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u3a Botany Group - 2 July, 2024 - Hillside, Muckle Billia Fiold

by Ian Robertson - 11:26 on 09 July 2024

Our U3A Botany Group meeting on July 2nd 2024, took place at the top of the Hillside Road (B9057), between Dounby and Evie. We had a good turnout of members (14 I think), despite the dreich conditions; low cloud, wetting drizzle and a chilly westerly breeze and a mere 11C on the thermometer. Disappointing weather for July. But, we’re a hardy group, and those of us who arrived from the Dounby side all commented upon the two fields we passed, awash with golden buttercups. We had the opportunity to have a look at two quite distinct habitats; the ditches and verges around the car park itself and the very wet, disused peat track leading SSE through wet heath,towards Muckle Billia Fiold.

We were surprised by the botanical richness in and around the car park. Some you certainly wouldn’t expect to see on the peat track like Hogweed, Stinging nettles, Creeping thistles and Alchemilla, resulting from human disturbance. Sea Plantain maybe surprised some given that we were at the top of a hill. Self heal, Fairy flax, Mouse-ear hawkweed and Bird’s foot trefoil all do well on thin, meagre soils. Butterworts and Cuckoo flowers were at the end of their flowering season while Slender St.John’s-wort, Arctic Eyebright (and, later, on the peat track, Bog Asphodel), were just beginning to show their charms. One group spent some time poking around trying to find the lower leaves of the lovely, delicate deep blue flowers of Milkworts; the opposite ones suggesting that these were Heath rather than Common ones. Lots of pairs of eyes found Twayblade, Heath speedwell, Meadow vetchling, Devil’s-bit scabious and Colt’s- foot leaves, Field horsetails, Red and White clovers and Marsh thistles.

Ragged Robin, Angelica, Northern Marsh Orchids, Crowberry, Ling and Bell Heather ( the latter coming in to flower), and Tormentil could be seen in both habitats, but the stars of the peat tracks belonged to the Sedges. Common Yellow Sedge with its pineapple shaped chunky fruits which loves to have wet feet, was abundant, as was Glaucous Sedge. Green-ribbed Sedge was easy to spot as it can reach 1m in height, while finding Carnation, Flea and Star Sedges required a bit of crawling around on hands and knees. Rushes too, like wet, water logged conditions, so we weren’t surprised to find Heath, Soft, Toad, Bulbous and Jointed Rushes. The track is good too for its Sphagnum mosses and water loving plants like Common and Marsh Louseworts and Lesser spearwort. And, but by no means least, what about the grasses, not everyone’s favourite to be sure, but some of us are trying to get our eye in with this difficult group. Viviparous fescue, Mat grass, Tufted-hair grass as well as Deer grass and Cotton grass, the last two not actually grasses at all, but sedges!! Ian R.

Ragged Robin




Marsh Ragwort

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