A rare assortment of weeds and vagrants

October 12th 2018

Just to the north of the Achmelvich road junction, at Achadhantuir (NC082248), there is an area of hard-standing created when the local water mains were being replaced in 2017.  On 2nd September 2018 I was driving from Achmelvich to Clachtoll with visiting naturalists Adrian and Barbara Sumner (of whom more elsewhere). We pulled over to see if debris at the edge harboured any interesting molluscs. There were a few, but my attention was drawn to a small recently-tipped heap of rocks and soil, which had sprouted a colourful collection of plants.

In an area of a few square metres there were some 14 species, a mixture of ‘common weeds’ and other species that appear to occur in Assynt only as occasional introductions.  The ‘weeds’ comprised: shepherd’s purse Capsella bursa-pastoris, hairy bittercress Cardamine hirsuta, red-leg Persicaria maculosa, groundsel Senecio vulgaris, prickly sow-thistle Sonchus asper and colt’s-foot Tussilago farfara.  With the decline in cultivation hereabouts, many of these are quite limited in their distribution.

However it was the others that caught my eye and are listed below:

orache Atriplex sp. (difficult to identify)

fat hen Chenopodium album (first record this century; found at Achmelvich and

Clachtoll in the 1990s)

black bindweed Fallopia convolvulus (first record this century; found at

Clachtoll in the 1950s and Unapool in the 1990s)

common fumitory Fumaria officinalis ssp. wirtgenii (second record this century

of the species, first ever of this sub-species)

sticky groundsel Senecio viscosus (second record this century; found previously at

Clachtoll)

hedge mustard Sisymbrium officinale (third record this century; found previously

beside car-parks at Drumbeg and Achmelvich)

long-headed poppy Papaver dubium (first record this century; found at Lochinver

in 1996)

knotgrass Polygonum aviculare s.s. (first record ever; our common knotweed is P. arenastrum).

Most of these are archaeophytes, plants associated with human activity that are thought to have occurred in the wild in the British Isles since before AD1500.  As may be seen, there are few recent local records of any of them.  It seems likely that this tipped material is from a local source, since the volume is small, but I have no idea where.  This assemblage may not be long-lasting, since it is being grazed back, but it is worth putting on record, if only to give some idea of how plants are accidentally moved around the Assynt landscape.

Ian M. Evans

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