On 22nd September 2016 I was returning from a walk in warm autumn sunshine along the Drumbeg peat track. Just above a burn flowing into the eastern end of Loch Drumbeg (NC1232) I noticed a small deer-fenced enclosure containing a few tattie haulms. There was also a beguiling crop of ‘weeds’ which, on closer inspection, included several species now rarely encountered in Assynt.
I found just one plant of corn marigold Glebionis segetum, with a deep golden-yellow flower-head and glaucous leaves. This must once have been a common weed of cultivation on local crofts, but has only been noted four times during the last 30 years, in a tattie patch at Stoer, a garden at Achmelvich and small sowings of oats at Totag. It was recorded from the Drumbeg area (NC13) in the 1950s, but has not been seen there since.
There were several plants of wild pansy or heart’s-ease Viola tricolor ssp. tricolor, which has lovely flowers, with petals in two shades of violet, and white and yellow centres crossed by dark nectar guides. This is equally uncommon locally, recorded only at Lochinver, Achmore and, more recently, at the Little Assynt Tree Nursery, where it may have been introduced.
Other characteristic, but now scarce, weeds of cultivation included common hemp-nettle Galeopsis tetrahit s.s., corn spurrey Spergula arvensis and scentless mayweed Tripleurospermum inodorum. All seem to spring up from a long-buried seed-bank when this is exposed to the light.
I later confessed my trespass to the owner of the tattie patch, who is an old friend, and he told me that some 25 years ago he had the patch turned over by machinery, after which it did not yield much for several years. A couple of years ago, he tried again and planted tatties. Pressures on his time had prevented him from weeding the 2016 crop, for which I was very thankful, since the ‘weeds’ made my day.