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U3A Botany Group - June 2019
by Phylida Wright - 19:25 on 13 June 2019
Seven of us met at the Broch of Gurness car park on a cold, windy and damp June afternoon. Not a very promising start, but as we turned the corner and walked along the cow parsley and butterbur lined road towards the Aeolianite site we were sheltered and the rest of the afternoon remained dry. Even before we entered the site, (through the gate which Trevor opened and Kate closed) we were aware of the abundance of cowslips dancing their bright heads. We did not find any oxlips but were not sure we would be able to identify them anyway, their difference perhaps too subtle for our amateur eyes. Thyme was just coming into flower as was lady's bedstraw and meadow vetchling. One often overlooks the beauty in the common daisy, but these could not be ignored, they were daring us to appreciate them both in bud, full flower and decline, the latter standing sentry like with green orbs surrounded by a maroon line. Birdsfoot-trefoil, white clover, mouse-eared chickweed, lesser trefoil, mouse-eared hawkweed, bulbous and meadow buttercups were also in abundance.
Peter found a lovely colony of autumn gentians (in bud) and we also noted kidney vetch, fairyflax, hogweed, dog lichen and ribwort plantain. Jenny's eagle eye spotted a twayblade low on the ground and we found one very small moonwort which provoked a dramatic over-reaction from Peter, (in contrast to his manner when shown a frog orchid!)
John had set us a task of finding a dune pansy. Peter had done his homework on this, and Jenny diligently used her eyepiece on several specimens. These provoked much discussion and photos were taken but no conclusion could be drawn other than they were beautiful.
We left this bountiful site making our way back to the car park, noting the shore and verge-based plants as we went. These included scurvy grass with it's now large, succulent leaves, meadow sweet, dandelion, red and white campion, primrose, prickly sow thistle, silverweed, angelica, forget-me-not, angelica, northern marsh orchids and spear thistle. The most discussed plant here was a bright yellow stand of .....what?.... Charlock seemed to be the most likely, our specimens had the required hairy stem, but the leaves, although seemingly the correct shape, were hairless. Jenny will do more research.
We had worked up a thirst after all this so went to Woodwick House for a lovely cuppa and scone in the conservatory sitting under the wisteria with a gorgeous view of the garden and tranquil sea beyond.
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