Mainly about the wild flowers of Fife



Last weekend, finally tracked down the Twinflower at Tentsmuir with the help of GPS and Margaret!

Huge expanse of leaves, not so many flowers, but so delicate and lovely.

Some were just single flowers.

The twin flowers are beautifully balanced.

Tentsmuir discovery

I went looking for the fabled Twinflower, but didn’t mind too much that I failed to find it, because there were so many other lovely things around. Isn’t June a great month, when it isn’t raining?

I found a new plant, always exciting. A tiny little vetch-like thing, which turned out to be Bird’s-foot, or Ornithopus Perpusillus (and how you remember that, I do not know).

Lovely wee flower.

A member of the same family is Common Vetch, with its single, beautiful flowers.

There weren’t as many orchids as I expected, especially on the banking, but still some of these purple ones, which I think are Northern Marsh orchid.

I rediscovered the mystery leaves and am now thinking – speedwell? But no sign of any flowers.

The bees were enjoying the heather.

The lichen on the beech trunks was soaked, and maybe that’s why there were snails there too.

Hare’s-foot clover is always one of my very favourite things.

The sky was threatening, but it didn’t come to anything while I was there.

I counted 36 flowering plants on the long walk back to the car.

Herb Paris

On the one sunny day of the week, we had an outing to the Birks of Aberfeldy to see what could be seen.

The complete list ran on to the third page of my notebook, but the highlight was definitely the Herb Paris which I’d never seen before. Extinct in Fife.

It’s supposed to aid contemplation and equanimity, because of the harmony created by its four leaves, four sepals, four petals and eight stamens.

There was also some lovely fluffy Wood Horsetail, some with umbrella tops. I think these are the fertile stems, before the tip appears.

There was oak fern.

And beech fern.

I wish I’d taken a picture of the grass Melica uniflora, so delicate. But we only got halfway up, so maybe I’ll be back…

(The real) Lethans Den

After our epic fail in which we surveyed the wrong burn, Margaret and I went back to have a look at the real Lethan’s Den on a beautiful sunny morning.

We logged about 80 species along the burnside and around a nearby quarry, taking time to look in detail at a couple of forget-me-nots (arvensis and discolor) and little yellow thing with trefoil leaves (Lesser Trefoil, Trifolium dubium).

I had my hands full with book and/or list, handlens, stick, rucksack – so didn’t take too many photographs. But we found Beech fern, Phegopteris connectilis, with its little rabbit’s ears. One from Sandy’s list of rarities. There was also Oak fern and Lemon-scented fern.

We didn’t find the Melancholy thistle or Alpine bistort, or even any orchids. But it was good to explore a new area. Margaret was very happy to find onion skin weathering on the stone face of the quarry – I’d never heard of it, but the patterns on the stone were amazing.

We finished up just as the rain began to fall.

Not Lethans Den

Margaret and I set off to west Fife to see what we could find in Lethans Den. We ended up with quite a list, including:

Bog stitchwort, Stellaria alsine. This one had me confused for quite a while. Margaret showed me the elastic stele in the stem, very stretchy.

Sweet vernal grass in flower.

Think this is Carex nigra, Common sedge.
Then there was a mystery:

It looks as if it’s been nibbled (there was a black slug lurking underneath) but was once a yellow crucifer. The leaves are odd. At home, going through the books, the nearest I could come is Sisymbrium altissimum, but the seed pods don’t look right.

Margaret was sure about this one, Luzula campestris, Field Wood-rush (or Good Friday grass). Lovely hairy leaves.

There was a fern unrolling itself – we weren’t sure which one, but now know it was the Lemon-scented fern, Oreopteris limbosperma (prefer Lemon-scented fern, myself).

And there were sand martins to entertain us at lunch, and a beautifully camouflaged (but just not quite enough) moth to admire on the way back.

But later, it turned out we hadn’t been in Lethans Den after all…more of that to come.

Early summer at Elie

All of a sudden (it feels) there are flowers everywhere. Down at Elie on Sunday, I was spoilt for choice.

There was the re-discovery of the Pink Sorrel, Oxalyis articulata.

Then a patch of Common Vetch, Viccia sativa…

…which was growing into a patch of geranium, Small-flowered/Pusillum I think, but not sure.

One of the books says it should have five stamens without anthers – I’m not seeing that.

There’s still some scurvygrass, this one wedged into a crack in the rock.

I was trying to work out if it’s Danish, Common, or a hybrid. If the seed pods are narrowed at both ends, like plums, it could be Danish (Cochlearia danica). If they’re globular, narrowed into the style, it could be Common (Cochlearia officinalis).

I think these are narrower at the top than the bottom…which end is the style? And they do look quite like plums…so confusing. The plants were so stunted I couldn’t really check whether the stem leaves are stalked and ivy-shaped (Danish) or clasping the stem (Common).

And of course, it could be a hybrid.

There was also Bucks-horn plantain and Sea plantain – but it was so sunny that the pictures didn’t work out. So warm that I ended up carrying the fleece I’d foolishly put on. At least I’d decided against the woolly hat.

