09 July 2011

Alpine saxifrage revisited

The trouble with a blog is that, just when one has most to write about, one is also busiest with other things. It's 9 days since I went back up Beinn Dorain to look for the Alpine Saxifrage (Saxifraga nivalis) I found last year (see The Perils of botanical identification) and I have only just found the time to write about it.

After some hours of climbing in showery weather I managed to find the ledge in the rock again, but there was initial disappointment that the plant was smaller and hadn't produced a flower this year. My disappointment soon disappeared when I found another plant in flower a couple of yards away. There was no doubt that this flower was Alpine Saxifrage.

We hunted around for other plants of interest and these seemed to be most abundant along a narrow band of crags which were presumably calcareous. They included Luzula spicata, perched on a ledge with a view of hills to the east.

The yellow heads of Roseroot (Sedum rosea) were easy to spot and a good indicator of likely ledges as it frequently had rare species as companions. It had been growing on the ledge where I found the first Alpine Saxifrage.

Towards the end of the day we found a rather unusual Buttercup with a mixture of shiny and hairy leaves and an unusually large flower.

Further research suggests that this is likely to be a rather rare variety of Meadow Buttercup - Ranunculus acris var. pumilus - which has only previously been found on the Cairngorms and Skye in the UK. Once again, we will need to return for further verification of its identity.

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