Mainly about the wild flowers of Fife


Tentsmuir in April

Oh dear, catch up blog, never good to let it go so long. But on 25 April, the following caught my eye at Tentsmuir (right hand walk, avoiding potential distress from the new visitor centre).

I enjoyed that empty beach feeling and watched some sanderlings. St Andrews was hazy in the distance.

The tiny, tiny spring flowers were out in the dunes – only noticeable when I got down on my knees to look at something else.

Think this one is Spring Vetch (bottle top for scale), Vicia Lathyroides – although it seems on the hairy side.

This is the beautiful little Early Forget-me-not, Myosotis ramossissima

I also found these distinctive spotted hairy leaves – possibly Spotted Hawkweed, Hieracium maculatum.

Some of the dunes had been burnt – at first I thought someone’s bonfire had got out of control, then I wondered if it was done deliberately, to manage something unwelcome like the Sea Buckthorn (which I would never admit to being unwelcome!)

Also not so good to find was this bunch of balloons, which I popped and disposed of. There were two other balloons too, in other places. Seems to be more common now.

I walked to the estuary end.

On the way back, I watched a little bird which made the oddest farty noise followed by a high pitched squeak. I was desperate to get a photo so tried a long range shot that I couldn’t really see in the viewfinder…turns out I got the bird on the block next to the one I was trying to capture, which may or may not be related.


Kenly Burn in May

After watching a hare running across a field, I walked down to the shore enjoying the spring flowers. The bluebells in the wood aren’t as “abundant” as they used to be, but the Marsh Marigold is hanging on even though its pool has dried up.

There was Sweet Woodruff and violets and celandine and a few late primroses,

There were Doronicums peeping up from below the path.

There were ferns emerging everywhere.

I found a pretty pairing of Alliaria petiolata and Honesty.

But – photobombed by an unwelcome addition, a Himalyan Balsam seedling. They were everywhere among the plants at one spot. I scrambled down and did some serious weeding. I would never normally do this, but there were no HB plants here 3 years ago, and I’ve seen what happened at Newburgh.

I came to the conclusion that HB encourages nettles, as each clump seemed to have a nettle clump next to/among it. Gloves next time. Oh, and I also pulled out a Japanese knotweed seedling.

I worried about why I was doing this, when there are great spreads of Dogs Mercury along the burn, blocking out all the other plants just as effectively. But the thought of the path at Newburgh seemed reason enough. I did a thorough job, but there are bound to be some that I missed or are still to germinate.

Down at the coast there were Greater and Lesser Black-backed Gulls to compare, and I noticed that the bluebells extend beyond the wood and down to the shore, in a faint blue haze.

I found some pink bells which seemed to be the genuine Hyacinthoides non-scripta, with narrow leaves and creamy anthers. Need to check this.

Further on, a little Wheatear. I had my lunch down where the rock with the ring is – there was a lovely clump of Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

View from the lunch spot was a rocky landscape.

I was intrigued by this patch of texture emerging from the sanded smooth surface of the rock.

I liked the way the lichen looks like a snowy cloth over the stone, draping beautifully over the edges.

The detail is fantastic too.

Coming back, the mossy logs looked quite different without the sun on them. The Dipper appeared. It was all so beautiful and green, and the sound of the water was the finishing touch.

(And the HB in this picture is gone!)

Up above Cupar

Catching up from a couple of weeks ago.

I ambled up the Owlets Wood path, stopping to listen to yet another invisible chiffchaff in the trees – but this time, I managed to spot him singing. Result. And of course, now that I’d seen one through leaves and branches, on the way back one came and sang from a branch just a few feet away, giving me a perfect view.

However, no pictures. Garlic Hedge Mustard, Alliaria petiolata, is much easier to photograph. This was the first I’ve seen in flower this year.

At the top of the woods, I found a squirrel’s dining table, complete with chewed pine cone.

I turned left along to the road, and stopped again to listen to an invisible willow warbler (in a willow tree). But no luck this time. I thought the track should continue on the other side of the road, going up the hill – but the field was ploughed. However, I kept going, avoiding the crop, and at the top squeezed through a fence into a grassy field leading to the line of beeches I’ve often admired from a distance.

