Mainly about the wild flowers of Fife


The Minister’s Path

Another day off and another chance to explore somewhere different. I decided to try the Minister’s Path between Glen Prosen and Glen Clova.

Going up, I kept startling red grouse from the heather. What a strange noise they make. And their droppings were strange too, like little cigarette butts. Apparently it’s their high fibre heather shoot diet…

I was hoping they wouldn’t fly over to the shooting party on the other side. Not such a peaceful walk today.

The heather was a tapestry of different shades of purple.

Scenery all around.

Down a long hill, saying hello to a group of walkers struggling up the other way. At the foot of the hill, the tallest mullein I’ve seen for a long time (flowers just about looking me in the eye).

At the end of the path was the carpark and a handy bench, where I had my lunch with a view.

Nearly got soaked when a car drove fast through that puddle. Not impressed.

On the way back, the hill was steep. I tried to identify the small squeaky birds, and managed to get a picture.

Meadow pipit, I think.
I thought this must be a club moss, and it is – Stag’s-horn Club-moss (white hair ends to leaves).

A good walk.


The hill

If ever I needed a reminder of why I’m not a hill walker…

I went off to explore Glen Clova, parked at Glen Doll, and ended up following the path to Ballater by Capel Mounth. I didn’t realise it went to the top of the hill until I was halfway up (or what felt like halfway up). Decided to carry on, but it was hard going…however, there were ever-changing light effects on the hills to distract me, and some good plants on the path.

Still in bloom, Yellow Saxifrage, Saxifraga aizoides – attracting several ants.

Bog Asphodel, Narthecium ossifragum (one of my plants of the year).

Just as lovely once it’s gone over – great colour.

I didn’t see anyone, but at one point, I thought I heard distant bagpipes…

Top of the hill, top of the world.

I didn’t go further as the rain started. It stopped as soon as I was togged up in waterproofs, but I felt I’d achieved enough and carried on down the hill.

Alpine Lady’s-mantle, Alchemilla alpina, with its silvery-backed leaflets cut to the base.

Red sphagnum – might be Sphagnum capillifolium subsp. capillifolium, because there were lots of capsules.

Lovely Hylocomium splendens, Glittering wood moss welcomed me back into the wood, where I managed not to fall off the stepping stones across the burn.

It felt like a different world, only an hour and a half in the car – can’t believe I’ve never been here before.

Another afternoon walk out from Tayport to Tentsmuir point. The tide was far out. I admired the Sea Asters in the saltmarsh, with the view across the Tay.

Had another look at the tangled spurrey, and yes, it’s Corn Spurrey, Spergula arvensis. About half a dozen plants dotted around.

What I love about Tentsmuir (well, one of the 1001 things I love about Tentsmuir) is that you can set off thinking that you might look for such and such, and end up completely intrigued by something totally different. Today it was fungi which kept catching my eye.

This one looked like a goblet from some mystical tale, and the wavy edge was superb.

This one was like a little hedgehog. The beastie which has chewed a hole in it was there too.

This one wasn’t pretty – I wonder what the rabbits thought about this burrow blocker.

There were still flowers to see on the heath, including eyebright, birds-foot trefoil, milkwort and a few ragged robins.

And I loved the Angelica, which has taken over from the Hogweed – much fluffier, and very pretty close up.

I could hear the eerie sound of seals crying to each other, and headed over to the coast to see them. They were far out on the sandbank, just within range for the binoculars. I sat and watched them, and the tide, and the birds on the disappearing sandbanks. So peaceful.

I heard a noise like a stone drop – then a few minutes later, actually saw the gull fly up with a shell (limpet?) and drop it from about 20 feet on to the beach, then fly down and peck the food. Clever gull! The entire beach was empty (another reason I love Tentsmuir).

Coming back, there was Astralagus Danicus, always a pleasure, and that inspired me to set a target of 50 flowers on the way back to the car.

Among them was Toadflax, which I’ve never seen here before.

And a beautiful bedraggled white campion.

And the weird little flower of – I think – Chenopodium album, Fat Hen. Five tepals, according to the book.

A host of new plants

The wild flower class went up to the reservoir at Glen Errochty on a grey, cold, damp day – but it was plant heaven, with the chance to see things I’d never come across before.

