Summer meeting 1977: Elginshire

HomeEventsSummer meeting 1977: Elginshire

30 July 1977 - 5 August 1977

Meeting report

On 30 July Dr. Agneta Burton and I drove north for the second week of the meeting based on Elgin and organized by Dr. Roland Richter. Mrs. Joan Appleyard, Mr. Michael Fletcher, his wife and family were the only other people present. The majority of places visited were in Morayshire (v.c. 95), the first day being spent on the coast. Crossing a dry heathy slope at Covesea W. of Lossiemouth, to the shore near Gow’s Castle where the sea has eroded the basic triassic sandstone cliffs into spectacular stacks and caves, we passed Pottia heimii on the path, and Grimmia maritima associated with Ulota phyllantha on boulders on the upper shore. Plants on the moist sandstone and on vertical dripping cliffs behind a mass of Urtica dioica, included Leiocolea turbinata, Amblyodon dealbatus, Amblystegium compactum and fruiting Gymnostomum calcareum. Dr. Richter showed us a few plants of Mertensia maritima on the shore before we retreated from the incoming tide and the clamour of nesting seabirds.

After lunch we examined part of the extensive old gravel works W. of Kingston, now partly colonized by Calluna vulgaris and, in the shallow hollows, by Salix spp. Here we were joined by the Fletcher family all of whom happily took part in the search for bryophytes. Haplomitrium hookeri, Preissia quadrata, Riccardia incurvata, Aongstroemia longipes, Drepanocladus aduncus and Campylium polygamum occur in some of the damper depressions, but the most abundant species are C. stellatum and Scorpidium scorpioides. Lophozia excisa and L. bicrenata, scattered in drier, less densely vegetated areas, were seen again in Lossie Forest when we explored a flooded gravel pit (with Mnium rugicum), and old sandpit (with Tritomaria exsectiformis) and the surrounding conifer plantation in the area N. of Speyslaw. Barbilophozia hatcheri, which grows on sandy banks here, subsequently proved to be a common plant on rocks in this part of Scotland, whereas B. floerkei was recorded only once.

On 1 August the venue for our single excursion into Easterness (v.c. 96) was Loch Loy in the western part of the Culbin conifer forest. In deciduous woodland south of the loch we saw a few plants of Goodyera repens and Corallorhiza trifida; Scapania umbrosa and Tritomaria exsectiformis were noted on rotten logs and Ptilidium pulcherrimum on a Betula trunk. Despite the high level of the water in the loch and the flushes and marshes on the margin we managed to slosh along the sea shore, enjoying what became a nature ramble thanks to the presence of the Fletcher children. Some of the flushes are base-rich with Cratoneuron commutatum and Scorpidium scorpioides, whilst Acrocladium cordifolium, Mnium rugicum. Sphagnum fimbriatum and S. squarrosum are present in the marshy areas. Much of the moist sandy shore was too densely vegetated for small bryophytes but a few plants of Haplomitrium hookeri were seen, and Riccardia incurvata in an unusual association with R. latifrons.

Dr. Richter then led us along forestry tracks south of the lane (with Diplophyllum obtusifolium and Pohlia bulbifera) to a small wet heath. In the 1930’s the area consisted of completely bare peat but is now covered in an almost continuous stand of Sphagnum auriculatum. On the sandy banks of a water-filled pit, Mrs. Appleyard found Pohlia camptotrachela new to the vice-county.

Finally we visited an area of concretionary limestone in Old Red Sandstone exposed in shaded disused quarries and on the east bank of the R. Findhorn near Mundole 3 km S. W. of Forres (v. c. 95). Here we saw Barbula reflexa and Trichostomum crispulum near the river, Brachythecium glareosum and Gymnostomum calcareum on an old wall, Campylium calcareum on isolated blocks, Mnium stellare on a bank, and sheets of Eucladium verticillatum (some of it fruiting) on a vertical rock face. Barbula hornschuchiana and large quantities of Riccia sorocarpa occur on the welt-trodden path which is lined by masses of the magnificent Heracleum mantegazzianum.

On 2 August four of us drove to Bridge of Brown in the hills N, W. of Tomintoul, from where we explored the Allt lomadaidh valley, ascending to the steep-sided part at about 400 m. Most of the rock is siliceous schist and granulite but small quantities of metamorphic limestone are exposed in the upper part of the valley where the local drift is basic, and the general vegetation contrasts sharply with the Calluna-clad peaty slopes flanking the stream lower down. On the N. E.-facing slope there are several base-rich springs and flushes with Blepharostoma trichophyllum, Leiocolea bantriensis, Scapania degenii, Ditrichum flexicaule, Philonotis calcarea, Amblyodon dealbatus, Meesia uliginosa and hummocks of Catoscopium nigritum, as well as abundant Cratoneuron commutatum, Ctenidium molluscum, Drepanocladus revolvens and Scorpidium scorpioides. Ulota drummondii and several species of Orthotrichum were seen in deciduous woodland in the lower N. E. part of the valley, but trees are replaced further up by extensive stretches of Juniperus communis, with Lophozia longidens and Orthotrichum speciosum on some of the shrubs. Antitrichia curtipendula, Hookeria lucens, Plagiothecium denticulatum var. obtusifolium and Grimmia donniana were noted on non-basic block screes, G. torquata, Isopterygium pulchellum, Pterygynandrum filiforme and Metzgeria pubescens on limestone, Acrocladium giganteum, A. sarmentosum and Mnium rugicum in some of the marshy areas, and a few stems of Barbilophozia kunzeana amongst turf. Blasia pusilla, Plectocolea subelliptica, Riccardia incurvata, Solenostoma pumilum, and Pohlia camptotrachela occur on sand or gravel near the stream, and in one place P. bulbifera, P. gracilis, P. muyldermansii and P. proligera were associated with Atrichum tenellum and A. undulatum. Cinclidium stygium grows on a moist base-rich turfy slope in the upper part of the valley, and there is luxuriant Marchantia alpestris in a similar situation near by. Unfortunately it was raining hard by the time we reached these calcareous slopes and we were unable to work them adequately. It was during our long walk back through thick Calluna that the tragedy of the meeting occurred. Mrs. Appleyard stumbled and badly damaged an ankle. With great courage she reached the car unaided but most regrettably she was unable to attend any subsequent excursions. Our sympathy and concern did nothing to assuage her frustration and disappointment.

Thus, on 3 August only three of us visited the gorge at about 300 m altitude near Huntly’s Cave 4½ km N. of Grantown-on-Spey. Our first find in the lay-by where we had parked, was a saturated wallet containing bank notes and other treasures. Its safe return by post to its owner produced a small reward for the President! Intrusive granite is exposed on the roadside here, whilst the rocks and boulders near and in the stream consist mostly of nonbasic gneisses and schist, but base-rich water seeps over some of the rock cuttings beside the disused railway line partway down the slope. Deciduous trees and conifer plantations help to shelter the valley which is reminiscent of more western sites, with luxuriant ferns and woodland mosses such as Hylocomium splendens, Ptilium crista-castrensis and Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus. Bazzania trilobata, Lophozia longidens, Scapania gracilis, Ptilidium pulcherrimum (with sporophytes), Antitrichia curtipendula and Plagiothecium laetum occur on boulders, P. curvifolium, Riccardia palmata and Scapania umbrosa on rotten wood, and Trichostomum tenuirostre on rocks in the stream where Plectocolea obovata is abundant. Steep earthy banks yielded P. subelliptica, Dicranella rufescens and Bryum riparium.

During a quick look at an area of degenerate heath bordering Dorback Burn near the old Dava railway station, several common Sphagna were added to the list, and small populations of Cephalozia leucantha, Lepidozia trichoclados, Mylia anomala, Odontoschisma denudatum, O. sphagni and Sphenolobus minutus were seen on horrible algal-covered peat cuttings.

