Mainly about the wild flowers of Fife



When we visited Glen Errachty with Sheila in August 2017, it was a cold damp day and I promised myself I’d come back for a longer visit. Well, today was not that day – I got the forecast wrong and although the heavy rain had stopped by the time I arrived, the clouds were still low and grey over the hills.

So I didn’t go much further than in 2017, but it didn’t matter. I was so pleased to re-find most of the plants we’d looked at that day, some of them in the same location.

Moonwort, Botrychia lunaria. Standing up like a feather in the grass, the oddest looking thing.

Heath Cudweed, Gnaphalium sylvaticum. I have a soft spot for Gnaphaliums. These were just where I found them on the previous trip.

Autumn Gentian, Gentianella amarella. This time, I didn’t see any Field Gentian, but lots and lots of amarella, all tightly rolled shut.

Alpine Bistort, one of my favourites but I never get it in focus.

Yellow Saxifrage, Saxifraga aizoides – mostly going over, still too bright for my camera to cope with even on a dull day.

I sniffed the Bog Myrtle leaves – this was where I first learned how fragrant they are. The orange spikes of Bog Asphodel seem to glow with their own light.

Also orange – a tiny little toadstool, and a slightly weird double-decker.

I didn’t find Stag’s Clubmoss, although I kept looking twice at sprigs of Erica tetralix. I did find a beautiful furry moss, but think this is a different one from last time.

Last time we definitely didn’t see this wonderful patch of red sphaghnum.

I love the way the individual plant heads are spaced out so exactly. And the way the colour ebbs and flows.

The rain came on and I turned back, only for it to clear as I got near the car. I noticed a pink Devil’s-bit Scabious (but prefer the usual soft purple-blue).

And then I heard a familiar noise.

Think these are pinkfeet, flying in their almost perfect V.

I enjoyed this so much, re-finding plants and remembering our group days out. I’ll be back another time for a “proper” walk round the reservoir.


An unsuccessful brambling expediton turned out to be a walk full of happy discoveries. I’ll leave the moss to one side just now, but plant-wise there were some nice things.

Hedgerow Cranesbill, Geranium pyrenaicum doing what it’s supposed to and scrambling through a hedge.

The delicate seedheads of corn spurrey.

But the real excitement was this wee thing.

It turns out to be Shaggy Soldier, Galinsoga quadriradiata, not recorded in Fife. I knew it was Galinsoga, but didn’t know which one. As it was just along the road, I went back for another look after consulting the book, and one of the deciders was the presence of glandular hairs on the flower stalk.

The shape of the receptacle lobes is another thing to check. I like its stubby little petals and daisy face.

There are around 7 or 8 plants growing along the side of the path. I wonder how it got here?

In the same area, one of my favourite plants (although I never can work out why) – Gnaphalium uliginosum, Marsh Cudweed. More often than not, it seems to grow in non-marshy areas like path edges.

Autumn begins

Tentsmuir at the beginning of autumn. There were still flowers to enjoy – thyme, lady’s bedstraw, grass of parnassus – but lots of other things too.

Dozens of these furry little creatures, which I’ve been told are probably Fox Moth caterpillars. I know the moth experts won’t agree, but it seems such a dull thing for these beautiful beasties to turn into.

Some were chewing on the grass, some scurrying across the path, and one had serious ambition…

Sadly, there were lots of dead ones on the path. Squashed by bikes? Anyway, I watched a black beetle trying with all its might to drag one of the bodies into the grass.

Other things that caught my eye. Shiny black fungi.

The odd texture of the Bulrush / Reed Mace.

The beautiful blue head of the Cocksfoot grass.

I also admired the way a spider had bent a grass stem round and made a little web bubble (picture didn’t work). And I stopped to watch a spider tussling with a fly on another grass head. While I was doing this, two deer (mother and young one) noticed me and went kangarooing over the dunes and into the forest. Later, I saw a group of three grazing in the trees – two moved off but one just looked for a while.

