Tuesday 26 July 2011

Westray flowers, Part 1

In the ever-increasingly anachronistic posts about the natural history we encountered whilst holidaying in Orkney, here's a short series of some of the flora seen on the island of Westray.

As previously mentioned, with our botanical expert hors de combat, we were rather on the back foot when it came to flowers. The Admiral and I could, however, content ourselves with the thought that to appreciate the beauty of a roadside verge full of wild flowers, one doesn't necessarily need an encyclopaedic knowledge of taxonomy and Latin. It's therefore a shame that I didn't have the foresight to point my camera along a lane and record the scene. Campions, trefoils, vetches, buttercups, orchids, you name it, I ignored it. What a prune.

Keeping things simple, the thistles were just starting to bloom and their fresh look and geometrical shapes were an obvious choice for a photograph.

This is a Marsh Thistle, Cirsium palustre, which we found just about everywhere, but this particular one was on the cliff top at Stanger Head.

As the saying goes, also available in white! And also on Stanger Head.

On one of our potters along the links at Rackwick, my eye was caught by this clover plant, which I blithely assumed was simply a White Clover, Trifolium repens, and so didn't check the leaves.

Though it isn't very tall, as demonstrated by the neighbouring Eyebright, it could be Alsike Clover, Trifolium hybridum. Serves me right for not noticing or even taking a shot of the leaves. To be fair, I was just captivated by the pattern and colours.

Whilst wandering along the cliff path at West Kirbest, we came across a small white flower which we did not encounter anywhere else. There appeared to be only one small patch, possibly a single plant, so I recorded it for Our Lass to puzzle over that evening.

It turned out to be Fairy Flax, Linum catharticum, which as its Latin species name hints, was used in times past as a purgative.

On the same stretch of coast, but growing between the wave cut platform and the storm beach, were these pretty little plants, shown below. I must admit that I thought I was taking a picture of one type of plant, but later, upon reviewing the images, I realised there were two separate species.

We decided that the white flowers with four petals were Common Scurvygrass, Cochlearia officinalis, but the pink flowers with five petals gave us the run around until we resorted to the time-honoured technique of looking at every page in the ID guide. As it happened, the petals were actually sepals, there weren't any petals and the plant was Sea Milkwort, Glaux maritima. No wonder I find dragonflies easier to identify!

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