Spring in the dunes

I had an early Saturday morning amble down at Tentsmuir, while it was peaceful and quiet.

Everything is so dry. Barbeques are banned, and the pool along at the fence has retreated far away from it.

But there were plenty of flowers to find, including lots of little groups of daisies, which I don’t remember seeing before.

There was birds-foot trefoil and silverweed.

And the smallest little forget-me-not, myosotis ramossisima, I think.

Some flowering sedges and rushes. This one is Spring sedge, Carex caryophyllea.

This is Sand sedge, Carex arenaria.

This one I’m still working on…

Lovely hairy leaves of the hawkweed/bit/one-day-I’ll-get-it-sorted.

And lots of these leaves too – couldn’t place them, will have to wait and see.

There were the very first sea sandwort flowers.
And I saw my first swallows of the year, always a good moment.

Past the fence, the tide was in and there were no sandbanks, no seals. But there were a couple of shelducks in the distance.

And the blue sky was doing amazing things with the water in the pools. Bright scalloped edges.

Back through the forest, out of the wind, and the birch trees were that vivid, delicate spring green. The path started to get busy, but I stopped to listen to an invisible black-cap.

Plant hunting season is open

I went out with Margaret and Dorothy to see Dorothy’s “square” – an excellent chance to shake off the winter rustiness and start remembering all the things I’d forgotten about plants.

The morning was pretty cold for botanising, but we ignored that and worked our way though identifications for a speedwell, a red nettle and a little white crucifer. Some mystery leaves defeated us. Margaret reckons Fumaria?

In the woods, the bluebell carpet was just beginning to colour up. There were anemones, wood sorrel, primroses, and lots of exciting leaves, including adoxa moschatelina. And in the next plot, we found it in flower. (Wish I’d had my camera, not just my phone.)

Lucky Dorothy has the river Ore going through her square. Down by its banks, there was crosswort, with its lovely furry leaves so neatly arranged.

There was butterbur, white nettle, and celandine.

Greater stitchwort.

Hawthorn just about ready to flower.

In the field above, there was something new for me (major excitement!) – Parsley piert, Aphanes arvensis, tiny little thing.

We finished up on a hillside bank which will be lovely in a month or two, judging by the leaves in the grass. And there were primroses and celandine in the meantime.

Easter Saturday

Boarhills to St Andrews, on a sunny/cloudy day with a bracing/biting wind. White tops on the waves. Kite flyer at the East Sands. Spring seems to be going so fast, and I just wanted to stop for a while and see where we are. The blackthorn blossom is still white and fluffy.

Gorse is in full flower all along the cliffs.

Primroses everywhere. “Abundant”, even. (But sadly not true for the Wood Anemone described that way in JH Wilson’s time.)

I’ve always wondered about the difference between thrum-eyed and pin-eyed primroses. Thrum-eyed have a cluster of stamens at the top of the petal tube.

Pin-eyed have the stigma at the top of the tube.

I thought this meant that one kind was male, and one female. But it doesn’t – both kinds have stamens and stigma, just in different positions. Apparently this helps with pollination (

But then there are some flowers that appear to have a completely empty tube…

Apart from the primroses, there were coltsfoot (coltsfeet?) turning orange.

There were bluebells just beginning to show, and some pink campion, but no orchids yet. Saw the first Marsh Marigolds of the year.

Viola riviniana was everywhere (much nicer name than Dog Violet). Some more closed up than others? Beautiful markings on some of them.

Along at the rock and spindle, the landslip is filling in nicely.

But the bank is still eroding. Some joker had re-homed a couple of the loose clumps.

I took away some moss from an overflow to try and identify (what are the chances).

I was also tempted into taking a couple of samples from down at the boggy bit (after scrambling round base of cliff, thinking that one of these days I must remember my stiff old joints before taking this route).

The moss boulders are all dried up – just as well, really – I’ll come back another day to have a proper look at them.

I’m always pleased to find the small patch of water crowfoot still there, in the puddle on the path.

Even with the wind, it was lovely to be out seeing all this colour and life, thinking some Easter thoughts.

Spring has sprung at Holl

I went up to Holl reservoir on Sunday morning, wondering if the overflow would be showing signs of anything special yet.

There were lambs – some doing high kicks, this one feeding with its mother.

There were larch raspberries all over the branches.

I’ve never seen the overflow do more than trickle, but today there was a deluge coming down.

The horsetails will probably cope. Think these are the fertile shoots of Field Horsetail, but I could be wrong.

I think those are Geranium lucidum, Shining Crane’s-bill leaves in the corner – hope they’re OK.

Along the banks, there wood anemones, celandine, coltsfoot and primroses (these ones looking rather battered).

There was a green blob of moss in the middle of the overflow – no idea, but I liked its vivid colour.

There was a willow warbler warbling appropriately in the willows – first one this year.

I was intrigued by this star-burst seedhead, which looks like a sparkler on a stick.

Coming back, barren strawberry (depressed terminal leaflet).

I love how this part of Fife looks so un-Fife-like.