Shepherd’s weather-glass – not much use in Assynt?

July 10th 2018

Plants ‘new’ to Assynt are usually few and far between, but we had at least three during spring 2018.  The apocryphal resemblance to London buses extends to the bright red colour of one of them.

Back in May, Norma Brown of Clachtoll mentioned, to my delight, that scarlet pimpernel Anagallis arvensis was a ‘weed’ in her garden (NC0427).  It had not been knowingly introduced by her, and had been present for several years.  The only previous records of this plant I can locate from anywhere in Sutherland are historic ones, at Rosehall in 1890 and Brora in 1893.

This winter-annual or short-lived perennial is a common arable or garden weed throughout England and Wales.  However, it is not usually found far from the coast in Scotland and is scarce in the Highlands, although it does occur on both the Inner and Outer Hebrides.

It has a wealth of vernacular names, many related either to the fact that the flowers open about 8 a.m and close about 3 p.m. or, like the Scottish one above, that they also close in humid or wet weather.  Be that it may, we were pleased to see a splendid spread of scarlet pimpernel in Norma’s garden on 5thJune, when these pictures were taken.

Two other ‘new’ species recently recorded locally are danish scurvygrass Cochlearia danica, found by Andy Amphlett on 13thMay opposite the Village Hall in Lochinver (NC0922) and tuberous comfrey Symphytum tuberosum, found by Gwen Richards and myself not far away on 5thJune, whilst we were searching for the scurvygrass.

The first was formerly restricted to coastal areas, but is now an abundant salt-tolerant ‘weed’ of road margins all over the British Isles, although less common in the north.  The second is a sturdy native perennial with pale yellow flowers, widespread in damp habitats in central and eastern Scotland and, as an alien, scattered in disturbed habitats elsewhere.  It is not very showy, but may have originated here at Lochinver as a garden throw-out.

Ian M. Evans

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