Botanists at a Caithness Meeting

A joint meeting of the Botanical Society of the British Isles and the Botanical Society of Edinburgh was held for the first time in Caithness on 15th to 21st August 1972.

On the first day, five groups visited different parts of Dunnet Head recording the plants of the sea-cliffs, moors and lochsides. In the 10km square ND17 there were 56 species found which had not been previously recorded. Included among those were Ophioglossum vulgatum ssp.vulgatum Anthyllis vulneraria ssp. lapponca, and Drosera x obovati which are all new vice-county records. The square ND27 yielded 96 new species including the willow Salix repens ssp repens and the hybrids Drosera x obovata and Agropyron junceiforme x repens which are all new to the vice-county.

On Thursday morning most of the party went to Wester Durran to see the rare grass Calamagrostis stricta. Some of the party remained to make a map of the extent of the colony while others went to Thurso to examine the herbarium of the naturalist Robert Dick (1811-66). In the afternoon the party wore invited to take tea with H.M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother at the Castle of Mey. The Queen. Mother is Patron of the Botanical Society and took a keen interest in the work of the party. She then showed them round the gardens of the castle and then to the seashore where the oyster plant Mertensia maritina was to be seen. Since this is an uncommon plant, some of the party had never seen it before and were pleased to have the opportunity to do so. The Queen Mother accepted from the party an unusual form of heather which had been collected at Dunnet Head and which is now in cultivation under the name of Calluna vulgaris 'Castle of Mey'.

Friday was devoted to recording in the square ND36 around Keiss. This produced a total of 183 new records of which the following are new to the vice-county: Papaver somniferum, Impatiens glandulifera, Alchemilla vestita, Rosa rugosa, Ribes uva-crispa, Fuchsia magellanica, Symphytum x uplandicun, Utricularia intermedia, Mentha x gentilis, Tripleurospermum,.maritimum ssp.maritimum, Lilium pyrenaicum, Agropyron junceiforme x repens.

Saturday would have included a visit to Stroma but the island was stormbound, so work was done around Thurso and Watten. In square ND16 50 new records were made and of these 15 were new to the vice-county:

Sinapsis alba, Rorippa x sterilis, Viola cornuta, Hypericum maculatum, Ribes uvacrispa,., Epilobiuin aaenocaulon, Be-tula ssp., Symphytum x uplandicum, Mimulus guttatus x luteus, Veronica montana, mentha x verticillata, Doronicum pardalianches, Sparganium erectum ssp.erectum, Carex x grantii, and Agrostis gigantea.

Square ND06 gave rise to 20 new records and ND15 65 new records of which Anthyllis vulneraria ssp. vulneraria ssp. lapponica and Sparganium erectum var  microcarpum were new to the vice-county. The square ND25 provided 76 new records of which Aconitum vulparia, Aubretia Deltoidea, Lupinus polyphyllus, Laburnum alpinum, Cotoneaster horizontalis, Sorbus intermedia, Saxifraga x urbium, Ribes sylvestre, Humulus lupulus, Salix nigricans Symphytum caucasium, Symphoricarpus rivularis and Campanula latifolia were new to the vice-county record.

The meeting closed on Sunday after an unsuccessful search for Saxifraga hirculus which was recorded in 1912.
(Abstracted from notes by B.W. Ribbons)

Published April 1973