There were harebells and pilosella leaves covering one of the tank trap blocks.

It’s been a while since I turned right, and I was a bit shocked to find the path disappearing into a thicket of gorse…nothing stays the same.

On the same theme, I saw this on the horizon – start of the wind farm?

Along at the marshy bit, the docks were spectacular, changing into their autumn colours and shooting up tall seed heads. I think these are Water Docks, Rumex Hydrolapthum.

I took a few seeds to look at at home.

But it was going back that I came upon the thing that made me squeak.

A Gentian miles from anywhere I’d expect to find them at Tentsmuir. I think this is Field Gentian, Gentianella campestris but should have looked more closely at the sepals.

So beautiful.

But autumn is definitely on its way…

Back in the dunes

I haven’t been along the dunes since lockdown, mainly because of the number of visitors. Yesterday, the car park was still quite full, but in the dunes all was peaceful and quiet. I’ve really missed the plants there.

I was hoping there might be some Grass of Parnassus still flowering…never expected to see a river of white snaking off into the distance. There must have been thousands of them.

And for the first time, I noticed that a few of them have six petals, not five.

It was also lovely to see a spread of Eyebright merging into the Grass of Parnassus.

Nothing was going to top the Grass of Parnassus spectacle, but there were lots of other things to enjoy too. Centauries – for some reason, much easier to see the difference between the leaves of Seaside and Common when they’re going over. First, Common Centaury.

Then Seaside.

The leaves had a wooden look which reminded me of the “petals” of a pinecone.

The Evening Primrose is doing well. I like the Red Yellow Green of it.

The dunes were flooded at the end, and damp elsewhere. Lots of Common reed growing where I’ve not noticed it before. Marsh Pennywort has spread over a large patch near the path.

There was a beautiful Red Admiral resting on the sand – I didn’t disturb it.

And a mushroom with subtle markings.

Sand sedge in fruit, stretching across the path.

Another sedge, still to be identified.

And I’m sure I’ve previously identified this sedge clump but can’t remember what it is.

There was thyme and blue fleabane and little yellow things and hare’s foot clover. Red Bartsia.

And the starry “flowers” of Biting Stonecrop which has gone over, with Restharrow and Bird’s-foot Trefoil.

So many things I’ve missed. I wish Tentsmuir hadn’t become so busy at peak flower time, but it was a good afternoon even so.

On the way back I had a quick look at the Verbascum at Guardbridge (the ones on this side of the fence) in case they were Densiflora. But no sign of a spathulate stigma. Don’t think I’ve ever looked closely at these flowers – very beautiful, and how helpful for photos to have flowers at head height.

Full bloom (St Cyrus)

Although I appreciated the flowers which were “going over” in an interesting way, the dunes at St Cyrus still had plenty of beauties in full bloom. I was so pleased to find lots of Carline Thistle, as I’ve never had a proper chance to get to know it.

It nearly ended up in the companion blog, as it has the look of a plant which has passed its peak. But I think this dried up, bleached appearance is just how it does things. There were plenty of florets in the centre of the flowers, like little shaving brushes.

Another stand out flower for me was the Maiden Pink. Can you ever have enough Maiden Pink? So lovely to see it scattered about on the turf in good sized colonies.

I took a picture of its calyx to compare with the pink Susan found at Ardnamurchan.

Then there was Goldenrod, Solidago virgaurea, a more gentle yellow than the Canadian Goldenrod. Some was growing in single spikes but there were clumps too, brightening up the dunes.

Not everywhere, but there were some Wild Pansies with their soft colours. And Harebells.

Lots of butterflies too – I think these are all Meadow Brown, with the second picture showing a male.

Finally, the wonderful Clustered Bellflower. Sadly, it seems much more supremely purple in real life than it does in photos. But such a beauty.

I enjoyed this day so much.

Going over (St Cyrus)

It seemed an appropriate day to appreciate things that are going over but are just as fascinating and beautiful as flowers in full bloom.

