2022 County Report for West Ross & Cromarty

Duncan Donald

Four field meetings were held in VC 105; we’ve all been glad to get out more during 2022! In June, we tackled Sgurr Dubh, Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair’s eastern spur – botanically rich but under-recorded through remoteness. Re-finds here included Alchemilla wichurae (Rock Lady's-mantle), Draba norvegica (Rock Whitlowgrass) and Poa glauca (Glaucous Meadow-grass); Festuca rubra subsp. arctica (a Red Fescue variant) was a new VC record. Some of us took the opportunity to visit Dactylorhiza incarnata subsp. cruenta (the very rare Early Marsh-orchid variant) nearby.

In July, members of the Inverness Botany Group joined me to search Cnoc na Creige/Cnoc Gorm on the Kishorn limestone, extolled by Slack and Stirling in their 1960s’ papers but not recorded recently. In passing we refound James Merryweather’s Equisetum hyemale (Rough Horsetail) site. Dryas octopetala (Mountain Avens) remains abundant; we saw some fine bushes of Salix mysinites (Whortle-leaved Willow); Melica nutans (Mountain Melick) too, seemingly incongruous on an open hillside, not the dripping gorge-side more usually its habitat hereabouts. We also refound Viburnum opulus (Guelder-rose) in the Allt na Criche gorge.

In early August an invited group met to survey the National Trust for Scotland’s Torridon estate, including a truly memorable day on Liathach: not just spectacular scenery, but (re-)finds of many significant plants – most notably Saxifraga cespitosa (Tufted Saxifrage); Saxifraga rivularis (Highland Saxifrage) for the first time since 1978; Cherleria sedoides (Cyphel) as a new record; Luzula arcuata (Curved Woodrush); and quite a lot of Poa flexuosa (Wavy Meadow-grass).

My second BSBI excursion of 2022 was around Loch Maree. On another memorable day, we stepped back in time on the ethereal Loch Maree Islands – with pristine pine forest, abundant Aristavena setacea (Bog Hair-grass) and Lycopodiella inundata (Marsh Clubmoss), and not only the first sighting of Elatine hexandra (Six-stamened Waterwort) since 2001 but, growing beside it, Lythrum portula (Water-purslane), a new VC record. Luke Gaskell deserves special mention for resurveying most of the local sites for Sorbus rupicola (Rock Whitebeam). On the last day, joined by members of the British Pteridological Society we tried to relocate Dryopteris pseudodisjuncta (a Scaly Male-fern) at one of its initial [1986] British sites; sadly this proved elusive, though it has been refound near Stromeferry. Even so, finds included Dryopteris affinis subsp. paleaeceolobata (Narrow Scaly Male-fern) and Bracken variant Pteridium aquilinum subsp. fulvum [a new VC record]; and sites were visited for Rhynchospora fusca (Brown Beak-sedge) and Asplenium septentrionale (Forked Spleenwort).

I must also thank Andy Amphlett for conscientiously surveying multiple Cotula alpina (Alpine Buttonweed) sites across Coigach, and Nic Bullivant and James Merryweather for reporting locally rare Carex distans (Distant Sedge) and Juncus maritimus (Sea Rush) from the Plock of Kyle. However, this year’s ‘palm’ must undoubtedly go to Gus Routledge for finding a new site for Corallorhiza trifida (Coral-root Orchid), first/last reported from West Ross by Lightfoot and Pennant in 1772!

Luzula arcuata (Curved Wood-rush)

Draba norvegica (Rock Whitlowgrass)

Saxifraga rivularis (Highland Saxifrage)