Mainly about the wild flowers of Fife


Coralroot orchid! Twinflower!

We set out to get an idea of where to start our survey of Coralroot orchid at Tentsmuir, but made a little detour first…

So lovely to see it again.

The patch seems bigger than ever, but most of it is flowerless. Which makes the flowers all the more special.

Then we went over to the Great Slack and started tracing grid references. We found lots of small beauties, including Field Woodrush.

Deep blue Milkwort.


Carnation Sedge, Carex panacea.

And then Margaret found the first one.

And I found the second one (but it wasn’t so photogenic). Margaret found lots of Pyrola leaves.

EC’s notes say that the orchid was often found in association with Pyrola.

As a bonus, we found lots of Adder’s-tongue Fern.

Rain (and time) stopped play, but we’ll be back. So happy that we found even just a couple of spikes.


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.


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.

January bleakness

No sun today. I walked around the airfield to the end of the Eden estuary, all bleached out bleakness, thinking about what happened 40 years ago today.

The sand was half-frozen, which made for easier walking, and there was frost on some of the dunes.

I puzzled over these birds but with help from expert Mary, have got them down as Bar-tailed Godwit. Because they don’t look like Naomi Campbell, and are on a Fife estuary. With upturned beaks.

I also saw a tree creeper, long-tailed tits and a very shy robin.

On the path through the forest, I noticed a reddish-brown tinge on a fallen pine trunk.

A tiny liverwort, which will have to be studied properly tomorrow.

Coming back, the alder and hazel catkins were tightly closed, but there was a little viburnum (I think) scrambling through the thorny branches of a rose.


End of September, but there was still lots of colour around.

The glowing orangey-red leaves of the Rosebay Willowherb were fantastic in the sun.

After this year’s wonderful Hawthorn blossom, it’s not surprising that there are some great displays of berries now.

I was surprised to see that the burn no longer runs down on to the beach – effect of the dry summer?

The sow thistles are still lovely.

I walked through the dunes, thinking about moss. I must get back to it. This one is in my head as the pepperminty green moss.

At one point, there were spreads of vivid green Polypody leaves.

Only some leaves had sori, and only at the top. I wondered if this is because it’s early in the season – do they extend downwards from the tip?

The pools where I heard the Snipe earlier this year have now dried up again. No birds to be seen or heard.

Along at the end of the beach, I sat and watched a group of seals out on a sandbank, as the tide came in.

There seemed to be two young ones and six adults.

A constant stream of terns flew past in a straight line, behind the seals, heading up the estuary. I became worried about one of the seals, which didn’t move when the tide washed over the sandbank, and became separated from the group. It didn’t seem to be able to move properly, just rolling back and forward. I stopped watching and moved down the beach for a closed view, but it had disappeared by the time I did this. Hope that meant it was swimming away.

Other wildife – heard a grasshopper, saw ringed plover and sanderlings at the sea edge. Some beautiful young puffballs – I liked the curved shadow of the grass on this one.

The sea rocket on the beach is in great clumps.

I found a really pale version in the dunes.

Prickly Saltwort – flowers or fruits? (Fruits!)

Tentsmuir – so full of wonderful distractions, it always helps.

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.

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?

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.

Tentsmuir discoveries

Changeable weather, total peace and quiet, lots to look at. I love Tentsmuir.

I went along towards the Eden, and the first thing to catch my attention was this little “flower”.

Field Wood-rush, Luzula campestris. It has long fine hairs on the leaves.

There was a strange bird call, which made me go off-track and see if I could spot what was making it. I found this pool, which isn’t usually there.

There were Shelduck, Moorhen, Coots, two deer – but nothing that seemed right for the mystery noise.

The changing light and colours were wonderful.

I went as far as the Eden, where the sand has been blown into dunes and ripples, some with footprints.

Coming back, I noticed what I thought was a fern growing out of one of the tank blocks. On a closer look, it seems to be Valerian leaves. I wonder if they’ll flourish there?

The moss and lichen on the tops of the tank blocks was wonderful.

I found a caterpillar and just a little further on, his friend.

I couldn’t identify these at all, but the reserve manager has kindly put me right – Dark Tussock Moth caterpillars, Dicallomera fascelina.

I found the first violet of the Tentsmuir season and was glad to think that soon the dunes will be full of small spots of colour, like this.

Tentsmuir life

Down at Tentsmuir the dunes were flooded, as I’ve not seen them for years.

I wonder what that will do to the orchids and Grass of Parnassus? Looking into the pools, there were lots of (apparently) drowned snails.

I rescued one which seemed to be clinging to a submerged blade of grass, and it seemed none the worse.

The dunes were full of the sound of skylarks. There were spreads of Erophila verna. OK, tiny dolls-cot-sized spreads, but spreads all the same.

I came across several of these courting couples, some on the dunes and one heading towards a ditch in the forest.

The dunes are still bleached and generally things look wintery, but it sounded like spring.

There were tiny pussy-willows on the salix repens.

Along at the alders, the dead trees were just a scene of devastation.

However, there were (full-sized) pussy-willows.

And alder catkins, at last.

A little further on, I stopped because I could hear a hum…a willow full of bumblebees. Another real sound of spring.

There were rabbits, but no fox today at the edge of the wood. I found parsley piert leaves, aphanes arvensis, tiny but beautiful, in the gateway.

I had a look at the moss on one of the trees in the boggy bit. Fantastic striped setae.

The frog pond wasn’t quite as busy as I’ve seen it, but loud with frog-calls and full of splashes and ripples.