Rarities on a tattie patch at Clachtoll

December 4th 2021

Rarities on a tattie patch at Clachtoll

At the southern end of Clachtoll, just where the road turns east up the hill (NC042271), there is an area on which vegetables have been grown, from time to time, since at least the 1970s.  It is on Kenny John Matheson’s croft and earlier this year part was deer-fenced as a tattie patch (photo 1).  

Driving past in the summer, I noticed some white flowers, but didn’t have time to stop.  I asked permission to take a closer look, and did so on 31st October (photo 2).  The sky was darkening and rain arrived, so not the best conditions for photography.  

I gather that the crop wasn’t good, but I had a good haul amongst the ‘weeds’ that followed it, with examples of: shepherd’s purse Capsella bursa-pastoris; common mouse-ear Cerastium fontanum; smooth hawk’s-beard Crepis capillaris; sun spurge Euphorbia helioscopia (photo 3);  tall ramping-fumitory Fumaria bastardii (photos 4-6) dove’s-foot crane’s-bill Geranium molle; red dead-nettle Lamium purpureum; white campion Silene latifolia; charlock Sinapis arvensis (photo 7) and prickly sow-thistle Sonchus asper.  Some are plants of disturbed ground on light soils seldom seen in Assynt.

The Rarities

Tall ramping-fumitory was found at Achmelvich in the 1950s, but since then only at Clachtoll, where it occurred on two tattie patches on the Cooks’ croft in 1997 and on disturbed ground near the Split Rock in 2014.  Fumitories are dainty-flowered annuals that require careful identification.  This is one of only two species found in Assynt, and very scarce in the north of Scotland as a whole. 

White campion was last seen on the site of the tattie patch in 1993, and is rare in Assynt. 

Charlock is even rarer.  It is a member of the mustard family with yellow flowers and coarsely hairy leaves.  The fruits are distinctive, with a substantial conical beak.  It was found in cornfields at Elphin and Knockan in 1894, somewhere around Lochinver and Stoer in the 1950s, but not since then.  Although once a widespread weed of cultivation, it has become much scarcer since the advent of herbicides.  It has long-lived seeds, which germinate when exposed to light (like the famous poppies of WW1 battlefields).

Ian M. Evans

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