First of all Clustered Bellflower. I didn’t know it has these circular marks when the petals fall.

And it’s completely spectacular when the petals are all gone.

I thought this next one was also Clustered Bellflower, but now I don’t think that’s right. Whatever it is, wonderful pink heads.

Spear Thistle seeds coming out almost upside-down, parachutes still folded away.

In the car park it took me a moment to recognise my old friend Viper’s Bugloss in this curly tousled form.

Finally, there were so many snail shells of all different colours that I just had to gather some together for a picture.


Another visit to Kilminning on a sunny day. I went back to the tadpole pool – all gone. But I had another look at some of the plants there.

Sea Arrowgrass, Triglochin maritimum. Beautiful structure.

Then there was the same clump of Sea Plantain I photographed on 6 July. The flowers have all gone over, but it still has its reddish colour. Looking at this picture after I’d been checking the ID of the Sea Arrowgrass, I had a horrible thought…but no, it’s definitely Sea Plantain, and the earlier picture has flowers to prove it.

Tried and failed to identify this rush, but I love this detail of the murky pool, with bubbles and a visitor.

First flowering Sea Asters of the year. A bumble bee was enjoying this one.

I remember looking at this big sedge with the plant ladies, but couldn’t recall what conclusion we reached. After a bit of work, I decided on Carex divisa, Divided Sedge. The stems at the top were absolutely triangular, and the formation of the flower heads looks right. It’s growing in a bracking pool, which also fits.

These pits and lines in the stones must be fossil remains? You can trace trunk lines several metres long. Very beautiful. I want to have another look when the sun is low in the winter.

I walked up the (hot, noisy) road to see if the Shepherd’s Needle could be seen this year (no). I was glad to see the Narrow-leaved Ragwort, Senecio inaequidens, is still there (but going over). And there was a very nice Sticky Groundsel flowering away.

Hogweed, Angelica and Galeopsis

A walk on paths round Leslie – nice and quiet, and lots of raspberries to collect.

I took the chance to compare Angelica and Hogweed.

First, Angelica. Easy to tell when it has these lovely domed (and rather fluffy) flower heads.

Then there’s Hogweed, with a slightly less rounded flower-head, and stamens not giving the “fluffy” appearance – and white rather than pink(ish).

There was also lots of Galeopsis, Hemp Nettle. To be honest, I’m not sure whether these are G. tetrahit (Common Hemp Nettle) or G. bifida (Bifid Hemp Nettle – lower lip appears notched).

And a very pretty (sown) field edge, with Phacelia and ? some kind of radish

Sedges and others, Holl

I hoped to identify the sedges I found at Holl reservoir a couple of weeks ago, but…

So this is just to remind me to have a proper go next year. And to remind me of a good morning and all these lovely plants.

This was the mixture at the foot of the dam.

I liked the way these horsetails looked like a paddy field.

Yellow Mimula everywhere.

And then there were the sedges…

In the middle of nowhere

I’ve been here before, but not since my sore legs episode, so it was a bit of a test. The hill up to the moor felt steep, but I plodded along and there were several good flowers to help me on my way.

Mountain Pansy, Viola lutea.

Bog Asphodel, Narthecium ossifragum.

And Alpine Bistort, but sadly the pictures were rubbish.

I wasn’t sure just where my boulder was, but found it just as I was thinking I should turn back.

The views from the top are of an empty landscape, a tiny line of wind turbines the only sign of any structure. No sound of cars or people, just birds and insects.

I found my old legs wouldn’t let me sit down on top of the boulder, but there was a flat seat at just the right height for which I was grateful. I had my lunch (excellent pie from the village shop) and then lay there for a while, watching the clouds moving across the sky.

Coming back down, more plants to keep me going.

Stag’s-horn clubmoss.

Butterwort leaves and sundew.

There were lots of butterflies, including the beautiful blue ones. And in a big puddle on the track, there were waterboatmen and water beetles. How did they get there?
I enjoyed this day so much. It would have been unthinkable back in April.