Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Tue 2 Nov 2004 (Part 2) (back to Part 1)
More pictures from the forestry trackside. The yellow one is Wood Avens, one flower only seen. In the middle is Herb Robert which is generally still in flower, and finally a low side-shoot of Meadowsweet. Elsewhere great stands of Meadowsweet had no flowers at all, but as with so many species the trackside conditions had encouraged this one to flower.
Yarrow is still very much in its flowering season, but that of Wood Sage is almost at an end.
All three kinds of heather have occasional flowers on the moors at this time of year, but along the tracksides the proportion of live flowers to dead ones was much higher. I was expecting to have to wait until my first November moorland outing to get these three species into the survey, but of course forestry plantations were moorland originally and these plants are survivors. From left to right, Heather, Bell Heather and Cross-leaved Heath, the latter shown from the back for a change.
Most of the remaining pictures were taken out in the open, by the shores of the Varagill river and estuary. Here are Common Catsear and Autumn Hawkbit, both flowering plentifully at the moment. The grey underside of the Catsear florets distinguishes it from the Hawkbit.
Another two yellow flowers of the Daisy family. Few-leaved Hawkweed on the left, the only specimen seen. On the right, Prickly Sow-thistle, which is common with flowers at present though mostly on side shoots with plenty of dead stuff on the plant. The flowers are not such a rich yellow as the previous three species.
Ragged Robin is also flowering abundantly; for me this picture captures the end of a November day where summer and winter ebb and flow into each other like the salt and fresh water of the estuary. On the right is Sheep's Sorrel, with some open flowers, in a forestry parking space.
The only real seashore plants in flower were Sea Mayweed, which is still in season, and this totally unseasonal specimen of Thrift, alone among thousands long withered to oblivion.
Was just in time to catch the last flowers on this Ribwort Plantain, which makes the total species found in flower on the day 34. There are many more species around the place that can easily be found, and I hope to get time to record them soon before they disappear. Ones I was surprised not to get were Dandelion, Groundsel, Bush Vetch and Gorse. The first three are around, I just didn't happen to bump into them. Bumped into plenty of Gorse but though it was covered in buds there was not a single precocious one showing a dab of yellow.
The remaining two pictures show autumn leaves of Dog Violet turning a colour more usually associated with the flowers, and a splash of brilliance from the Orange Peel Fungus.
In general November flowers are most frequent in human-disturbed ground. This is to be expected where the plants have been cut or trampled earlier in the year and have had to start again, or where the ground itself has been dug or cleared during the year. But even in places where the last human disturbance was several years ago, there are far more flowers than in natural or semi-natural habitats. This may be because the disturbed areas became colonised by opportunist species which have evolved the ability to flower whenever they have the chance. But it does seem that even within a given species, you get more out-of-season flowers in ground that was disturbed some years back than in ground that has not been disturbed at all.
No habitat is completely natural, but using "natural" in a broad sense to mean that the soil itself has not been dug up or cleared, the "natural" habitat that has the most flowers at this time of year is, perhaps surprisingly, moorland. This despite it being the bleakest of habitats when winter really sets in. Most of the species found there are in today's list, as much of the ground covered was originally moorland, but there are a few more to be had if I can get up there before the frost takes a hand. Grazing may have the same effect on moorland plants as cutting or trampling on roadside ones, but the flowers are equally plentiful on ungrazed moorland.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer