Summer meeting 1960: Ullapool

HomeEventsSummer meeting 1960: Ullapool

27 August 1960 - 10 September 1960

Meeting report

The autumn meeting was held at Ullapool, Wester Ross, from 27 August to 10 September, and was attended by sixteen members. The Society had not met before in the north-western Highlands of Scotland, where indeed Ullapool is probably the only suitable place on the mainland with sufficient accommodation. Ullapool is within reach of a wide range of interesting ground, but time in the field was restricted both by the need to travel rather long distances over a notoriously bad road system and by the custom in Scottish guest-houses of serving high teas at an inconveniently early hour.

The first excursion was to the two eastern corries of An Teallach (v.c. 105), to the south-west of Ullapool, a mountain well known to climbers but unexplored bryologically. Unfortunately the party did not go the best way up, and work was also interfered with by heavy rain and low cloud. Members unfamiliar with them had their first introduction to the large hepatics so characteristic of the West Highland mountains: Pleurozia purpurea, Scapania ornithopodioides, S. nimbosa, Jamesoniella carringtonii, Mastigophora woodsii, Herberta hutchinsiae, H. adunca and Bazzania pearsonii. Other plants seen were Dicranella squarrosa in fruit, Dicranoweissia crispula, Dicranum fuscescens var. congestum, Dicranodontium uncinatum, D. asperulum, Mnium affine, Philonotis fontana var. tomentella*, P. seriata (down to 1750 feet alt.), Isothecium myosuroides var. brachythecioides, Plagiothecium denticulatum*, P. roeseanum* and Lepidozia pearsonii.

[* = New v.c. record]

The second mountain excursion was to that part of Ben Dearg which lies in Wester Ross (v.c. 105), at the head of Gleann na Sguaib. Tetraplodon angustatus was seen on the way up, Bryum muehlenbeckii in some quantity by a lochan at 2400 feet. On the rocks and in the scree above were Dicranoweissia crispula, Leptodontium recurvifolium Rhacomitrium micrcocarpon, Pohlia annotina*, Meesia uliginosa, Acrocladium trifarium, Isopterygium muellerianum, Harpanthus Flotovianus and scattered stems of Anastrophyllum joergensenii. Bad weather curtailed the excursion, and the area would be worth revisiting.

Two visits were paid to the Fannich Mountains. On the first the party left the road near the western end of Loch Droma and went via Loch a’Mhadaidh to the ridge connecting Sgùrr Mòr with Càrn na Criche, which forms the boundary between West and East Ross. On the route to the ridge, in v.c. 105, were seen Sphagnum warnstorfianum, S. fuscum in fruit, Tetraplodon angustatus, Plagiothecium denticulatum var. obtusifolium and Barbilophozia lycopodioides. Just within Wester Ross were Anthelia juratzkana*, Lophozia opacifolia* with perianths, and, on Càrn na Criche, Ditrichum zonatum var. scabrifolium*. There was a little Aulacomnium turgidum on both sides of the county boundary, and in v.c. 106 were Marsupella adusta*, Scapania scandica* and also Rhabdoweissia fugax at the unusually high altitude of 2850 feet. The few members who came back over the top of Sgùrr Mòr found the view rewarding but the bryophytes dull, though Aulacomnium turgidum was about in some quantity.

The second Fannich excursion was to Loch Li (v.c. 106), reached from near the eastern end of Loch Droma across a very wearisome stretch of moorland. The corrie in which the loch lies is not a beautiful one and the weather was indifferent, but the rocks, and screes to the north-west of the loch proved of considerable interest. The species found here included Dicranella subulata*, Barbula ferruginascens, Trichostomum hibernicum*, Leptodontium recurvifolium, Pseudoleskea patens, Isopterygium muellerianum, Plagiothecium denticulatum var. obtusifolium, Cephalozia bicuspidata var. lammersiana*, Lophozia obtusa*, Anastrophyllum joergensenii, Lepidozia pearsonii* and Lejeunea patens*. Tetraplodon angustatus was found on moorland near Loch Li, Bryum erythrocarpum* by the road.

