Kirkcudbrightshire Botany Group at Southerness (New Year Plant Hunt), 2nd January 2024

A group of nine of us met at Southerness car park and spent the required three hours looking for plants in flower. Only those open enough to show stamens/ stigmas qualified for the list and we reluctantly had to reject those species which were only in bud. We concentrated on NX9754 and strayed a little way into NX9755.

The car park inevitably gave us a good start with Gorse Ulex europaeus, Common Chickweed Stellaria media, Common Mouse-ear Cerastium fontanum, Shepherd’s-purse Capsella bursa-pastoris, Common Whitlowgrass Erophila verna, Annual Meadow-grass Poa annua, Groundsel Senecio vulgaris and Petty Spurge Euphorbia peplus, while a beautiful yellow Snapdragon Antirrhinum majus was flowering on the pavement side of the wall.

We didn’t have to move far before we found Daisies Bellis perennis, Dandelions Taraxacum agg and Meadow Buttercups Ranunculus acris.

On reaching the edge of the shore we were joined by an extremely friendly Jackdaw Corvus monedula who pecked at the toggles on Jack’s overtrousers, explored David’s clipboard and finally perched on Bob’s back and put its head inside his open rucksack!

The only proper seaside plant found in flower was Sea Mayweed Tripleurospermum maritimum, several plants of which were flowering amongst the rock piling along the shore edge. Here we also found Greater Periwinkle Vinca major, with minutely hairy edges to the leaves and calyx teeth, and Smooth Hawk’s-beard Crepis capillaris which initially puzzled us as it had such fleshy leaves, presumably a result of the saline influence. Amongst the rocks were also Red Dead-nettle Lamium purpureum, Common Field-speedwell Veronica persica, Common Ragwort Jacobaea vulgaris, Yarrow Achillea millefolium and Smooth Sowthistle Sonchus oleraceus. Two garden plants had made their escape beyond the garden fence and into the rocks: Snow-in-summer Cerastium tomentosum and Aubretia Aubrieta deltoides.

Walking back through the caravan park, we noted the abundance of Crassula tillaea, green in colour now (although dark red earlier in the year) and easily overlooked in the short sward. It is well-named ‘Mossy Stonecrop’ as it looks so very like a moss at first glance. The only addition to our list of plants in flower here was a well-developed head of Cock’s-foot Dactylis glomerata showing anthers.

Returning to the main street, we had some time to spare before our allotted three hours were up and we searched the concrete frontages of the cafes and bars, adding Procumbent Pearlwort Sagina procumbens and Wavy Bitter-cress Cardamine flexuosa. Lastly there was a flowering Fumitory spotted by Sue. This last plant proved tricky to key out and yesterday evening I sent some detailed photos (kindly taken for me by Ken) to the BSBI referee Tim Rich. Tim confirmed it to be Purple Ramping-fumitory Fumaria purpurea, a nationally-scarce species and one which is rare in VC73 with only four recent records. This was an unusually pale specimen, possibly because of the time of year. On checking the database, I discovered that F. purpurea was recorded in the same monad by David in 2009, so this record provides an extremely useful update.

Alongside the search for flowering plants, David and Val kept a list of all species that we came across during the morning, an impressive total of nearly 90 species for the monad.

Our total of flowering plants for the New Year Plant Hunt was 26 – which exceeded all our expectations! My thanks to everyone who came along and made it such a successful day. We wouldn’t have found all those plants without your top-class spotting skills.

Sarah White

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