Wednesday, 24 June 2015

A Croft Flora

Continuing the listing process I have been compiling a flora (vascular plants) of the croft, stretching the definition to include the garden, a bit of the road verge at the top of the garden which contains moonwort and field gentian, and the shore.  I have not included the common grazings which in any case have a limited flora, the dullest of acid grasslands.   The croft crosses a monad (1 square kilometre) boundary, NG5728 and NG5729.   I downloaded a list of records for both squares from the BSBI database, which although probably not as comprehensive as the records maintained by the BSBI vice-county recorder Stephen Bungard, gave me a starting point.   As expected NG5729 had few records, because it is only the north of the croft and a chunk of Loch Ainort.

So far I have noted around 140 plants, most found in both squares but some in only one.  I need to make some confirmations of the ferns, willows and add perhaps to the grasses but the list is just about complete.   The final step will be to add dates to each observation which means trawling through 7 years of photographs because at one time or another almost every plant has been photographed.  A few of the common plants in flower now:

Heath Milkwort

Curled Dock

While compiling the list I  looked back at some of the orchid hybrids.  Over the years we have had numerous marsh orchid (dactylorhiza) hybrids, the commonest being D. x formosa (heath spotted x northern marsh) with the occasional D. x carnea (heath spotted x early marsh).   The most exciting though because they are uncommon has been D. maculata x G. borealis (heath spotted x heath fragrant).   Stace (New Flora of the British Isles 3rd edition) does not give a binomial for this combination.   For the last two years there were three plants, and the first of these was well on the way to flowering again this year until a roe deer (the likely agent of destruction) nipped the bud off cleanly.

Roe Deer in the Kale Yard

Hybrids can be difficult to confidently attribute to the parent plants.   In the case of D. maculata x G. borealis I am fairly certain however;  the plant is scented, the labellum is spotted but otherwise looks like that of a fragrant orchid.   The leaves are keeled but not as narrow as those of fragrant orchids.   Two of last years plants had unspotted leaves but one had spotted leaves, which rules out D. incarnata (early marsh) as one of the parents, and there is no hint of early marsh in the flower shape.   The spur is intermediate - broader than a fragrant spur but longer than that of a heath spotted orchid.   And the plants are big and impressive!

Hybrid between Heath Spotted Orchid and Heath Fragrant Orchid:

For comparison, Heath fragrant orchid and Heath spotted orchid:

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