The last mountain excursion was made by a small party in perfect weather to Ben Dearg, the ascent of the mountain being from the south-west, the descent by Choire Ghrànda and Loch Coire Làir, all in v.c.l06. The summit area and Choire Ghrànda had a rich bryophyte flora including Sphagnum teres*, S. fuscum*, Polytrichum norvegicum, Acrocladium trifarium, Hylocomium pyrenaicum*, Moerckia blyttii, Lophozia opacifolia*, Anastrophyllum joergensenii, Harpanthus flotovianus. Marsupella sphacelata*, M. adusta, M. ustulata, M. sprucei*, Calypogeia trichomanis*, Anthelia juratzkana* and Scapania paludosa. S. subalpina* was seen near Loch Coire Làir.

The Durness limestone occupied a good deal of the meeting’s attention. The first visit was to the crags by the roadside to the south-west of Knochan. These are crossed by the county boundary. The small part of the area in Wester Ross yielded Encalypta ciliata*, Amblyodon dealbatus*, Thuidium recognitum*, Radula lindbergiana and Frullania germana. On the Sutherland side (v.c. 108) were Seligeria recurvata, Pseudoleskea catenulata var. acuminata, Cirriphyllum piliferum*, fruiting Orthothecium rufescens and Reboulia hemisphaerica*. At Elphin were Dicranella schreberiana*, fruiting Trichostomum brachydontium var. cophocarpum and Grimmia apocarpa var. homodictyon. Also seen in West Sutherland were Atrichum undulatum var. minus*, Hypnum hamulosum and Lejeunea patens*. The geological map shows limestone near Loch Urigill and some of the party went there in hope, but most of it is covered with drift. Cinclidium stygium was seen on the way. The birch wood by the loch is uninteresting, but had Hypnum cupressiforme var. mamillatum*.

Inchnadamph is botanically the best known locality on the Durness limestone and almost certainly the richest. A good many bryologists have collected there before, but a day’s visit added a surprising number of new records for West Sutherland. Noteworthy species found on the cliffs to the south of the hotel included Tortula princeps, T. subulata var. graeffii*, Gyroweissia tenuis, Gymnostomum calcareum, fruiting Trichostomum brachydontium, Weissia rutilans*, Grimmia apocarpa var. homodictyon, Bryum mildeanum, Thuidium recognitum* and Solenostoma atrovirens var. sphaerocarpoidea*. Two plants of special interest, both growing luxuriantly, were Tortella inclinata var. densa (Lor.) Limpr. and Gymnostomum recurvirostrum var. insigne. Both have strong claims to be treated as species. The former has hitherto in the British literature gone under other names (Tortula tortuosa fo. curta, T. tortuosa var. rigida) but is quite distinct from both T. tortuosa and T. inclinata, though more closely related to the latter.

On the same day a few members visited the Traligill valley at Inchnadamph. The most interesting finds here were a polysetous form of Barbula spadicea, Gymnostomum recurvirostrum var. insigne, Orthotrichum cupulatum var. nudum, Ulota drummondii, U. vittata*, Cratoneuron commutatum var. virescens*, C. filicinum var. fallax*, Rhynchostegiella teesdalei* and Porella cordaeana*.

On another excursion to the West Sutherland limestone the party made a short stop at Ledbeg, which proved poor, and then visited the Allt nan Uamh, about three miles south of Inchnadamph. Hygrohypnum dilatatum was seen in the stream, quite close to the road. In or near the stream on the way to the caves were Seligeria doniana, Bryum mildeanum, Rhodobryum roseum*, Marchantia polymorpha var. alpestris* and Calypogeia trichomanis*. Amblystegium compactum was seen in the caves, Seligeria tristicha* and Pseudoleskea catenulata var. acuminata nearby. The crags above and to the west of the caves had a very little Encalypta alpina* and also Tortella inclinata var. densa, Grimmia trichodon* and Anomobryum concinnatum*.

