More flowering novelties at Nedd
On 14th May 2020, I was visiting the croft of neighbours Anne and Grant Nicoll (NC1332), when my attention was drawn to a small blue-flowered creeping perennial at the edge of one of many flower and vegetable beds. It was a speedwell, with axillary racemes of flowers, opposite leaves and stems with hairs all round their circumference, which keyed out to wood speedwell Veronica Montana (photos 1-2).
This species of long-established woodland, scrub and hedgebanks is found throughout southern Britain, but thins out in the Highlands and does not appear in the Flora of Assynt (2002), or occur elsewhere in West Sutherland. It must have been introduced accidentally, possibly with garden plants from Innellan in Argyll, where Anne’s late parents, Gordon and Marjorie Roberts, lived when they were not staying in their rebuilt croft house in Nedd.
Three weeks later, on 3rd June, the Macpherson family at Nedd Lodge sent me a phone image of an upright purple-flowered perennial they had noticed outside the wall of their old vegetable and fruit garden not far away (NC1331). Its long-stalked flowers were over 4cm in diameter and bore five similar kidney-shaped anthers mounted transversely on filaments clothed with violet hairs. This very distinctive arrangement took me to the mulleins Verbascum species, of which purple mullein V. phoeniceum is the only one with other than yellow flowers (photos 3-4).
Purple mullein is a native of south-east Europe which is grown in gardens (but not this one) and occurs as an escape on tips and waste ground and as a bird-seed alien. The NBN Atlas shows only four records for Scotland, the nearest of which is at Lossiemouth in Moray (NJ26). I cannot begin to guess how it reached, and so became a flowering novelty in, Nedd.
Ian M. Evans (words and photos)