Flowering plants are the most dominant, and familiar, group of terrestrial plants in Dumfries and Galloway. Just fewer than 2500 flowering plant taxa (species, subspecies, hybrids etc.) have been recorded in the region.
The richly varied coast of the Solway Firth hosts numerous habitats, each with a unique plant community. Coastal saltmarsh, or merse, hosts species such as Glasswort Salicornia europaea, Cord Grass Spartina alterniflora, Thrift Armeria maritima and grasses such as Red Fescue Festuca rubra. The coast has several areas of sand dune, the most important of which is at Torrs Warren. The dunes may accommodate typical species including Sea Rocket Cakile maritima, Marram Grass Ammophila arenaria and Sea Holly Eryngium maritimum whilst rarer residents include Lesser Twayblade Listera cordata and Coralroot Orchid Corallorhiza trifida. One of Dumfries and Galloway’s 118 Local Biodiversity Action Plan plant and fern species, Perennial Flax Linum perenne can be found in coastal grassland at Brighouse Bay. A nationally scarce species, the plant bears distinctive blue flowers during summer. Due to there only being one colony in the region, it is vulnerable to overgrazing and recreational pressure, such as camping. Around sea cliffs and slopes, such as those found at the Mull of Galloway, there are a number of rare plant species, including Rock Samphire Crithmum maritimum and Rock Sea-lavender Limonium britannicum. Sticky Catchfly Lychnis viscaria, a local priority species, can be found on the coastal cliffs of the Kirkcudbrightshire coast. The plant has red flowers in loosely spiralled clusters on tall flowering stems, with long, lance-shaped leaves.
Grasslands and agricultural land supports many interesting flowering plants, diversity often being dictated by the amount of agricultural improvement having taken place and the underlying geology. Acid grassland hosts species such as Mountain Pansy Viola lutea and Whorled Caraway Carum verticillatum, a member of the carrot family which is widely distributed in Dumfries and Galloway though relatively scarce elsewhere in the UK. Globeflower Trollius europaeus, another local priority species, can be found scattered around the region on damp unimproved neutral grassland and wetland habitats. It is a showy perennial species, flowering from May to August, having a large, almost spherical, yellow flower. Common Rock-rose Helianthemum nummularium is found in pockets of calcareous grassland.
The upland areas of Dumfries and Galloway have plant species that prefer a colder climate. Purple Saxifrage Saxifraga oppositifolia, a local priority species, can be found in the montane habitats of the Galloway and Moffat Hills. It is a mountain plant with tiny blue-green leaves, producing a mass of cup-shaped purple flowers in the spring. Each leaf secretes lime from a small depression near the tip, which looks like a tiny dot. Other species that can be seen in montane habitat include Downy Willow Salix lapponum, Alpine Cinquefoil Poteneilla crantzii, Alpine Mouse-ear Cerastium aplinum and Oblong Woodsia Woodsia ilvensis.
Woodland habitats can be rich and varied, supporting many associated plant and animal species. Although a large proportion of the region’s wooded habitats are dominated by coniferous plantations, there are still many pockets of native woodland supporting characteristic flora. Native oak woodlands, such as that at Wood of Cree and Glentrool are amongst the richest in diversity, dominated by Sessile Oak Quercus petraea interspersed with Silver Birch Betula pendula, Downy Birch Betula pubescens and scattered Rowan Sorbus aucuparia. During the spring, the woodland floor can be covered in Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta. Plants such as Honeysuckle Lonicera periclymenum, Wood Sorrel Oxalis acetosella and, in richer soil, Pignut Conopodium majus thrive. There are many areas of long-established broad-leaved woodland of planted origin which include other tree species such as Beech Fagus sylvatica and Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus. The forest floor may still provide spectacular displays of Wild Garlic Allium ursinum, Primrose Primula vulgaris and Snowdrop Galanthus nivalis in spring. Elsewhere there are patches of scrubby woodland dominated by Juniper Juniperus communis of which the National Nature Reserve at Tynron is the best example.
For more information:
Galloway and the Borders by Derek Radcliffe (excellent background on the plants and corresponding habitats in the region).
SUP is registered in Scotland as a company limited by guarantee with charitable status. Registered address: The Southern Uplands Partnership, Studio 2, Lindean Mill, Galashiels, TD1 3PE. Company No. SC200827 / Charity No. SCO29475