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    Garnock Connections

    Connecting people and places within the Landscape

Bioblitz Blog: A Botanical Bonanza

 

Pignut flowers
Hawthorn flowers
Red Campion
Germander Speedwell
White Waterlily Leaves
 

 

Three weeks on from our Biodiversity Day Bioblitz, we can officially say it was a blooming success, with 132 flowering plant species recorded! These species made up over half our records, making the event a fantastic snapshot of the floral diversity in the Garnock Valley.

Read on for some of the Garnock Connection team's favourite finds, or click here for a visual tour. 

Pink Purslane (or, the Stewarton Flower)

Pink Purslane (or, the Stewarton Flower)

Pink purslane Claytonia sibirica was introduced to the UK from the United States several hundred years ago, when it was also known as miner's lettuce due to its earthy sweet beetroot-flavoured leaves. From its humble beginnings as a salad plant in 1768, it spread gently into the wild by 1838 and is now a common sight in south and west Scotland.  

Why we love it

Pink purslane in the Garnock Valley isn't actually pink - it's white! This is due to a unique genetic variant which has been present since at least 1855. The first written record is in the 1915 Annals of the Kilmarnock Glenfield Ramblers Society, which reports it growing for over 60 years around the Corsefield Burn. It's now replaced the pink form throughout Ayrshire and Renfrewshire, and is known colloquially as the 'Stewarton Flower'. 

Image The white form of pink purslane, Claytonia sibirica, by the Black Cart Water, Loch Semple. (Ros Parkes)

Broom

Broom

Scots broom Cytisus scoparia - or just broom - is a gorgeous yellow-flowered shrub which adorns our landscape with golden flowers between April and June. You might be forgiven for confusing it with gorse Ulex europaeus - the species look quite similar, grow in similar habitats and are both part of the pea family, Fabaceae (just like sweet and garden peas!). A quick look for spines will tell them apart - you'll need to watch your fingers with gorse, as it's very prickly, but broom is spine-free. 

Why we love it

Broom has everything - it looks lovely, smells like vanilla and doesn't even have spines. But our favourite thing about broom has to be its seed pods. When they first develop, they're a soft green and covered in silver hairs, but later in summer under the hot sun they dry out, turning black, then explode, firing seeds in all directions. The clatter of the pods rattling together in the wind and the pop of them opening makes a great percussive soundtrack to a summer stroll. 

Image A side view of broom Cytisus scoparia blossom, with the distinctive 'keel' (lower), 'wing' (side) and 'standard' (upper) petals of the pea family. (Miriam Lord)

Hawthorn

Hawthorn

The frothy blossoms of this lovely tree Craetegus monogyna appear in May and June and are a magnet for bees and hoverflies. The clouds of white or pinkish flowers on long-armed branches make it easy to see why Robert Burns described his love as 'spotless like the flow'ring thorn / With flow'rs so white and leaves so green' in his poem The Lass of Cessnock Banks - a compliment indeed! 

Why we love it

You can't beat a good hawthorn tree - as well as inspiration for poets, it also provides food and shelter for our wildlife. Insects love the blossoms, which are a great source of nectar and pollen, and the bright red berries are a feast for hungry thrushes like fieldfare and redwing which arrive from Scandinavia in the winter. Even woodmice and slow worms find shelter in the thorny thickets created by small trees.

Image Hawthorn tree Craetegus monogyna in blossom. (Miriam Lord)

Wild Pansy (for Love Potions)

Wild Pansy (for Love Potions)

Even if you've never seen a wild pansy Viola tricolor, you'll likely be familiar with their descendents, the cultivated pansy (viola x wittrockiana). Legend has it that, one moonlit night, Cupid loosed his arrow towards a beautiful young nun - but missed! Instead of enchanting the woman, the arrow fell on a dainty white-petalled flower, which was stained purple by the wound and absorbed the arrow's powers. The juice of the flower became a potent love potion - which explains the plethora of names for the wild pansy and its fey beauty, from heartsease and heart's delight to love-in-idleness and come-and-cuddle-me.

Why we love it

It's hard not to love wild pansies - they're extremely pretty and their heart-shaped faces brighten up short grassland on farmland pasture and even wastegrounds. We can't vouch for their effectiveness as a love potion, but there's just something about them which makes us smile!

Image The typical tricolour variation of Wild Pansy, with violet, pale purple and yellow petals. (Annette Meyer)

Cottongrass

Cottongrass

Cottongrass isn't really cotton and it's not really grass - it's named for its appearance rather than its taxonomy! All UK cottongrasses are actually sedges, including the two species we found in our Bioblitz, common (Eriophorum angustifolium) and hare's-tail (Eriphorum vaginatum). The fine, soft hairs which gave rise to the common name allow the seed - to which they are attached - to be lifted from the plant by the wind and dispersed far and wide. The fibres are too brittle to use like true cotton in textiles, but they were a vital component of Scottish medical kits during WW1, when they were used to dress soldiers' wounds.

Why we love it

Have you ever visited a bog in summer and found it transformed into a shimmering white sea? Patches of cottongrass can make an amazing spectacle as they stretch out across boggy landscapes, with thousands of fluffy seedheads waving in the breeze - one of our favourite sights from June right through to autumn.

Image Common Cottongrass blowing in the breeze. (Paul Turner rspb-images.com)
 

For a visual tour through more of the flowers we found, click here.   

For more information about the other species groups recorded during the Bioblitz, click here

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