Mainly about the wild flowers of Fife


The path through the wood

End of summer, beginning of autumn. The wind snatched the car door out of my hand, but on the path through the forest, it was sheltered. There were lots of flowers still out.

First, a Speedwell. I’m really not sure which one this is and will have to go back with the book, to have a proper look at the fruits.

Then there was white Herb Robert, tangled up with everything else.

A fantastic fungi, which seems to have grown around the grass stem.

The path at the end of the wood had some lovely mixed groups.

I love Viper’s bugloss.

There was a dragon fly sunning itself (red veined darter?).

I puzzled over some rosettes of warty leaves, which seem familiar…will have to puzzle some more.

I still can’t remember how you tell the small geraniums apart. Maybe this is Small-flowered Cranesbill, as the hairs on the stem seem quite short. But again, I need to go back with the book.

I liked this nettle, for some reason.

And one final mystery, a flower which didn’t quite look like Chickweed or Cerastium Fontanum.

Going back to the car, lovely Sea Buckthorn


Kincraig cliffs

It was a beautiful breezy morning and I had the whole beach to myself, for a while.

The long line of orache isn’t here this year, but there are plenty of plants dotted about, with sea rocket too.

And a bad case of sand pox.

And hope!

I went along to the end of the beach, in case the fabled Long-horn Poppy could be found, but was just as happy to find Thrift in its late flowering, and the last of the Bladder Campion. (Or is it Sea? I never know)

I stopped to watch three(?) kestrels, swooping and hovering along the cliffs. Amazing being under one while it hung almost motionless in the sky. Up the cliffs, I thought I saw one of them posing on a rock, but it turned out to be a crow.

There are still plenty of flowers, although in ones and twos rather than abundance. I found one little Meadow Cranesbill.

Just a few Agrimony spikes.

Lots of this Artemisia plant – but which one is it?

The black hips of the Burnet Rose looked good enough to eat.

At the top of the cliffs, the swallows were flying low.

There were goldfinches on the Knapweed seedheads.

I got my first ever in-focus picture of the Duke of Argyll’s Teaplant flower. The plant seems to be spreading along the edge of the path – separate bushes.

There was some eye-catching lichen.

And a tiny patch of saltmarsh.

When I set out, I had a vague idea that I would try to re-find the Gentian (Gentianella amarella ssp septentrionalis) along at Dumbarnie. I knew there was work on a new golf course, but I hadn’t realised it was right where we’d botanised.

I felt so sad, thinking of the Grass of Parnassus and our rare Gentian. The plants are doing their best – the piles of sand have already been colonised by thistles and Common Storks-bill – but it makes me mad to think of what’s been lost, all so a group of rich Americans can have their own little bit of Fife.

Anyway, such is life. I went back up the Cocklemill burn path, to see how the erosion is coming on, and came across this little yellow thing.

I remember trying and failing to identify it last year. I think it’s either Annual or Perennial Wall-rocket, but am struggling a bit because what is a sepal scar?

Also found some white Common stork’s-bill along the forest track.

Tentsmuir in mid-August

Such a good day at Tentsmuir – I took far too many pictures which always delays the blog entry and means I’m remembering from a distance…

The stand-out plant was Grass of Parnassus, great spreads of it in the dunes, more than I’ve ever seen.

Here with eyebright.

Much more modest, but all over the dunes too, was the little starry Knotted Pearlwort, Sagina nodosa.

I was looking at sedges and rushes too, but will keep most of them for another day. Identification is still very vague.
The Evening Primrose is doing really well, and I saw lots of Hare’s-foot clover.

And Centaury with Red Bartsia.

I could hear terns, and set off down to the beach to see them, but my way was blocked.

Wasn’t expecting that, after our dry summer.

At the edge, it was all Glasswort (Salicornia) and Sea Blite, and Spurrey.

No birds in the bird pool. I headed up to the heath, where these poor battered alders are still putting out leaves.

Over to see whether I could find the moonwort from the vague description I’d been given – got myself a couple of cleg bites but no moonwort.

Coming back through the forest, I found my first ever Skullcap (Greater), with a red-headed beastie.

I made a detour down to the dunes, where I watched gannets diving and admired the prickliness of the Prickly Saltwort.

It was warm and I was tired.

Somewhere else (somewhere steep)

A grey and blustery day, and I went up the hill at Vane Farm and followed the path over the hill. Dealt with the steep bits by counting flowers, 51 including Sneezewort, Sticky Groundsel and this pretty little Water Crowfoot.

Then I found a path that went up through the forest and then along the cliffs at the top of the hill, through a spread of heather. Somewhere else! Never been here before. Views were spectacular, even with the weather.

I went on until I reached a trig point.

The rain was heading towards me, so I turned back, but another day I’ll keep going.

Back down at the Loch, I was lucky enough to see my third Little Egret in two days (this one was later chased off by a heron).

Morton Lochs

The water level was so low – the indicator board well above the surface. We looked at pondweed, and decided that what we had was Broad-leaved Pondweed, Potamogeton nutans, because of the kinked, discoloured stem just under the leaf, and the leaf shape. Should have taken a picture. I did take one of the Lesser Marshwort, Apium inundatum, which is usually at least partly underwater.