I followed the path next to them just to see where it might lead – will explore this more another time. Then I backtracked and went up to the top of the hill. Most days there would be wonderful views, but the mist was in and the air was hazy.

In the uncultivated ground at the top, there was a spread of Corn Spurrey.

Also, lots of Cerastium glomeratum (I think, because of cluster of flowers in the flower head) with Speedwell and Red Dead-nettle. Somewhere to go back, later.

Then I headed over the grassy field (stopping to look at some moss, which I have decided isn’t Brachythecium albicans, but don’t yet know what it is, and spotting Parsley Piert with it).

There was a gate through to a path downhill through the trees, lovely with new leaves, and this took me to the track back to the road – not where I thought it was. I left further exploration for another day, and headed for the road. Found this mystery seedling.

And another.

Then I looked in the ditch at the side and there were thousands, all along it. The penny dropped – Himalayan Balsam.

Coming back down the Owlet Wood path, there were lots of one of my favourites – Three Nerved Sandwort, Moehringia trinvera.

Ben Lawers

A field trip to Ben Lawers Dam with Sheila’s group which proved that you don’t need to walk miles to find a range of plants not seen on rambles round Fife.

The star was the Purple Saxifrage, saxifraga oppositifolia, which I’ve never seen before.

The leaves are stacked up like Sea Sandwort, and hairy.

A real beauty, on this rocky background.

Then there was Fir Clubmoss, Huperzia selago (upright branches of equal height) and (below) a companion for Alpine alchemilla with its completely divided leaves.

There was a Snow Lichen, Stereocaulon.

And some beautiful mosses. I think the blackish one is Andreaea rupestris, the ginger one is Didymodon insulanis, and the furry one is Racomitrium lanuginosum.

Across the dam, with the weather warming up, we saw another alchemilla, completely different with its fringed leaves. But ID has defeated me.

Sheila told us where to scramble up, and we found the Holly fern just where she said.

At boggy ground level, we found Spring Sedge, Carex caryophyllea, flowering away.

And Wood anemone, unexpected in this open ground but perhaps indicating that it used to be forest.

We all agreed we’ll have to go back later in the season for more. And to look for the Woodsia fern up this gully.

John Knox’s Pulpit

Haven’t been here for years but always meant to go back in spring to see the wood anemones and wood sorrel in flower in the woods at the foot of the path.

There were celandines too, and golden sax, and violets. An invisible chiffchaff, and, out of the wood, a great show of gorse.

There’s a yellowhammer in this picture.

I never knew they had orange backs.

You wouldn’t know from the photos, but the east wind was strong. I persevered up the path, looking over to John Knox’s pulpit and its caves.

Above, there are two massive rocks looking ready to roll down at any time.

I pottered along, finding Luzula campestris (Good Friday grass).

Later, there was another grassy thing in flower:

I think this is Hare’s-tail Cottongrass, Eriophorum vaginatum – but not quite sure.

There was also this mystery plant, which looks quite familiar…

The path has been “improved” but it feels a bit municipal now, instead of the rough track that was there. So coming back, I decided to walk past the signs warning of rock falls and go down the unimproved path to John Knox’s pulpit. I was quite relieved to get past without the boulders falling on my head.

But it felt more in touch with the landscape than the obstacle-free experience which FCCT has left us. And when I got home and looked at my photos, it’s clear that the boulders have been cemented into place. (Which explain the heap of cement left down by the burn.)

The view down the hill was good.

As a PS, I admired – and was slightly depressed – by the stripes on these fields in the distance, which match up perfectly. Arable weeds, no chance here!

Camilla, Auchtertool

Day 1 of freedom from freedom and I made a start on visiting the New Statistical Account sites, to see what can be re-found.

The minister at Auchtertool listed some tempting plants: Imperatoria ostruthium (not sure, some kind of umbellifer) at Camilla ruins, and Yellow Star of Bethlehem (Gagea lutea), White Butterbur (Petasites albus) and Saxifraga umbrosa (not sure – cousin of London Pride?) at Auchtertool Linn.

I pottered about and found lots of spring flowers.
Barren Strawberry.

Primroses and Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage

One of my favourites, Crosswort, just coming into flower.

It’s one of these plants that I forget about over winter and then remember how much I like it when it appears.