There was moonwort, hard to believe it’s a fern. (Wish I’d got a better picture.)

Saxifraga aizoides, Yellow saxifrage (OK, I have seen this before, but not often) – again, going over, but we could see the orange dots on the petals.

There was a beautiful ball of furry moss – I’m thinking Rhytidiadelphus but have yet to sit down and see if I can get closer.

My favourite new plant was the Heath Cudweed, Gnaphalium sylvaticum. The tall spikes weren’t particularly visible among the heather, but what an amazing plant.

Then there was Selaginella selaginoides, Lesser Club-moss. Not a good picture (I’m going to blame the weather for making me rush things) but we saw the little spore clusters under its hooky claws.

And a chance to sort out two types of gentian. First, Field Gentian, Gentianella campestris, with darker flowers and two large outer calyx lobes overlapping two inner lobes. (I think)

Then Autumn Gentian, Gentianella amarella, with equal calyx teeth. (Do hope I was looking at the right thing!)

Coming down the path, we found a solitary, very tall Grass of Parnassus. Perfect. All in all, a great day out.

Oh what a beautiful morning

Up early, and I went along to Cults, meaning to explore the old railway track. But a road closure meant I ended up going along toward Burnturk, then decided to follow a path downhill.

Wonderful scabious flowers.

The path went through some trees (looks as if it will be good for spring flowers) and came out at
Bunzion. The barley fields stretched out for miles. No wind today to ruffle them.

The swallows were swooping about over the fields, with one sitting alone on the telegraph wires.

I walked along the main road to Pitlessie, then up Priestfield and back along to the car. Most of the flowers I saw there just a month ago have gone now – the mallow bush still had a few blooms, and there was one last strawberry to enjoy. But going up Priestfield, I was sorry to see the old Himalayan Balsam in full bloom, really taking hold. There was one white plant among them.

Summer Sunday at Elie

I went for an early walk. The car park was full of campervans, but the beach and path were remarkably quiet for a summer Sunday. The weather was quiet too, rain never far off but it stayed away. The birds were all stretching on the rocks, and there was a seal resting there too (just visible in photo).

The stars of the show, plant-wise, were the pyramidal orchids. I only found three spikes up on the path, but coming back, found another couple by chance when I took a short cut down to the beach.

There were the regular summer stars, like lucerne (just holding on against the bracken), the purple-whorled garden escape plant, giant hogweed, and the little white bindweed with the pink stripe on the back. Field Bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis? Must have a closed look next time.

I watched some birds at the shoreline, wondered if they were Dunlin.

There were also linnets in a bush, and ten goosanders swam alongside for part of the way. And noisy children along at the new glamping site. Hopefully having the time of their life and learning to love the coast. Will the whole path be flanked by development some day? Essex? I still resent the Castle golf course (being watched by the golfers) along at St A.

I wasn’t sure what these birds were – I didn’t think they were turnstones, I’d already been watching them (looking very brown striped and scruffy) pecking about in some seaweed. But maybe that’s what they were.

Tentsmuir – the Tayport side

Catch up blog. It was a dreadful Wednesday morning, but in the afternoon the rain finally stopped and I headed down to Tayport and walked in to Tentsmuir. The first thing I found was this tangle of a plant:

I think it’s corn spurrey, with those whorls of leaves.

Then I walked up the track looking for Flixweed, but didn’t find it. Marvelled at the height of some Common Storksbill – several inches tall. Checked out a Lathyrus linifolius, the plant we never find when monitoring. Re-discovered the Bird’s-foot, Ornithopus perpusillus. I noticed this little yellow flower, which I think is Trailing St John’s-wort.

The tracks were full of puddles, and the puddles full of Duckweed (?)

There were some amazing (flooded) fungi, a sign of things to come:

I noticed this beautiful butterfly on the thistles:

After looking it up, I think it’s a Green Fritillary.

Didn’t notice at the time, but there’s another butterfly in the picture too – maybe a Ringlet?


Then headed along the sandy path beside the river. I had it in mind to look for Creeping Lady’s-tresses, but nothing. So I ended up at the salt marsh, in beautiful sunshine. There were gannets diving at the mouth of the Tay, and lapwings in the distance.

