Assynt flowers: Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

December 23rd 2017

The winding single-track road east of Clashnessie is scenic, but quite challenging for visiting motorists.  However, passengers may spot ravens around the ‘Clashnessie pinch’ (where the road squeezes past Creag an Fhithich, i.e. the crag of the ravens) and common sandpipers, in season, on the shores of Loch na Bruithaich.

There follows a stretch so straight that drivers have been known, briefly, to engage top gear.  Up the hill, towards Strathcroy (NC0731), roadside gneiss outcrops bear dense, trailing mats of a dark-green leathery-leaved plant, bearberry Arctostaphylos uva-ursi.  They may be safely inspected from some of the recently enlarged lay-bys.  This evergreen ericaceous shrub has pink bell-shaped flowers from April onwards and shiny red berries from September.  The berries are edible, but not usually plentiful.

Bearberry is patchily distributed across lowland Assynt (see attached distribution map from the Flora of Assynt), and sometimes luxuriant in gorges, where it is protected from grazing and burning.  It is also a component of the dwarf shrub heath vegetation found at over 1000ft (300m) on the broken quartzite pavements of the middle ground on hills such as Canisp.  Here it occurs in an important arctic-alpine community with rarer members of the same family, such as alpine bearberry Arctostaphylos alpinus and bog bilberry Vaccinium uliginosum, and also prostrate juniper Juniperus communis nana.

Ian Evans

 

Report a Sighting

Recent Sightings

Kittiwake

c100 adult and 1st-winter birds feeding off Clachtoll (DAH) (24/09)

Tufted Duck

two male birds on Loch Drumbeg (DAH) (22/09)

Merlin

single bird near Stoer Village Hall (DAH) (21/09)

UPDATE on colour-ringed Oystercatcher

we have heard back from the Icelandic Wader Group regarding the colour-ringed Oystercatcher spotted at Bay of Culkein on Tuesday. It was ringed, as an adult, near its nest while it was territory-guarding on 19th May this year; the location was Eskifjorour which is on the east coast of Iceland. We will post a short article on the Field Club's website in the next few days regarding other sightings of colour-ringed birds recorded in Assynt (DAH) (20/09)

Pink-footed Goose

c225, in four skeins, heading east over Culkein Drumbeg (DAH). Oh boy, it's autumn! (20/09)

Wigeon

single male in eclipse plumage Loch Inver (DAH) (20/09)

Manx Shearwater

young bird rescued from a garden at Inchnadamph (Chris Rix/Andy Summers). The bird, which was well off-course, was successfully released at Stoer the next day. (18/09)

Oystercatcher

four birds resting on rocks Bay of Culkein (DAH). One of these birds, an adult, had a combination of coloured rings on its legs. The details have been submitted to the appropriate ringing scheme, which appears to be the International Wader Study Group, and we will report back once we hear from them. (18/09)

Map