Kirkcudbrightshire Botany Group at Brighouse Bay, 17th May 2024

Those of us who arrived a little early took the opportunity first to check out the Perennial Flax Linum perenne in the dunes at the back of the beach. We had feared that it might not be in flower yet, but one mature plant was already in full flower and the leaves of many more plants were evident in the sward. However, there is a serious problem with encroachment of scrub and bramble and one wonders how long this plant will flourish without grazing, or at least some clearance of the scrub. It is nationally scarce, and rare in Kirkcudbrightshire, with only this single locality.

We also noted the leaves of Lesser Meadow-rue Thalictrum minus, not yet in flower, but growing in abundance in the dune grassland.

Along the strandline at the top of the beach were many groups of seedlings of the annual plants Frosted Orache Atriplex laciniata and Sea Rocket Cakile maritima. There were also three substantial plants of Sea-holly Eryngium maritimum and abundant Sea Sandwort Honckenya peploides.

We then reassembled in the car park to start the main recording of the day. The aim was to record the coastal grassland at Dunrod Point and beyond (NX6244) and to achieve this it was necessary to try to walk reasonably briskly through the woodland in order to have enough time at Dunrod Point. We followed the path until the woodland gave way to a broad strip of rather rank semi-natural grassland between the golf course and the shore. This was dominated by Red Fescue Festuca rubra but it contained rocky outcrops and knolls with finer turf and a richer mix of plant species. In the Festuca turf, Spring Squill Scilla verna was still in flower, and plentiful, though perhaps not as abundant as David remembered from previous visits, so the rank growth might be to blame for this. Possibly it has been kept grazed down by rabbits in the past.

Other species here were Common Scurvygrass Cochlearia officinalis, Dyer’s Greenweed Genista tinctoria, Sea Campion Silene uniflora and Thrift Armeria maritima.

Common Rock-rose Helianthemum nummularium was abundant on the rocky knolls and in full flower. Amongst it was Wild Thyme Thymus drucei, Early Hair-grass Aira praecox, Crested Hair-grass Koeleria macrantha, Sea Mouse-ear Cerastium diffusum and Kidney Vetch Anthyllis vulneraria. Distant Sedge Carex distans was in damper hollows.

We had already noticed some leaves of the Purple Milk-vetch Astragalus danicus, but Nic, who had walked on ahead, returned with the excellent news that he had found a single head in full flower. It was on a rocky headland surrounded by lots more leaves and flower buds, so it was evident that the Astragalus is still thriving in the thin soils on the rocky outcrops.

We continued to work our way gradually south and west, adding species as we walked. First, we came across a number of spikes of Early-purple Orchid Orchis mascula, then a flush following a cleft in the rocks with Black Bog-rush Schoenus nigricans and Common Butterwort Pinguicula vulgaris, Bog Pimpernel Lysimachia tenella and the sedges Common Yellow-sedge Carex demissa and Common Sedge C. nigra. In another cleft there were a good number of plants of Sea Spleenwort Asplenium marinum. We also began to see Heather Calluna vulgaris and Bell Heather Erica cinerea in the sward on the knolls, the vegetation now characteristic of a maritime heath. It seemed likely that, by walking even further west, we might pick up additional interesting species. But this would have to wait until the next visit as time wasn’t on our side and we had to return along the cliff top.

This is a wonderful stretch of coast with many special plants and it was a very enjoyable day. My thanks to David for suggesting that we should include it in the programme, and to everyone who came along for their help recording the plants, and for their company.

Total of 118 species recorded in NX6244; 95 species in NX6345.

Sarah White

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