Sunday, 19 February 2017

Botanising in Scotland Part 5: Ben Lawers

No botany trip to Scotland would be complete without a visit to the botanists' paradise that is Ben Lawers. I'm really not very good with hills (let alone mountains) due to my ongoing health problem but there were plants up there I wanted to see badly, very badly!

View from the start of the walk.
 The mountain in the centre is Beinn Ghlas and Ben Lawers is beyond it and not yet visible. 

This is about two hours into the climb and I'd already had enough. It's about halfway, but still not at the summit of Beinn Ghlas. It was only going to get steeper from here, we foolishly took the path directly up Beinn Ghlas not realising there was a longer, but more gently climbing route around the shoulder of the mountain. It was only the thought of what I might see at the top that kept me going!

Looking back at the summit of Beinn Ghlas. We'd been walking for three and a half hours now and our destination was in sight.

Facing the other direction and there they are, the crags of Ben Lawers! I actually had a spring in my step again now. A small downhill section to look forward to at last. There were also some plants to see here on the ridge between Beinn Ghlas and Ben Lawers.

Dwarf Willow - Salix herbacea

   This is one of the smallest woody plants in the world, you can see just how small by the rabbit droppings in the foreground. 

Dwarf Cudweed - Gnaphalium supinum 

Although you can't see in this photo these grassy ledges are awash with colours from mountain flowers and one of the most striking is .... 

Alpine Forget-me-not - Myostois alpestris 

The ledges are just covered in these beautiful flowers which are the most amazing bright blue...except when they are pink!

The large flowered and exceptionally hairy Alpine Mouse-ear

Alpine Mouse-ear - Cerastium alpinum

Alpine Meadow-grass - Poa alpina 

This species is viviparous, meaning just formed seeds germinate on the mother plant giving a very distinctive appearance.

 Roseroot - Sedum rosea

Net-leaved Willow - Salix reticulata

Mountain Speedwell - Verronica serpyllifolia ssp. humifusa

This orange 'stuff' was a puzzle. Moss? Lichen? Fungus? Actually it turns out to be an algae called 
Trentepohlia aurea. 

Hoary Whitlowgrass - Draba incana

 This is the flower that the thought of seeing kept me going on the long hard climb up.
It's Alpine Gentian (or Snow Gentian) very small, very blue and very beautiful. We were amazed at how may there were, we counted a good fifty plants and didn't really cover a lot of ground as we still had the summit to tackle, so our time here was shorter than we'd have liked. I was also hoping to see Rock Speedwell and Alpine Fleabane in this area but unfortunately we couldn't find either of these. Good excuse for another visit though and I was more than happy with seeing the Alpine Gentian.

Alpine Gentian - Gentiana nivalis

To give you an idea of size I gave it the 'Polo Mint Treatment'.

There were more rare plants to look for on the summit and so we made the final ascent which took another grueling half hour.

View back from just below the summit.

Moss Campion - Silene acaulis

Not looking at its best having all but 'gone over' and the same can be said for...

Mossy Saxifrage - Saxifraga hypnoides

Starry Saxifrage - Saxifraga stellaris

Mossy Cyphel - Minuartia sedoides

Rock Whitlowgrass - Draba norvegica

Unfortunately we were too late for this and as you can see it is in seed. Still great to find though.

Alpine Pearlwort - Sagina saginoides

Alpine Saxifrage - Saxifraga nivalis

Drooping Saxifrage - Saxifraga cernua

This very rare plant rarely flowers, when it does it has one large flower at the top of the plant, more usually it reproduces by bulbils as seen here.

Mountain Saffron - Solorina crocea 

A very eye-catching lichen growing around the summit. 

I'm on top of a mountain... Never thought it would happen! 

Looking back to Ben Lawers from pathway down the Shepherd's Track 
(the way we should have ascended)

The Shepherd's Path, complete with sheep, looking toward the way back, just one and a half hours walking to go.

We arrived back at the car at 7.30 having set of at 8.30 in the morning. 
Eleven hours of agony and ecstasy! Worth every excruciating step!

Friday, 10 February 2017

Botanising in Scotland Part 4: The Cairnwell and Corrie Fee

A few plants, some very rare, from the mountain sites of The Cairnwell and Corrie Fee, Glen Clova.

The Cairnwell

Alpine Lady's-mantle - Alchemilla alpina

Purple Saxifrage - Saxifraga oppositifolia

Only a single flower but great to see as Purple Saxifrage usually flowers in the early spring. 

Chickweed Wintergreen - Trientalis europaea 

 This is the very rare Mountain Sandwort which only grows in a few locations in the Scottish mountains The Cairnwell being one of them. Unfortunately the overcast weather conditions meant that the flowers were partially closed.

Mountain Sandwort - Minuartia rubella

Melancholy Thistle - Cirsium heterophyllum

Growing luxuriantly along a fenced off area of verge on the A93 at Glenshee.

Corrie Fee

Corrie Fee is a NNR at the head of Glen Clova on the Eastern edge of the Cairngorms National Park. It is well known for its botanical riches including several nationally very rare plants and we managed to see a couple of these.

Harebell - Campanula rotundifolia
 Not rare but always nice to photograph!

Grass of Parnassus - Parnassia palustris.
Simply stunning and one of my all time favorite wildflowers. 

We had to climb high up onto the sides of the corrie in order to find the best plants.

Mountain Sorrel -  Oxyria digyna

Oblong Woodsia - Woodsia ilvensis

 This is Yellow Oxytropis a very rare and very beautiful plant only found in three locations in Scotland. A nice Eyebright competing for the limelight too. Again we were thrilled to find this actually in flower as it normally flowers much earlier than the end of July. There were about three in flower in total the others being high up on cliffs.

Yellow Oxytropis - Oxytropis campestris 

Just after we'd found and photographed the Oxytropis a shower passed through and treated us to a  lovely rainbow..

The rain also seemed to bring out lots of frogs into the grassland, they were the most brightly coloured Common Frogs that we'd ever seen yellowish with bold black markings. And on the walk back to the car park we noticed this unusual looking Dock, which turns out to be ...

Northern Dock - Rumex longifolius