Mainly about the wild flowers of Fife


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.


Last weekend, finally tracked down the Twinflower at Tentsmuir with the help of GPS and Margaret!

Huge expanse of leaves, not so many flowers, but so delicate and lovely.

Some were just single flowers.

The twin flowers are beautifully balanced.

Tentsmuir discovery

I went looking for the fabled Twinflower, but didn’t mind too much that I failed to find it, because there were so many other lovely things around. Isn’t June a great month, when it isn’t raining?

I found a new plant, always exciting. A tiny little vetch-like thing, which turned out to be Bird’s-foot, or Ornithopus Perpusillus (and how you remember that, I do not know).

Lovely wee flower.

A member of the same family is Common Vetch, with its single, beautiful flowers.

There weren’t as many orchids as I expected, especially on the banking, but still some of these purple ones, which I think are Northern Marsh orchid.

I rediscovered the mystery leaves and am now thinking – speedwell? But no sign of any flowers.

The bees were enjoying the heather.

The lichen on the beech trunks was soaked, and maybe that’s why there were snails there too.

Hare’s-foot clover is always one of my very favourite things.

The sky was threatening, but it didn’t come to anything while I was there.

I counted 36 flowering plants on the long walk back to the car.

Herb Paris

On the one sunny day of the week, we had an outing to the Birks of Aberfeldy to see what could be seen.

The complete list ran on to the third page of my notebook, but the highlight was definitely the Herb Paris which I’d never seen before. Extinct in Fife.

It’s supposed to aid contemplation and equanimity, because of the harmony created by its four leaves, four sepals, four petals and eight stamens.

There was also some lovely fluffy Wood Horsetail, some with umbrella tops. I think these are the fertile stems, before the tip appears.

There was oak fern.

And beech fern.

I wish I’d taken a picture of the grass Melica uniflora, so delicate. But we only got halfway up, so maybe I’ll be back…

(The real) Lethans Den

After our epic fail in which we surveyed the wrong burn, Margaret and I went back to have a look at the real Lethan’s Den on a beautiful sunny morning.

We logged about 80 species along the burnside and around a nearby quarry, taking time to look in detail at a couple of forget-me-nots (arvensis and discolor) and little yellow thing with trefoil leaves (Lesser Trefoil, Trifolium dubium).

I had my hands full with book and/or list, handlens, stick, rucksack – so didn’t take too many photographs. But we found Beech fern, Phegopteris connectilis, with its little rabbit’s ears. One from Sandy’s list of rarities. There was also Oak fern and Lemon-scented fern.

We didn’t find the Melancholy thistle or Alpine bistort, or even any orchids. But it was good to explore a new area. Margaret was very happy to find onion skin weathering on the stone face of the quarry – I’d never heard of it, but the patterns on the stone were amazing.

We finished up just as the rain began to fall.

Not Lethans Den

Margaret and I set off to west Fife to see what we could find in Lethans Den. We ended up with quite a list, including:

Bog stitchwort, Stellaria alsine. This one had me confused for quite a while. Margaret showed me the elastic stele in the stem, very stretchy.

Sweet vernal grass in flower.

Think this is Carex nigra, Common sedge.
Then there was a mystery:

It looks as if it’s been nibbled (there was a black slug lurking underneath) but was once a yellow crucifer. The leaves are odd. At home, going through the books, the nearest I could come is Sisymbrium altissimum, but the seed pods don’t look right.

Margaret was sure about this one, Luzula campestris, Field Wood-rush (or Good Friday grass). Lovely hairy leaves.

There was a fern unrolling itself – we weren’t sure which one, but now know it was the Lemon-scented fern, Oreopteris limbosperma (prefer Lemon-scented fern, myself).

And there were sand martins to entertain us at lunch, and a beautifully camouflaged (but just not quite enough) moth to admire on the way back.

But later, it turned out we hadn’t been in Lethans Den after all…more of that to come.

Early summer at Elie

All of a sudden (it feels) there are flowers everywhere. Down at Elie on Sunday, I was spoilt for choice.

There was the re-discovery of the Pink Sorrel, Oxalyis articulata.

Then a patch of Common Vetch, Viccia sativa…

…which was growing into a patch of geranium, Small-flowered/Pusillum I think, but not sure.

One of the books says it should have five stamens without anthers – I’m not seeing that.

There’s still some scurvygrass, this one wedged into a crack in the rock.

I was trying to work out if it’s Danish, Common, or a hybrid. If the seed pods are narrowed at both ends, like plums, it could be Danish (Cochlearia danica). If they’re globular, narrowed into the style, it could be Common (Cochlearia officinalis).

I think these are narrower at the top than the bottom…which end is the style? And they do look quite like plums…so confusing. The plants were so stunted I couldn’t really check whether the stem leaves are stalked and ivy-shaped (Danish) or clasping the stem (Common).

And of course, it could be a hybrid.

There was also Bucks-horn plantain and Sea plantain – but it was so sunny that the pictures didn’t work out. So warm that I ended up carrying the fleece I’d foolishly put on. At least I’d decided against the woolly hat.

Spring in the dunes

I had an early Saturday morning amble down at Tentsmuir, while it was peaceful and quiet.

Everything is so dry. Barbeques are banned, and the pool along at the fence has retreated far away from it.

But there were plenty of flowers to find, including lots of little groups of daisies, which I don’t remember seeing before.

There was birds-foot trefoil and silverweed.

And the smallest little forget-me-not, myosotis ramossisima, I think.

Some flowering sedges and rushes. This one is Spring sedge, Carex caryophyllea.

This is Sand sedge, Carex arenaria.

This one I’m still working on…

Lovely hairy leaves of the hawkweed/bit/one-day-I’ll-get-it-sorted.

And lots of these leaves too – couldn’t place them, will have to wait and see.

There were the very first sea sandwort flowers.
And I saw my first swallows of the year, always a good moment.

Past the fence, the tide was in and there were no sandbanks, no seals. But there were a couple of shelducks in the distance.

And the blue sky was doing amazing things with the water in the pools. Bright scalloped edges.

Back through the forest, out of the wind, and the birch trees were that vivid, delicate spring green. The path started to get busy, but I stopped to listen to an invisible black-cap.