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 Caithness County Flower To Celebrate The Queen's Golden Jubilee

Plants In Caithness Index Ken Butler's Botanical Pages

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13 March 03
County Flower  - Final Two
In 2002 Plantlife ran a campaign to get a county flower for each county.  In 2003 they have narrowed it down to two for each county.  You have until 31 October to make your choice for Caithness or any other county Head Over To Plantlife  The choice is between Scottish primrose and  Bog asphodel

A County Flower

As part of the celebrations of the Golden Jubilee, the plant conservation charity Plantlife is setting out to encourage each county in the UK to adopt its own wild flower emblem.  I suggest that Caithness takes part in this project and selects a flower that is worthy of the county.

Flowers vary from the showy and attractive ones to the much duller green ones in grasses and the peculiar and specialised ones in sedges and conifer trees.  But they all count as flowers.  We might elect to choose a rare and little known plant or one more common, easily seen and readily recognised. There doesn't seem much point in choosing a plant that you cannot go to and allow visitors to admire, so accessibility is a point to bear in mind.

Here are some suggestions:

Eyebright Euphrasia species.  There are several species of eyebright and Caithness is one of the foremost areas of diversity and quantity of different eyebrights.  It is pretty, accessible and recognisable. The most important colony is of the plentiful Reay eyebright on the golf course.



Scottish Primrose Primula scotica.  This miniature beauty grows only in Caithness, Orkney and North Sutherland, and nowhere else in the world. It is recognisable and accessible.  The biggest Caithness colony is on Dunnet Links inland of the dunes.  Orkney has the biggest populations and will lay a claim to the plant.



Round-leaved Sundew Drosera rotundifolia.  The huge areas of peatland in Caithness and North Sutherland are of international importance because of the world scarcity of this type of place.  Sundews live on the peat, the round-leaved being the most common, recognisable and accessible of the three species.

Oyster Plant Mertensia maritima.  This is a beautiful plant that grows on seashores around the north and east of Scotland. Several counties could lay claim to it.   However there are some really good and well protected colonies in Orkney, while the Caithness colonies (which were big and healthy) have declined due to trampling by visitors to the seashore.  It is already too scarce and precarious to recommend it as a County Flower.

Scottish Smallreed Calamagrostis scotica. There is only one locality in the world where this grass is known, and that is a boggy area near Castletown.  So for rarity value it could not be surpassed.  However it is a rather dull grass that few people know and few people can recognise. Also, one would not encourage more visiting to this site.  So I would not recommend it as the County Flower.



The Wick Sedge or Estuarine Sedge Carex recta. There are only three sites for this plant in Britain. It was first discovered by a former editor of the John o' Groats Journal in the Wick river, where there are extensive colonies along both banks of the river from the footbridge upstream as far as the water is tidally influenced by salt. It is not very pretty, but is accessible and special for Caithness.



Magellan Daisy Senecio smithii. This plant is a native of S Chile and S Argentina, which, for unknown reasons was brought home by whalers and planted in gardens in Caithness and Orkney. It has naturalised in streamsides and spread, so it is now a part of our native flora.  It does not grow in the rest of Britain (maybe a bit in Shetland?) so it is special to Caithness and Orkney.  It is a handsome daisy-like plant, accessible (there is a good colony in the burn at the east end of Dunnet Sands) but not generally well-known.


Plantlife has set up a special section of its website www.plantlife.org.uk where members of the public can cast a vote for their choice.  If you vote for a choice in your own county it counts as two votes, while you can also vote for a choice in another county, which counts as one vote.  Plantlife will make a final choice based on the votes cast and any other relevant points.

So please take part! Me? I am going to vote for the Eyebright.

Ken Butler

Ken Butler is the Botanical Recorder for Caithness - that is he holds and maintains all the information about wild plants and their distribution, on behalf of the Botanical Society of the British Isles.

See Also
Queen's Golden Jubilee Links