There was moss everywhere.

I found my first Wood anemones of the year! Hanging their heads, and my upwards photo didn’t quite come off.

The rocks at the burn were shaggy with Thamnobryum alopecurum.

Sadly, all the yellow flowers were celandines, but it’s wrong to be sad about that.

Camilla – a strange name – apparently it used to be called Halyards Castle or Palace, but whatever it’s called, there’s not much left at all.

Ground elder leaves everywhere, but I also found some snowdrop leaves and a spread of Few-flowered Garlic, Allium paradoxum.

How did it get here? There was some outside the village, so maybe on someone’s boot?

There were wee lambs in the field, and I enjoyed exploring. Stopped to listen to several invisible chiff-chaffs. Coming back into the village, there’s a wonderfully overgrown wall, with all sorts finding a home there. (Some barren strawberry there at the back.)

So, no luck with the flowers from 170 years ago, but a good morning.

Shell Bay

I feel I haven’t done any walking or blogging for ages. Today I had a short potter down at Shell Bay – very slowly at first, because of the migraine pill I’d taken. But that paid off, with baby rabbits near the car, and then sharing the path with a deer.

I could hear curlews, and eventually spotted about 50 of them in a field. Nice to see them in such numbers. The new golf course doesn’t seem to be getting on very well – they have hoses going but it looks pretty sparse.

I had another look at the “furry moss”.

It seems to grow all along the banking next to a short stretch of the path, but only there.

There were no birds at the sea edge. The tide was right up.

The weather varied from sunshine to dark clouds, with quite a wind.

But it was mild, and there were spring flowers around. Celandines, Speedwell, and I was pleased to find my first Thrift and Scurvygrass of the year.

February springtime

The last of the slightly freaky but wonderful spring days. It was warm and sunny out on Kinkell Braes. There were celandines shining gold, and my first coltsfoot of the year.

The tide was out and I went scrambling along the shore line, thinking that one of these days I won’t be doing this any more, but today isn’t that day…The stripy rocks are amazing.

I was clambering over the rocks when a bee fell at my feet, dozy and stunned.

Wings still creased.

It crawled on to my boot, but in the end I moved it back on to the grass, which seemed a better place for it than the rocks.

I hope it found some food – there was nothing around.

At the Fulmar cliff (where there aren’t fulmars any more) I watched a pair of birds way out at sea, coming closer to the rocks. A couple of long distance shots and later some friendly advice from an expert – Red Breasted Merganser.

I decided to push on to see if the primroses were out at Shelduck bay. Which they were.

Buddo Ness was looking very elemental.

The Dwarf Mallow flowers from a few weeks ago have disappeared – they must have realised it was still winter. I like the little window in the rock.

Coming back, I saw several primroses that I’d walked past on the way…could have saved my poor sore feet, but it was such a lovely day to be out that I wasn’t sorry.

Lichen mixed with moss on a marker stone.

It felt like an April walk, not February.


Tentsmuir was sunny, clear, blue, sparkling with frost. No wind. Fantastic.

No chance of plant-spotting, but I loved how the frost transformed everything.

Frosty orchid seedheads.

Frosty lichen.

Frosty beach, white and sparkling right down to the sea.

There were great patterns on the sand, where the frost was lingering.

I found a swathe of (frosty) razor shells.

At the point, the waves were doing strange things, crossing over each other and doubling back.

Very few birds today, just a welcome little wren and these ones in the distance.

There were patterns in the ice of the frozen pool I walked over (carefully, with the ice creaking and groaning).

I went over to look at the alders, but the catkins are tight shut. However, the grasses on the moor were wonderful.

Just perfect.

A short walk at Earlsferry

What a fabulous winter’s day, all cloudless blue sky and frost. I went down to Earlsferry and walked along the beach.

At the far end, there seems to have been quite an erosion of sand.

I went looking for the Sea Kale, Crambe maritima, and couldn’t find it. Washed away? Or underground for winter? I found a dead seed stalk and an ambiguous kind of green spike which just might be a sign that it’s still there.

Not much else to blog about. No flowers. Some good shiny leaves of scurvy grass. Some moss growing at the top of the beach.

The rock columns showed up well in the low sunlight.