Annual Sea-blite, Suaeda maritima:

Coming back, I noticed Scots Lovage on the shore – don’t remember seeing it here. I was just getting to the tired and weary stage, counting flowering plants to get me back to the car, when I found a whole load of interesting plants in the salt marsh. Common glasswort (I’m saying common, because of the reddish tips).

Prickly saltwort, with its prickly shadow.

Then this little thing, which is either Greater or Lesser Sea Spurrey – I would need to check the stamens and whether the seeds have wings, to be sure.

So it turned out to be a classic Tentsmuir walk – not finding what I set out to see, finding things I wasn’t sure about, finding things to wonder over and that made me very happy.

Summer flowers and strawberries

After a quick decision to take a sunny day off work I was heading for the Lomonds, but I got waylaid by the old quarry field and the peace and heat up in the hills above Cults.

I must remember not to try to get through the fence again – not fun, with nettles at face height…especially when you get stuck in the fence. Once I was in, I was a bit disappointed that the cows have grazed heavily this year. But there was still a whole host of flowers to find, including eyebright, ox-eye daisy, self-heal, fairy flax. And scabious.

Timothy and Cocks-foot in full flower.

Red Bartsia.

I went down through the woodland, past the scary hole, to see if the Twayblade was still flourishing, and it is.

Back at the car, I parked at the z-bend and wrote up a list, before I forgot. It was so peaceful. I watched a grey squirrel eating young hawthorn berries. Decided not to go to the Lomonds.

Along at the lime kiln, there was a bush of what looks like Musk Mallow.

I wasn’t sure if this was a garden escape. The book was no help, just saying that the epicalyx was narrower in Musk Mallow – but how are you supposed to work that one out?

There was marjoram and the world’s biggest hebe.

There were endless strawberries and raspberries – I ate some and filled a little bag to take home, had them with some Luvians ice-cream. I also spent some time comparing two willowherbs. Think this one is American Willowherb, with its club-shaped stigma.

Then there was an unexpected Bladder Campion, like a little bunch of green grapes.

On the other side of the road, there was Lysimachia and Fox-and-cubs, and also this silvery Alchemilla:

It was too hot to carry on, but I had just enough energy to admire these spirally, split black seed pods.

Also pleased to see the hogweed bonking beetles, doing what they do best but not on hogweed this time.

Centaury at Tentsmuir

Had a quick, rather tired Friday afternoon walk just to see what’s out at Tentsmuir – there’s always something to see/learn/ponder over/marvel at…

The grass of parnassus is just coming into flower, loads of it again this year just down from Kinshaldy car park. I just couldn’t resist a couple of photos. It’s so perfect.

There was loads of centaury too. This time, I think I’ve got the difference between Common Centaury and Seaside Centaury sorted out. It helped no end having the two plants growing side by side…suddenly it was obvious that they’re quite different.

I knew that one of them had parallel-sided leaves. It has to be this one (Seaside Centaury):

The leaves on the other (Common Centaury) are quite different.

And the flower on Seaside Centaury is darker, and the petals are a slightly different shape, and its whole appearance is much smaller and tighter. It reminds me of a cake decoration, for some reason.

There was a whole spread of Seaside Centaury at one point:

Along a short way, there was a spread of Common Centaury too.

The Evening Primrose was out, so colourful with its red-tipped leaves, but I didn’t take a picture. Sea pea, Restharrow, Bird’s-foot Trefoil. Lots and lots of Hare’s-foot clover, here with Blue Fleabane. A competition in softness.

Still don’t know this yellow flower, but love the bumblebee. Possibly Buff-tailed?

Arbroath cliffs

I’ve never been along the cliffs at this time of year – it was just as good as I expected. Nice outing with the wild flower group on a beautiful sunny day, which came as a lovely surprise after a series of grey ones.

We saw Wood vetch, purple stripy, with tendrils, on the steps down to the beach (sadly, no picture).

I did take a few pictures of some of the other highlights.

A long-distance shot of Carline thistle growing on the opposite cliff – my first time seeing this plant.

There was a whole spread of Clustered Bellflower, with its deep purple blue flowers.

Wild carrot is one of my favourites, even without the raspberry jam blob in the middle.

And I’ve never seen Hedge Bedstraw, Galium mollugo, as tall and abundant as this.

Add to this the strange harebells, Musk Mallow, Pellitory on the wall, Kidney Vetch – wonderful.