The geological map showed the limestone outcropping around Loch Ailsh, an area to which no bryologist seems to have been before. A morning was spent on the limestone and overlying drift to the south-west of the loch in East Ross (v.c. 106), and resulted in a long list of new records: Fissidens cristatus*, Seligeria doniana*, Dicranella varia*, Barbula hornschuchiana*, B. reflexa*, Trichostomum brachydontium*, Leptodontium flexifolium*, Pohlia delicatula*, Mnium marginatum*, Ambloyodon dealbatus*, Thuidium philibertii*, Campylium chrysophyllum*, Drepanocladus revolvens var. intermedius*, Eurhynchium swartzii*, Leiocolea bantriensis*, Chiloscyphus pallescens*, Cephaloziella hampeana*, Calypogeia neesiana* and Frullania fragilifolia*. The afternoon was spent on the east side of the loch, in East Sutherland (v.c. 107). The Allt na Cailliche yielded Andreaea rothii*, Fissidens osmundoides*, Rhabdoweissia denticulata*, Dicranella crispa*, D. varia*, Barbula hornschuchiana*, B. fallax*, Pohlia albicans*, Bryum argenteum*, B. bicolor*, Orthothecium intricatum* and Pellia fabbroniana* : while by the loch and in the extensive limestone area near Bennore Lodge were Fissidens pusillus*, F. taxifolius*, Seligeria doniana*, Weissia rutilans*, Grimmia hartmanii*, Ephemerum serratum var. minutissimum*, Bryum mildeanum*, Mnium marginatum*, Philonotis calcarea*, Climacium dendroides*, Thuidium delicatulum*, T. recognitum*, Cratoneuron commutatum var. falcatum*, Drepanocladus revolvens var. intermedius*, Riccardia sinuata*, Plectocolea paroica* and Scapania aequiloba*.

A final visit to the Durness limestone was in the valley of the Ullapool River (v.c. 105). The limestone, which is being quarried here, had a fairly good calcicole flora with Fissidens viridulus*, Seligeria doniana*, Barbula hornschuchiana*, B. cylindrica*, Weissia microstoma*, W. rutlilans*, Grimmia apocarpa var. homodictyon, Mnium stellare*, Leucodon sciuroides* and Leiocolea badensis. Hypnum cupressiforme var. mamillatum was seen on a tree and Calypogeia sphagnicola*, Mnium seligeri* and Cladopodiella francisci on boggy ground off the limestone.

Several visits were paid to other habitats on the low ground. The first was to Doire Dhubh, a small birch wood bordering a loch on the north side of Cul Beag (v.c. 105). The mosses were perhaps a little disappointing, the only species of interest being Sphagnum quinquefarium, Glyphomitrium daviesii and Zygodon conoideus, but the liverworts more than made up. Calypogeia suecica*, found by Dr Warburg on a rotting log was the best. Other noteworthy species were Sphenolobus hellerianus*, Tritomaria exsecta*, Cephalozia catenulata*, Plagiochila tridenticulata, Harpalejeunea ovata, Aphanolejeunea microscopica, Frullania germana and a great abundance of Colura calyptrifolia.

One morning was spent on the dunes on the west side of Achnahaird Bay (v.c. 105). Bryum calophyllum*, mixed with a little B. warneum*, was abundant in several places, and in good condition though, as so often in Bryum populations, showing a good deal of capsule malformation. Other species seen here were Archidium alternifolium in fruit, Dichodontium pellucidum var. fagimontanum*, Barbula tophacea*, Mnium rugicum*, Moerckia flotoviana and Barbilophozia hatcheri. The afternoon was spent at Reiff Bay (also v.c. 105), where it was hoped that Myurium hebridarum or Campylopus shawii might be found. The ground was a little disappointing, but produced Pottia truncata*, P. intermedia*, Bryum bicolor*, Cephaloziella hampeana*, C. subdentata, Cephalozia bicuspidata var. lammersiana, Calypogeia trichomanis and Lepidozia pinnata. Grimmia funalis was seen in a most unusual habitat – non-basic rocks where exposed to occasional sea spray.

