2023 County Report for West Ross & Cromarty

Duncan Donald

April saw the National Trust for Scotland’s Inverewe estate “Bioblitz” [far less destructive than its name implies!]. Perhaps unsurprisingly the new VC records were ‘escapes’ from Inverewe Garden: Arisarum proboscideum (Mousetailplant), and well-established Rhododendron macabeanum (McCabe’s Rhododendron) at some distance from the Garden itself, apparently self-seeded.

In June, members of the Inverness Botany Group joined me on a chartered boat-trip to two of the Summer Isles. Tanera Beg held the largest colony of Dryopteris aemula (Hay-scented Fern) I’ve yet seen, but Asplenium marinum (Sea Spleenwort) on an ‘inland’ cliff hints at why these aren’t called the Winter Isles …! Our main objective was Isle Ristol, where we added Avenula pubescens (Downy Oat-grass), Carex distans (Distant Sedge), Dactylorhiza traunsteinerioides (Narrow-leaved Marsh-orchid), Koeleria macrantha (Crested Hair-grass) and Salicornia europaea agg. (Glasswort) to the Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve’s plant-list.

The BSBI Field Meeting I ran in July, reported more fully elsewhere, helped at last to get much of the northern Fannichs properly surveyed, insofar as the weather allowed. Highlights included new VC record Euphrasia × eurycarpa [E. frigida × E. ostenfeldii] (an Eyebright); new hectad records for Salix phylicifolia (Tea-leaved Willow), and Trichophorum cespitosum s.s. (Northern Deergrass) [well spotted, Simon Thomas!]; and new sites for Athyrium distentifolium (Alpine Lady-fern) and Carex saxatilis (Russet Sedge) in what seems to be their VC stronghold, as well as Salix lapponum (Downy Willow).

Later in July an invited group surveyed the Ben Damph estate (and adjacent hills), an area hitherto under-reported. New hectad records were made for Drosera × obovata [D. rotundifolia × D. anglica] (Obovate Sundew), Euphrasia frigida (Upland Eyebright), Salix phylicifolia, and Saxifraga hypnoides (Mossy Saxifrage); new sites found for Lycopodiella inundata (Marsh Clubmoss) and Poa glauca (Glaucous Meadow-grass); Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry) was unusually abundant in a couple of places.

Unable to be at Ben Damph, Marcus Yeo nevertheless contributed a large list of finds from around Lochcarron, including new VC records for Echinochloa crus-galli (Cockspur), Erigeron canadensis (Canadian Fleabane) and Galinsoga parviflora (Gallant Soldier) [to which Andy Amphlett later added Bistorta amplexicaulis (Red Bistort)], as well as the first reports from NG83 for Elymus caninus (Bearded Couch) and Salicornia europaea (Common Glasswort) since Druce’s in 1893! I must also thank Ro Scott for noting the continuing inexorable spread of Cotula alpina (Alpine Buttonweed) within Coigach; Jane Thomas and James Merryweather for a new VC record of Genista anglica (Petty Whin) [and from James a putative new site for Malus sylvestris (Crab Apple)]; Lynn Youngs for updating Sibbaldia procumbens (Sibbaldia) from Groban; and Peter Cunningham for a new hectad record for Zostera marina (Eelgrass).