We decided this was Water Mint, Mentha aquatica, with the whorls of flowers under the main head of flowers, and the stamens protruding.

With a rather lovely wasp visitor.

But the highlight had to be when someone discovered Nodding Bur-Marigold, Bidens cernua. There are no recent records in Fife, and it doesn’t seem to have been recorded there before.

I liked its stripy petals (tepals?)

There was Marsh Willowherb, Epilobium palustre – terrible photo, but it shows the narrow leaves.

And another one I’ve never seen before, Marsh Speedwell, Veronica scutellata.

We also saw Greater Spearwort, Sphagnum squarrosum, and a number of sedges (acutifolia, articulata…)

I wonder if all these flowers will be here next year, or whether normal water levels will be back?

The long walk (part 2)

When you reach the mouth of the Kenly burn, it always feels like a different kind of walk. Cool, shady, green. At the mouth of the burn were the usual mallards, who were joined by a group of four ducks I’d been watching on the sea.

Diving ducks. I decided that this was a female eider and three youngsters. Later in the afternoon, I saw a large group of eiders on the rocks outside St Andrews, but no young ones.

The Kenly burn was lower than I’ve ever seen it, and I took the chance to scramble down and look at the moss on the stones. How rusty am I, with moss. I’ve put the photos aside to study later. But as well as moss, there were some plants growing opportunistically (is that a word?) where they would usually be covered with water.

Enchanter’s nightshade

Procumbent pearlwort

On the bank, the himalayan balsalm has become established, but I also found a bent-over Monks-hood, Aconitum napellus, here with leaves of Herb Robert.

Coming back up the path, I saw my favourite dipper, reflected in the water. Hope he/she is getting enough to eat, with the low water level.

Back out into the sun, and I pressed on through the boring bit and back down to the sea at Shelduck bay (no ducks). At the Buddo Ness stone, there were several large Burdocks – lesser Burdock, I think, because the heads were sticky.

The leaves were marbled with insect damage.

I watched a young tern try and fail to dive, then fed by its mother. Thought how I’d watched a tern trying to teach its young one to dive in the very same spot, a few years ago.

The steps were the usual killer, and it was getting very hot. The tide was in, but I went round by the mountain goat path. Found the smallest teasel in the world.

The Bloody Cranesbill was flowering at the Rock and Spindle. Then back towards St A, thinking celestial thoughts.

The long walk (part 1)

Kingsbarns to St Andrews on a day which started quite cloudy but became very hot. Silvery Mugwort was growing along the shore.

The flowers along the path were wonderful. Red campion, Hogweed, Sow thistle, and my favourite, Meadow Crane’s-bill.

There were so many herons, some seeming to be arguing about territory. This one picking its way across the beach looked very young.

There was a small group of sanderlings at the water’s edge, but not moving at their usual breakneck speed – maybe the heat had got to them too.

Scots Lovage and Sow thistle growing on the rocks.

This Mayweed looked odd to me, large disc and sparse ray florets. There were a few plants like this, although I saw “normal” ones later on. Later on this week I learnt that the daisy family can have a “flexible gene pool” so can be variable.

The poppies were beautiful but have me confused – Common or Long-headed? Because most of the capsules seemed short and chunky, I’m leaning towards Common – but didn’t know about the latex test.

Another plant that regularly gets me confused is bindweed. I think this is Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis, because of the leaf shape – Sea bindweed is rounder.

It was hard to believe we’re still in July, with sloes on the bushes, bramble fruit colouring up, and harvest gathered in.


Last Sunday, a warm but overcast day, and Pauline and I had a great walk from Lower Largo along to Shell Bay and back. We picked up a bag of plastic, but the beach was pretty clean.

Not many pictures, but there was a great spread of Upright Hedge Parsley and Knapweed in the dried-out dune grassland.

The tide was right out and we went to the tip of Ruddon’s point, where there was (Lesser Sea?) Spurrey.

The impact of the hot dry weather really hit home when we found dried up rock pools with salt deposits.

I’ve never seen this before – I’m sure the normal rainfall would usually dissolve these crystals.

Tentsmuir a few weeks ago

It’s been a bad year for blogging, but I’ll just bung these photos up and see what I remember about this walk on 22 June.

The first thing were the crowds of purple orchids, Northern Marsh I think, in the dunes.

I walked round the end of the dunes and had a lovely (distant) view of the seals at the edge of the beach.

Quite unusual to see them there instead of on a sandbank. I didn’t go nearer as I didn’t want to disturb them.

Birds in a pool.

These are Dunlin. There were Ringed Plovers too.

Coming back through the forest, Common Wintergreen.

A rather nice Hairy Thing

The sky was great. I love Tentsmuir.

Forfar Loch

A quick reminder of a lovely day out, first at Little Ballo (orchids, butterwort, fen bedstraw) and then at Forfar Loch. On the way down the path we found lots of Hedge Bedstraw, and stopped to puzzle over this Hypericum.

Decided it was Hairy St John’s-wort, Hypericum hirsutum, because the flower is paler than most hypericums, the plant is generally hairy, and the sepals are fringed with little black glands with stalks.

We also stopped to look at the deeply divided leaves of Musk Mallow, Malva moschata.

Weather could have been better, but it didn’t rain. There were glimpses of hares, deer, and great crested grebes, good company, and good scones at Glamis.