Mainly about the wild flowers of Fife


Ben Lawers

A field trip to Ben Lawers Dam with Sheila’s group which proved that you don’t need to walk miles to find a range of plants not seen on rambles round Fife.

The star was the Purple Saxifrage, saxifraga oppositifolia, which I’ve never seen before.

The leaves are stacked up like Sea Sandwort, and hairy.

A real beauty, on this rocky background.

Then there was Fir Clubmoss, Huperzia selago (upright branches of equal height) and (below) a companion for Alpine alchemilla with its completely divided leaves.

There was a Snow Lichen, Stereocaulon.

And some beautiful mosses. I think the blackish one is Andreaea rupestris, the ginger one is Didymodon insulanis, and the furry one is Racomitrium lanuginosum.

Across the dam, with the weather warming up, we saw another alchemilla, completely different with its fringed leaves. But ID has defeated me.

Sheila told us where to scramble up, and we found the Holly fern just where she said.

At boggy ground level, we found Spring Sedge, Carex caryophyllea, flowering away.

And Wood anemone, unexpected in this open ground but perhaps indicating that it used to be forest.

We all agreed we’ll have to go back later in the season for more. And to look for the Woodsia fern up this gully.


John Knox’s Pulpit

Haven’t been here for years but always meant to go back in spring to see the wood anemones and wood sorrel in flower in the woods at the foot of the path.

There were celandines too, and golden sax, and violets. An invisible chiffchaff, and, out of the wood, a great show of gorse.

There’s a yellowhammer in this picture.

I never knew they had orange backs.

You wouldn’t know from the photos, but the east wind was strong. I persevered up the path, looking over to John Knox’s pulpit and its caves.

Above, there are two massive rocks looking ready to roll down at any time.

I pottered along, finding Luzula campestris (Good Friday grass).

Later, there was another grassy thing in flower:

I think this is Hare’s-tail Cottongrass, Eriophorum vaginatum – but not quite sure.

There was also this mystery plant, which looks quite familiar…

The path has been “improved” but it feels a bit municipal now, instead of the rough track that was there. So coming back, I decided to walk past the signs warning of rock falls and go down the unimproved path to John Knox’s pulpit. I was quite relieved to get past without the boulders falling on my head.

But it felt more in touch with the landscape than the obstacle-free experience which FCCT has left us. And when I got home and looked at my photos, it’s clear that the boulders have been cemented into place. (Which explain the heap of cement left down by the burn.)

The view down the hill was good.

As a PS, I admired – and was slightly depressed – by the stripes on these fields in the distance, which match up perfectly. Arable weeds, no chance here!

Camilla, Auchtertool

Day 1 of freedom from freedom and I made a start on visiting the New Statistical Account sites, to see what can be re-found.

The minister at Auchtertool listed some tempting plants: Imperatoria ostruthium (not sure, some kind of umbellifer) at Camilla ruins, and Yellow Star of Bethlehem (Gagea lutea), White Butterbur (Petasites albus) and Saxifraga umbrosa (not sure – cousin of London Pride?) at Auchtertool Linn.

I pottered about and found lots of spring flowers.
Barren Strawberry.

Primroses and Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage

One of my favourites, Crosswort, just coming into flower.

It’s one of these plants that I forget about over winter and then remember how much I like it when it appears.

There was moss everywhere.

I found my first Wood anemones of the year! Hanging their heads, and my upwards photo didn’t quite come off.

The rocks at the burn were shaggy with Thamnobryum alopecurum.

Sadly, all the yellow flowers were celandines, but it’s wrong to be sad about that.

Camilla – a strange name – apparently it used to be called Halyards Castle or Palace, but whatever it’s called, there’s not much left at all.

Ground elder leaves everywhere, but I also found some snowdrop leaves and a spread of Few-flowered Garlic, Allium paradoxum.

How did it get here? There was some outside the village, so maybe on someone’s boot?

There were wee lambs in the field, and I enjoyed exploring. Stopped to listen to several invisible chiff-chaffs. Coming back into the village, there’s a wonderfully overgrown wall, with all sorts finding a home there. (Some barren strawberry there at the back.)

So, no luck with the flowers from 170 years ago, but a good morning.

