Nature Notes from Argyll
(and occasionally other places)

Mon 7 Jul 2008 Ellenabeich, Seil

Verbascum thapsus

Great Mullein is not a common sight in Argyll so I thought I'd make the most of it...

Verbascum thapsus   Verbascum thapsus

Mulleins are unusual among the Figwort family in having 5 stamens rather than 4, and in this species 3 of the stamens are hairy and 2 are smooth.  The furry leaves extend down the stem as broad wings

Rock near Ellenabeich, Seil

My fascination for geology is matched only by my ignorance of it.  This rock is made up of four types.  The top layer is dark grey (mostly obscured by the black lichen Verrucaria maura).  Then comes a broad pink band and below it is a small buff-coloured area.  These are mainly left alone by the lichen.  Cutting through them all is a dark brown dyke, with yellow and white lichens on its topside.

Rock near Ellenabeich, Seil   Rock near Ellenabeich, Seil

The boundary between the grey and the pink (black bits on the grey are the lichen, as mentioned) and a close-up of the grey, showing it to be a conglomerate, made up of tiny stones of different shapes and colours.  The periwinkles look as if they are part of the conglomerate but they're just anchoring themselves in crannies in its rough surface.

Rock near Ellenabeich, Seil   Rock near Ellenabeich, Seil

I found the pink stuff incredibly beautiful and the markings in it as mysterious as the hieroglyphics of a forgotten race.  It was almost the colour of certain kinds of floor tiles or earthenware pottery, but slightly pinker.  No point in trying to capture the colour exactly alas, given the vagaries of monitor display.  It has a soft look and is in layers like slate.  In places it has whitish streaks in it, which are often split along the middle.  The apparent dark grey between the white lines is simply the white in shadow!  The greyish patches on the pink are the Verrucaria trying to get a foothold.

Rock near Ellenabeich, Seil   Rock near Ellenabeich, Seil

The buff layer below the pink.  It's fissured with big rifts and minor scratches, and its edges are rather rounded.  The small pic shows mysterious scratches in it like birds' footprints.

Rock near Ellenabeich, Seil   Rock near Ellenabeich, Seil

More mystic writing: grey lines in the buff stuff.  The close-up shows that a crack runs along the middle of all the grey lines.  I can't imagine what sort of process would cause this, given that the grey lines themselves taper out into ordinary buff rock without a crack.  The pictures are taken looking directly down onto the horizontal rock.

Dolerite dyke   Galium verum

The dark brown dyke is smooth but with many cracks, and often chippings have fallen out from the crack edges.  Where chipped it looks slaty but not elsewhere.  I think I'm safe in saying this is a dolerite dyke thrown out by the Mull volcano around 60 million years ago.

The cliffs, gullies and screes around this bay provide a niche for many plants.  This is Lady's Bedstraw in a rock crevice, with Buckshorn Plantain in the lower right.

Campanula rotundifolia   Daucus carota ssp carota

Harebell on a rock ledge, and Wild Carrot with Wood Sage behind it.  Other plants of interest were Lesser Meadow-rue, which is abundant on both screes and cliffs, Tall Fescue in scree, and Wood Sedge in a shady gully a long way from any woods.  Incredibly, Gromwell has been recorded from the bay in the past, but I didn't find it.

Also saw a lizard in the scree, which is ideal for them to bask on and retreat under, and a Whitethroat foraging among the bracken nearby, giving calls like the first two notes of its song, and also making an alarm call like a Mistle Thrush only harsher.

Raphanus maritimus   Raphanus maritimus

The slaty shore on the south side of Ellenabeich is dominated by the Sea Radish with its beaded pods.

Herniaria hirsuta   Herniaria hirsuta

Finally a new one for me, a tiny plant from the car park that turned out to be Hairy Rupturewort.  It's not native but surely has to get about without conscious human help, and is similar to the two rare native Ruptureworts.  The 5 white petals are so narrow that at first I took them to be stamens.  The 5 actual stamens lie along the green sepals, the petals between them.


All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer