Mainly about the wild flowers of Fife

St Andrews

Business as usual in Kenly Den

It was a beautiful sunny morning and for once there was no howling gale. We walked down to the sea from Boarhills and it was so heartening to see all the spring flowers coming out, just as they should be. With most of them, it was the first time this year that I’ve seen them.

The first delight was Wood Anemone.

Then Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage, Chrysosplenium oppositifolium.

The male flowers of Dog’s Mercury.

Down at the sea, the first Scurvygrass flowers.

I wish I’d taken a picture of the sea, which was so clear and blue and sparkling.

Afterwards, I went down to St A and had a look at the birds. I liked the ripples these ducks were making.

The pavement plants are superb just now. I loved these little white Whitlow Grass flowers among the cobbles in North Street.

But the star of the show was the Rue-leaved Saxifrage, in flower. This picture makes me feel dizzy…

Lumbo den and Craigtoun park

Lovely sunny Boxing Day, and feeling optimistic I went looking for snowdrops on the Lade Braes. There were a few just beginning to show white, but you couldn’t really say there were any out just yet.

The Butterbur leaves are making good progress:

butterbur leaves

I walked up the right side of the hill at Lumbo Den, then up the path to Craigtoun.

lumbo den

I love Craigtoun in the winter, when there’s hardly anyone there. I had the avenue all to myself. Fantastic old conifers. Some kind of cypress?


The well has been there all my life. It’s in quite a sad state now, with finials missing and a tatty hanging basket, but still such a presence.

well cropped


I heard two jays screeching, then saw one fly from one tree to another. Decided that counted for my birds list, even though it was just a fleeting glimpse.

Coming down the other side of Lumbo Den, through the trees, it was a real wildlife spectacular. First of all I came across a deer with its back to me – couldn’t believe that even when it came round the tree and looked right at me, it didn’t run straight away. Then there were the coal, blue and great tits, hopping about quite near. And a squirrel family, grey but never mind, still very cute.

deer behind crop

deer front crop


Interesting fungi on a fallen tree trunk.


The heron was still there when I walked back along the Lade Braes, braced against the current – the burn was quite full.

The sound of the burn had been the backdrop all along the walk.

Spring survey

Monday 20 May – warm, muggy, overcast. I went out the cliffs to do my first plant survey of the year. I recorded 40 species, which seems a lot, and there will be more to come – leaves hinting at flowers to follow.

Before I even got to the start of the survey, there was this lovely combination of bluebells and pink campion.
bluebells and campion
Most of the bluebells here seem to be the native Hyacinthoides non-scripta, with their white anthers, but in other places along the path there are some hybrids or Spanish bluebells.
bluebells and campion2
The star discovery this time was this ivy-leaved speedwell, which I don’t remember before.
ivy leaved speedwell2
I was pleased too to find an early flowering Bitter Vetch (with those weird looking horsetails).
bitter vetch
The landslip hasn’t greened up significantly, and the plants are still growing in separate little clumps.
landslip plants
landslip clump
I got to the end of the survey section and the first raindrops fell…

Three yellow flowers

Sunny but squishy walk out the cliffs at St Andrews. Squishy with mud from the melted snow, but also because the ground has been churned up by cattle. Why they let the cattle mess up the path like that, I do not know.

Anyway, although there was still a wintry feel to everything, along the way I found the first few flowers of spring, which is always good. Of course, they were all yellow, which my camera just doesn’t do…

Primrose clump blooming under the shelter of a bush on the cliff edge.
A single Lesser Celandine – there will be so many more to come.

Coltsfoot, or Tussilago farfara, a wonderful name for one of my favourites.
At the rock and spindle, the landslip had produced some fantastic icicles.

Really I should have called this one “Four yellow flowers” because I also stopped to look at the buds on a gorse bush. Are they always black, and I’ve never noticed? Or have they suffered in the freezing temperatures this week?
The sea was roaring.


Rock and Spindle

Easter Monday and I set out to have a walk along the cliffs at St A. I took the map showing my new Plantlife survey square, to see if I could work out where it starts and finishes (eventually decided it starts at the top of the steps).

There were primroses and a few early bluebells, lots of celandine and a clump of marsh marigold in full bloom. The blackthorn bushes were white with blossom. There were eider ducks and cormorants out among the rocks. Lots to look at.

Along past the rock and spindle there’s a landslip from last year which is already being colonised, although the plants look a bit precarious. I wonder how long it will be before the surface is completely over-grown?
At the base, there’s water seeping out from the rocks underneath. And the beginnings of stalactites?

Then there was the yellow submarine…who knows!

View from the end of the survey square. There’s Veronica beccabunga in that puddle.

A Rimy Morning

I was reading “Mr Pip” this week and that’s where thoughts of a rimy morning came from on a beautiful sunny day, no wind to speak of, freezing cold. I went out the cliffs to see if there were any eider duck about. And there were, with oyster-catchers, black-backed gulls and the rest. Coming down the steps, I thought I’d dislodged earth off a mole hill, but then realised that this one was fresh, with no frost on it like the others. So I watched and saw more earth heave upwards…and again…I hoped for a glimpse of the mole, but of course he stayed well buried.

The rock pools were frozen and there were icicles at the run-off. But with the sun shining it was all very lovely.
I liked the ice in the cows’ hoof marks, the way it pulled back from the edge of the hole.

Coming carefully down the slidy path from the caravan site, I was amazed to see a spread of primroses.

Lunchtime discoveries

Not sure just which day it was, but one day in late July I went out for some fresh air at lunchtime and ended up going down by the Athletic Union and part-way up the path to David Russell. I remembered that there were some interesting flowers there when we walked it with Uncle John and Catherine a couple of years ago (I also remember being in a right bad mood that day!)

So another day I’ll go further, but on this particular lunchtime, here’s what took my eye:

Lords and ladies, arum maculatum, looking quite unreal.

Small-flowered – or is it Dove’s-foot? cranesbill. I’ll have to go back with the book and check. At least this clump is unlikely to get strimmed before I get there, unlike the poor plant on the Elie coastal path.

Small Balsalm, impatiens parvaflora. This was a new one on me, and I had to look it up. On the increase, says the book, and certainly when we were visiting Cliveden the other day it was lining the woodland paths. But I’ve never noticed it in Fife before. Is it new on the scene, or is it a case of my eyes now being opened?

Lunchtime liverwort

11 July 2011. A grey July day, but the rain stopped by lunchtime and I went out for a walk round and a think about the latest case. I saw these growing on the car park steps. Then I saw them going all the way up the Jacobs ladder steps. And I never noticed them before.

Liverworts are something I haven’t done much about so far, but after a quick browse I think they might be marchantia polymorpha. The green lettuce bits aren’t leaves, they’re thalli, which I thought was something you got in Indian restaurants…

The umbrellas are gametophores. That’s enough new words for one day, but it’s clear that if you want to know liverworts, you need to learn a whole new language.