Shell Bay

I feel I haven’t done any walking or blogging for ages. Today I had a short potter down at Shell Bay – very slowly at first, because of the migraine pill I’d taken. But that paid off, with baby rabbits near the car, and then sharing the path with a deer.

I could hear curlews, and eventually spotted about 50 of them in a field. Nice to see them in such numbers. The new golf course doesn’t seem to be getting on very well – they have hoses going but it looks pretty sparse.

I had another look at the “furry moss”.

It seems to grow all along the banking next to a short stretch of the path, but only there.

There were no birds at the sea edge. The tide was right up.

The weather varied from sunshine to dark clouds, with quite a wind.

But it was mild, and there were spring flowers around. Celandines, Speedwell, and I was pleased to find my first Thrift and Scurvygrass of the year.

February springtime

The last of the slightly freaky but wonderful spring days. It was warm and sunny out on Kinkell Braes. There were celandines shining gold, and my first coltsfoot of the year.

The tide was out and I went scrambling along the shore line, thinking that one of these days I won’t be doing this any more, but today isn’t that day…The stripy rocks are amazing.

I was clambering over the rocks when a bee fell at my feet, dozy and stunned.

Wings still creased.

It crawled on to my boot, but in the end I moved it back on to the grass, which seemed a better place for it than the rocks.

I hope it found some food – there was nothing around.

At the Fulmar cliff (where there aren’t fulmars any more) I watched a pair of birds way out at sea, coming closer to the rocks. A couple of long distance shots and later some friendly advice from an expert – Red Breasted Merganser.

I decided to push on to see if the primroses were out at Shelduck bay. Which they were.

Buddo Ness was looking very elemental.

The Dwarf Mallow flowers from a few weeks ago have disappeared – they must have realised it was still winter. I like the little window in the rock.

Coming back, I saw several primroses that I’d walked past on the way…could have saved my poor sore feet, but it was such a lovely day to be out that I wasn’t sorry.

Lichen mixed with moss on a marker stone.

It felt like an April walk, not February.


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.

A short walk at Earlsferry

What a fabulous winter’s day, all cloudless blue sky and frost. I went down to Earlsferry and walked along the beach.

At the far end, there seems to have been quite an erosion of sand.

I went looking for the Sea Kale, Crambe maritima, and couldn’t find it. Washed away? Or underground for winter? I found a dead seed stalk and an ambiguous kind of green spike which just might be a sign that it’s still there.

Not much else to blog about. No flowers. Some good shiny leaves of scurvy grass. Some moss growing at the top of the beach.

The rock columns showed up well in the low sunlight.

Birds and frost and sun – Loch Leven

The most beautiful kind of winter’s day, with sunshine and frost, blue skies and colour everywhere. I went to Kinross and headed off round Loch Leven, to see what birds were around.

The views across the Loch were wonderful, but the light on the water made it hard to pick out detail on the birds.

The tiny black dots here were tufted duck. Most of the swans I saw were like white boulders in the water, feeding steadily. There were Goldeneye and Wigeon, and possibly Pochard. But the sun was too dazzling to look for long.

The moss was thick and beautiful in the woods.

There was also a rather nice lichen which might be Parmelia.

I watched a Jay for some time. And I was so pleased to see Pussy Willows full out, with this Heron:

I went as far as Loch Leven’s Larder where I had a peculiarly tasteless cheese scone which came with strawberry jam (an improvement). Then I had a look at the geese in a nearby field.

Greylag, I think.

Coming back, there were several Reed Buntings on fence wires and in the trees.

I was intrigued by this overgrown chapel, but didn’t stop to explore.

It turns out to be Orwell Kirk, which gave me a jolt when I thought it was the church of one of my botanist ministers, but he would have been based at the replacement church, built with stone from this old building.

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.

More winter light

After the misty sunshine of Wednesday, there was a different kind of magic on Sunday, looking out from Kincraig cliffs across the Forth.

The back-lit cloud was outlining Berwick Law and spilling over its shoulder.

It was so peaceful and beautiful, especially with the Eiders cooing to each other.

Not many flowers but I managed my 20 birds and flowers combined, including this lovely sun spurge, with its toothed leaves showing up well.

I was trying to resist moss…but these textures were too eye-catching to pass by.

(And I came away with a strange purple bryophyte to identify, but that’s another story.)