Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Tue 2 Nov 2004 (Part 1)
Now that November's here I thought I'd see how many different species of plants I could find that were still in flower. Total for the day was 34. I'll continue this until the end of the year and see how many I can get altogether in Nov-Dec. Only native plants count. The terrain surveyed today included forestry track, riverside track with scrub, and seashore. The day was dry and mild with spells of sunshine, but windy.
Meadow Buttercup, on the left, is still flowering quite prolifically, but I only found one flower of the equally common Creeping Buttercup, shown on the right with its creeping stem. (The leaves below the flower are Tormentil)
Two flowering Umbellifers were found. Angelica, left, was only flowering on this regrowth from a cut verge, but there were some fine Hogweed plants with one or more umbels in full bloom. All Hogweeds seen were attracting a lot of insects, including the one on the right in a shady ditch.
Devilsbit Scabious and Knapweed go together as two of the latest plants in the year to start flowering, but even so they are almost over now. The few Scabious flowers I found had rather washed-out colours, a common trait of flowers at this time of year which we'll see in other species later on. Knapweed had its normal purple colour but was only flowering on side-shoots from stems whose main flowers had long gone over.
Ragwort (left) is another plant flowering profusely on side-shoots at present. Unlike with Knapweed and most other species, the new flush of Ragwort flowers are generally at the same level as the old dead ones. These flowers, like those of Hogweed, are a valuable resource for late season insects and the birds that feed on them. There are also late side-shoot flowers on Ox-eye Daisy (right), straggly but showy in the breezy sunlight.
Like a miniature Ox-eye is the humble Daisy, brightening the edges of the forestry track. It is one of the few plants that flower all year. Other low-growing plants still in flower are the purple Self-Heal and the green-flowered Lady's Mantle.
In the deep shade of the forest itself the only flower is that of the Wavy Bittercress, which lines the narrow dirt footpaths that wind between the trees with hardly a break in the canopy overhead. Back on the main track, there are Bramble bushes in places along its edges, with fruit in every stage from unripe through to decay, and frequently with a spray of flowers like this one.
Grasses only count for this survey if they have stamens showing. You'll have to take my word for it with the Yorkshire Fog on the left, another forestry track edge plant, whose autumn inflorescence is paler than its summer ones (though this may also be affected by the semi-shade situation). With the Annual Meadow-grass at a forestry gate entrance, the proof is in the lower picture. This is another plant that, like the Daisy, flowers all year round. These were the only two grass species found in flower on today's excursion.
Another washed-out flower was this Creeping Thistle, with some of the florets almost white. This was the only one found with flowers, which were not on a side-shoot but were the main terminal inflorescence. However the stem was much shorter than normal and the leaves were already yellowing. The Marsh Thistle on the right had several flowerheads but all of them smaller than normal. This plant too appeared to be a full fresh stem from the ground, but quite likely both these thistles were regrowth due to trampling or breaking off at ground level earlier in the year.
On to Part 2
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer