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U3A Botany Group - May 2019

by Rosey Whittles - 11:48 on 22 May 2019

First meeting of the season 21st May 2019 Durkadale above the Hundland Loch. Six of us attended. They were Peter, Phylida, Margaret, Jenny, Kate and Rosey.

After weeks of drought and a damp misty day previous, the Heavens decided to finally open on us. Undoubtedly the plants were refreshed and we were all grateful for the water in our gardens. As the rain persisted it became a mixed pleasure. 

Our original location was to have been the Hundland Loch but on previous investigation this turned out to be so dry and lacking in fresh vegetation we moved our venue up-stream. It seemed like a good move at the time. We met on a track outside the RSPB gate and made our way across a field to the plantation. It felt as if the vegetation was springing into life and growth even as we arrived. The dry, shrivelled, brown vegetation seemed to be replaced everywhere with fresh green growth. A herd of young cattle had stirred up the ground in the field. Plants seen at the roadside and on our way across to the Plantation included :-

marsh cinquefoil, ladies smock, marsh marigold, dandelion, buttercup, hard fern, meadowsweet not yet in flower, ribwort plantain, raspberry plants in a ditch and silverweed. There was also red clover, yellow rattle, sorrel, mouse eared chickweed and field pansy.

We made a tour of the plantation where all the trees planted, first in 1982 up to a more recent planting in 2005, are natives to Orkney. Jenny T was able to keep us right with tree identification. There were two types of willow- grey willow and tea-leaf willow in flower. The aspen has extensive root systems underground as they put out suckers to produce several young aspens. This ensures their preservation as they are all apparently genetic replicas of the original tree. There were downy birch trees which have little hairs on the leaves if you look under a hand microscope. An added bonus was finding two perfectly round wren's nests hanging in lower branches of birch trees- with such a perfect little entrance hole. We also found found evidence of smallish raptor - possibly kestrel - in a pellet we dissected. There were also several native roses and some quite tall and mature rowans probably dating back from 1982-3 planting.

The woodland is just above the Durkadale Burn which flows into Hundland on the south side of the loch. Beside the burn and an old stone bridge we found lush vegetation including  bog bean in flower, water mint, marsh thistle, cledonia cup lichen, primrose, dog violet on the banks. There was also flag iris, bog cotton, smooth rush, lousewort, heather (ling) and dog lichen which we noted on return. Despite the damp conditions there were many gratifying plants to discover. We were all decidedly wet by the end of our tour and beat a hasty retreat - some to Dounby for a warming cup of tea - but alas the Smithfield cafe closes at 3.00p.m! Two of us were grateful to Phylida for a cuppa in Kirkwall on our longer journey back to South Ronaldsay. R.W. 


  Intrepid explorers                                                  Ragwort & clover bursting to life


  Marsh thistle                                                         Bog bean in flower


  Ladies smock in smooth rush                                  Flag iris, bog bean, marsh marigold

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