This attractive plant, seen here in close-up, was not known to occur in Assynt until 31st July 2004, when Mark Snowdon found a single individual in the disused quarry on the old road west of Little Assynt (NC148248). He was attending a plant identification course run by Pat, and it provided the highlight of the day. The five-petalled flowers, when open, are about 1cm across and are clustered at the tops of upright stems. I visited the site on 31st August this year and counted nearly 250 plants in sparsely vegetated sandy and rocky areas not far from the entrance to the quarry, so it is doing very well.
Common centaury Centaurium erythraea is an uncommon plant in northern Scotland. The Atlas (2002) shows no records from 10km squares on the west coast north of the Kyle of Lochalsh. In the east, there are only a small scatter around Loch Fleet, one on the Beauly Firth and several around Forres. However, it is now known to occur on a roadside verge near Ardmair, north of Ullapool (NH1097), and Gwen Richards and I recently found a single plant on the ferry slip at Keoldale (NC3766) and a probable (not flowering) behind the house at Inshore (NC3269), so it is on the move. It is a biennial and may only be conspicuous in alternate years in newly colonised areas.
Photograph by David Haines, comments by Ian Evans