One day on the low ground was spent south from Ullapool, all in v.c. 105. The first stop, a promising-looking stream at the Braes of Ullapool, produced nothing of interest. Ash trees at the roadside between Foich Lodge and Glackour yielded Zygodon viridissimus var. vulgaris* and several Orthotricha, including a strong candidate for O. shawii; but it proved to be only an arboreal form of O. rupestre. The Corrieshalloch Gorge at Braemore, also visited again by a few members, was more profitable. The slopes between the river and the road had Dicranella schreberiana, Ephemerum serratum*, Fossombronia foveolata* and F. wondraczeki*, while in the gorge itself were Tetraphis browniana*, Hygrohypnum eugyrium, Hypnum cupressiforme var. mamillatum, Plectocolea paroica*, Calypogeia suecica, Eremonotus myriocarpus*, Cephalozia catenulata, C. leucantha, C. media, Radula aquilegia and R. lindbergiana. The afternoon was occupied by a visit to the hazel scrub near Durnamuck on the shore of Little Loch Broom, where is an old record for Leiocolea gillmanii. This was not found, only an abundance of L. bantriensis. Also seen here were Barbilophozia atlantica* and Tritomaria exsecta.

A number of additional plants of interest were collected at various times during the fortnight, quite apart from the official excursions. One car-load went to Durness and visited the Smoo Cave where they found Fissidens pusillus*, Distichium inclinatum and Amblystegium compactum, stopping on the journey just north of Kylesku to collect Cephaloziella hampeana*, both localities being in West Sutherland (v.c. 108). In West Ross Campylium polygamum* was found at the mouth of the Ullapool River, the Society paid homage to Lophocolea fragrans in a cave by the sea at Ardmair, its northernmost British locality, and Polytrichum commune var. perigoniale* was seen by the roadside between Ardmair and Ullapool during an involuntary stop because of work on the road.

On the whole the meeting was lucky with the weather. Although there were not many days suitable for the mountains there were none of those very wet days so common in the west of Scotland where time spent in the field may be a duty but is certainly no pleasure. All members saw species new to them and well over a hundred new vice-county records were made. Most of these of course were mere ‘gap fillers’, but there were many extensions to range. Cratoneuron commutatum var. virescens was new to Scotland. New to the northern Highlands, i.e. not previously found north of the Great Glen, were Seligeria tristicha, Encalypta alpina, Grimmia trichodon, Ephemerum serratum var. minutissimum, Bryum warneum, Marchantia polymorpha var. alpestris, Lophozia opacifolia, Sphenolobus hellerianus, Calypogeia sphagnicola and Scapania scandica. Considerable extensions were made to the known range of Anomobryum concinnatum, Bryum calophyllum, Marsupella sprucei, Lophozia obtusa, Cephalozia catenulata, Cephaloziella hampeana, Calypogeia suecica, C. trichomanis and C. neesiana, and there were lesser extensions to the range of many more.

Finally, some remarks on the species not seen. The complete absence of some mosses very common over most of the British Isles – Dicranoweissia cirrata, Tortula laevipila, Aulacomnium androgynum, Homalia trichomanoides – was no surprise to those familiar with the western Highlands. But even of oceanic species there were some notable absences, and it is clear that the Ullapool district is less rich in them than many areas farther south. Campylopus shawii and Mylia cuneifolia were not seen, though Ullapool is well within their geographical range. Rhabdoweissia crenulata, Neckera pumila and Sematophyllum novae-caesareae apparently reach only to Kintail, Daltonia splachnoides to Torridon. Details such as these cannot be shown by the present vice-comital system of recording and illustrate the need for accurate distribution maps of British Bryophytes.

A.C. Crundwell