and Long-stalked Yellow-sedge Carex lepidocarpa. In one flushed slope we found Mossy saxifrage Saxifraga hypnoides and in another we saw one patch of Pale Forget-me-not Myosotis stolonifera. It was not as abundant though as last year.

The burnside is grazed preferentially by sheep as there is better grass but in several places we saw Confused Eyebright Euphrasia confusa and the pink flowered Hairy Stonecrop Sedum villosum . The latter likes the permanently wet conditions where water seeps. It is present in flushes especially where there is sphagnum.

Lower down the Glenclach Burn we came across an adit near an old spoil heap right down at burn level. We could not see how far back the tunnel went but assume someone hoped to find lead here in the past but probably did not make a fortune. It might now be a useful place for bats to hibernate though is quite damp.

The slopes got steeper and the heather longer as we moved lower into the bottom of the second square we recorded. Under the heather here we found the leaves of Lesser Twayblade Neottia cordata and after searching managed to find one plant still in flower.

The return involved a steep climb up to pick up the track on Middle Moor. At this point the rain set in almost until we were back to the cars. Seems to happen a lot at Wanlockhead!

Chris Miles

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

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