Monday 18 July 2016

Plant hunting in the rain

Northern marsh orchid
Mull appeared out of the cloud and murk at lunchtime, for the first time since Friday. the rain has been continuous and heavy. Visitors come here to see wildlife, eagles and otters are top of their lists usually but eagles tend to hole up at home in this weather and sitting above the shore hoping for an otter isn't much fun. However down at your feet, at the roadside up to Ormsaigbeg there's a linear nature reserve in full flower.

Roadside verges in the lowlands tend to be dominated by vigorously growing grasses and cow parsley. these things respond to the fertilisers that drift out of the fields and can outcompete less vigorous species. High fertility results in low diversity as a rule.

Here our thin soils, high rainfall and very little fertiliser lead to high diversity and at this time of year among the plant life it is astounding and extremely colourful. You don't need binoculars or brilliant eyesight, plants move rather slowly.

I felt a bout of "cabin fever" coming on at lunchtime so set off up the hill in the rain, head down and walking slowly in plant hunting mode. Probably most exotic are the northern marsh orchids only inches from your wheels when you drive up the hill. Then there are all of those species that were common in the lowlands fifty years ago;  vetch, wild pea, harebell,thyme, bell heather, bugle, the list goes on.

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