2023 County Report for Orkney

John Crossley

For me it was a year for pursuing projects more than area recording. Three years ago I reported on the finding of Dactylorhiza incarnata subsp. cruenta (Leopard or Flecked Marsh-orchid) on the island of Hoy. In 2022 a visiting orchidologist year found D. francis-drucei (formerly traunsteinerioides) (Pugsley’s Marsh-orchid) in the same place, and doubt was then cast on the earlier identification D. incarnata subsp. cruenta.  The situation is now resolved: both species are there, with the bonus of Hammarbya paludosa (Bog Orchid). An exceptional place.

For several years I have been chasing up Carex maritima (Curved Sedge) at its older recorded sites. One of the last hold-outs was a single 1975 record on acidic sand dunes on the island of Eday. This year I found a single fruiting plant.

A similar quest for Primula scotica (Scottish Primrose) near Noup Head on the island of Westray was disappointing. In the 1970s and 1980s there were at least seven recorded sites in an area of about 1 sq km, with a total of many hundreds of plants. A group of us found just three plants at a single site. Heavy sheep grazing over many years and local land ‘improvements’ are likely to blame for the losses.

The only Salix mysinites (Whortle-leaved Willow), a single female plant, in Orkney has been known from a site on cliffs in Hoy for 150 years. This year I found another, also female, 30 m higher on the same cliff.

I helped to organise a bioblitz near Stromness. It was well attended and there were lots of nice plants to see, including Juniperus communis subsp. nana (Dwarf Juniper).

Ophioglossum azoricum (Small Adder’s-tongue)

Eday, HY5539, in damp acid grassland. A new site

Stachys arvensis (Field Woundwort)

Sandwick, HY2515, in a potato field. A rare species in the far north and a first for me in Orkney

Ambrosia artemisiifolia (Annual Ragweed)

New VC record, in South Ronaldsay, ND4493. Found beneath a pigeon loft, of birdseed origin

Lepidium virginicum (Least Pepperwort)

New VC record, in South Ronaldsay, ND4585