30 August 2018

Highlights of the summer

It's a while since I last posted anything here, so this is a brief summary of a few of the highlights of the summer. I'll hope to have some more posts to send out very soon.

We continue to have a selection of wild orchids in our garden, though the numbers of mosts species have dropped off considerably. We counted around 500 Dactylorhiza fuchsii a few years ago, but now we are getting less than 30, and only 3 Platanthera chlorantha made it into flower. In addition, the D. fuchsii have mostly been coming up in our drive, where they shrivelled away in the hot weather.

However, new arrivals were 3 Dactylorhiza fuchsii x purpurella - the hybrid between Common Spotted and Northern Marsh Orchids. Here is just one of them.

D. purpurella has been in the park by our house, so it's not surprising that this hybrid should have appeared.

An exciting discovery last year in the woods near our house was Corallorhiza trifida, Coralroot Orchid. This was not known to be present in the area and we found 2 small groups of them within walking distance of our house.

This year we were pleased to find that the numbers at both sites had increased.

Nearby in the same woods, while searching for more Corallorhiza, I  came across this dragonfly which had just emerged.

I saw this Orange-tip butterfly while out with our natural history society.

I have been monitoring a site in Perthshire which has large numbers of Bog Orchids (Hammarbya paludosa) since finding it a number of years ago. Despite the dry weather, this year I had the best count ever with a total of 141 flowering spikes. I think this is now the largest site in Scotland apart from one in Shetland. Here are just a few of them.

It's rather hard to count them when they are difficult to approach without risking trampling on them. I find the best method is to take numbered plastic plant tags with either a paper clip or a magnetic strip attached. I throw one to land beside each plant, so I know which ones I have already counted. Afterwards I pick up all the tags with a magnet on an extending pole.

The season is now almost at an end so I'm looking forward to having more time for arts and crafts. I'll also hope to create some more posts here.

11 March 2016

Scarlet Elf Cups

Scarlet elf cups (Sarcoscypha sp.) are fungi which are occasionally found growing on moss-covered dead wood during the early months of the year and are notable for their brilliant colour. We have only found these twice before
(see http://www.fredandsarah.plus.com/botany/sarcoscypha.html for the first time we found them), but this year they are appearing in large numbers.

There are two species, S. austriaca and S. coccinea, which can only be separated by careful microscopic examination, particularly of the curliness of the hairs on the outer surface of the cup. S. austriaca seems to be the commoner species and we have failed to find any conclusive examples of S. coccinea in our area. For information on the differences between the two species, see
The ground under a local willow tree is covered with what must be 500 or more individuals, and we have also found several other sites of 50 or more nearby. The largest individual cups measured 7.5cm across, though most are much smaller than this.

We wonder if this is due to the excessive rainfall we have had this winter. At one location they are even growing on deadwood floating on a pond, which certainly suggests that they like it wet.

20 February 2016

The first daffodil

The first daffodil opened in our garden today. This probably doesn't seem that unusual if you live in the south of England, but here in central Scotland the crocuses have hardly begun to appear and I haven't seen any other daffodils anywhere near flowering yet this year.