Mr. Fletcher joined us on 4 August when we explored the east bank of the R. Findhorn in the picturesque vicinity of Randolph’s Leap and its junction with the R. Divie. The numerous trees here include several interesting conifers, some of them of splendid proportions, and the path down to where the R. Findhorn narrows dramatically, passes a stone marking the terrifying fifty foot height of the 1829 floods. Much of the exposed rock is nonbasic gneiss but close examination of small areas of base-rich schist revealed Blepharostoma trichophyllum, Leiocolea heterocolpos, Scapania mucronata and Isopterygium pulchellum scattered among Anoectangium compactum and Amphidium mougeotii. Other plants noted on rocks by the river included Cirriphyllum crassinervium, Grimmia hartmanii, Isothecium holtii, Pterigynandrum filiforme, Ulota hutchinsiae, Gymnomitrion obtusum (at an unusually low altitude of 60 m), Hygrobiella laxifolia, Lophozia alpestris, Scapania subalpina, abundant Lophocolea cuspidata on silt, and a small quantity of Dicranella crispa on a sandy ledge. On the way back to Elgin, Dr. Richter took us on a slight detour to see Orthotrichum speciosum on the bole of a roadside Fraxinus.

5 August On our final day Dr. Richter showed us Orthotrichum obtusifolium growing with Tortula papillosa and T. laevipila on an Ulmus at Fochabers, and we stopped in Speymouth conifer forest to look at a small, deep ravine in Old Red Sandstone conglomerate below Gallows Hill. Nowellia curvifolia and Riccardia latifrons were seen on a rotten log, Campylium protensum and Gyroweisia tenuis (both with sporophytes) on rocks above the stream, and Brachythecium mildeanum on a roadside bank; the last two species were new to the county, bringing our total records for v.c. 95 up to thirty.

The three of us spent most of the day in Banffshire (v.c. 94) in which two of us had made a short stop on our way to Elgin. This was at a rather unpromising site near Bridge of Derrybeg 3 km S. W. of Charlestown of Aberlour, but Fossombronia incurva, Riccia sorocarpa, Pohlia bulbifera and P. gracilis were found near the road, and Dr. Burton located Cryptothallus mirabilis in the small Betula wood. On 5 August we visited Tarnash S. E. of Keith where a stream flows north through deciduous woodland and cascades over an outcrop of metamorphic limestone. Metzgeria pubescens amongst Ctenidium molluscum, and Trichostomum crispulum were seen on limestone near the waterfall, Leiocolea muelleri and Rhynchostegiella pumila on earthy banks, and a few stems of Amblystegiella confervoides in a crevice at the base of one of the rocks. Calypogeia arguta, Scapania scandica and Pohlia delicatula grow on banks beside the path, and typical woodland mosses include Cirriphyllum piliferum.

We then explored the old limestone workings in the valley to the west of Meikie Ardrone, E. of Keith, where deciduous woodland contains a large patch of Paris quadrifolia. Metzgeria pubescens on metamorphic limestone here is associated with Distichium capillaceum and Scapania aspera, whilst S. aequiloba, Lophozia excisa and Leiocolea badensis are present on earthy base-rich spoil, and Grimmia stricta is one of several mosses on rocky waste.

Our final stop in Banffshire was at a roadside cutting on the vice-county boundary W. of Fife Keith where a few plants of Funaria pulchella were found on earthy rock ledges. This was not only one of our nineteen new records for v. c. 94, but was also new to Scotland.

The total number of species seen during the week was not expected to be particularly high since the rainfall in this part of north-east Scotland is very low; this was sometimes difficult to appreciate as it rained for part of every day except the first. Also, since we did not ascend above 400 m (1300 ft), we did not see any of the montane species characteristic of the Cairngorms. Nevertheless, we found several interesting additions to the flora of the area, and recorded in fifteen 10 km grid squares. Our lists, however, would have been more comprehensive had there been more participants. The paucity of members was also a disappointment to Dr. Richter who had taken so much trouble over the arrangements for the meeting, for which we were very grateful.

Jean A. Paton