Tarmac makes thyme!

July 19th 2017

Roadsides occupy only a small part of the landscape of Assynt, but they support a diversity of wild flowers out of all proportion to their total area, and can be very colourful. I was reminded of this recently, when driving along the B869 just east of Glenleraig. A vivid patch of rose-purple caught my eye and after pulling in a little further on I walked back to check it out. A discarded heap of tarmac had been colonised over many years by wild thyme Thymus polytrichus, which was in full flower.

This small perennial related to dead-nettles occurs throughout the parish, from the coast to high in the hills, in short vegetation on light soils, especially where these are base-enriched. It prefers sunny situations, where the flowers are often buzzing with insect pollinators. Roadsides are a favoured habitat, but tarmac seemed a curious choice, given the tar that binds it together. However, a closer inspection revealed that the rock component of the tarmac was crushed limestone.

Creeping around the wild thyme were the runners of mouse-ear hawkweed Pilosella officinarum, another typical plant of well-drained sunny situations. Hawkweeds are notoriously difficult to identify, but this is the exception, with solitary lemon-yellow flowers and leaves that are fringed with long hairs, hence its name, and white-felted beneath.

Ian M. Evans

 

 

Report a Sighting

Recent Sightings

Otter

single animal feeding off Culkein Stoer (DAH) (17/02)

Skylark

three birds on grazings, Culkein Stoer (DAH) (17/02)

Frog Spawn

around 12 clumps in roadside ditch near Pollachapuill, Culkein Drumbeg (DAH). The first record for the last four years: 2018 - 13 March; 2017 - 19 Feb; 2016 - 3 March; 2015 - 19 Feb. (16/02)

Wigeon

single female Oldany estuary (DAH) (16/02)

Grey Heron

seven birds Oldany estuary (DAH) (16/02)

Curlew

nine birds Oldany estuary (DAH) (16/02)

Toad

single animal Loch Culag (Fiona Carter) (15/02)

Song Thrush

single bird in full song at 7.30am, Nedd (Ian Evans) (13/02)

Map