Spring squill at Achmelvich

May 18th 2017

This close-up, taken by David Haines at Achmelvich on 14th May 2017, portrays one of our rarest local wild flowers, spring squill Scilla verna. The flowers are about half an inch across, clustered at the top of short stems, with spreading ‘petals’ similar in colour to those of its relative the bluebell.

It was not recorded from Assynt until 1996, when Ingrid Ritchie brought it to our notice, although she had known about it for some 18 years. It grows in an area of well-grazed coastal grassland about 2m square, adjacent to a lily lochan (NC0625), and may have gone un-noticed there for centuries. Six years later, Elma Mackenzie of Ardroe drew our attention to a smaller stand near the shore at the western end of the Achmelvich camp-site (NC0524), where on 3rd June 2002 we found just one plant in flower.

Spring squill is commoner further north, occurring in cliff-top grassland at Oldshoremore and Durness and right along the north coast to Caithness. However to the south it is not again found on the mainland until near Fort William, although plentiful on the coasts of the Hebrides. It seems to appreciate the oceanic climate of the west and north.

Its ‘discovery’ in Assynt was a perfect example of the value of local knowledge, and it is good to see that it is still thriving.

Ian M. Evans

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