Life in the Scottish Highlands
Flowers of the Mixed Wood and Copses Part 2
Wood Sorrel (Oxalis Acetosella)
present subject is a very typical woodland plant, and a very common one in
woods throughout the Highlands. It is very fond of damp, mossy banks and
dells, wherever there is shade.
say, without prejudice, that it is one of our most beautiful and dainty
plants with its delicate, hanging flowers and shapely, trifoliate leaves.
There are few lovelier sights than a secluded dell in the depths of the
woods, where the soil is carpeted by deep green mosses which form a
perfect setting to the pale chaste flowers of the Wood Sorrel, displayed
in company with the pale yellow stars of the Yellow Pimpernel and the
delicate blue blooms of the Speedwell.
Sorrel is specially adapted to its woodland habitat, and that is very
successful in the life struggle is show by its abundance and the extensive
colonies that it forms.
perennates by means of a long, slender, pinkish, creeping rhizome which is
partially buried in the humus and mosses. In the winter it is covered by
a blanket of fallen leaves and sleeps snugly in its comfortable bed,
whilst the winter gales howl through the naked branches of the
roots are give off from the nodes, and anchor the plant securely in the
soil. Each year the rhizome lengthens by means of a terminal bud, and as
it is gregarious plant it soon possesses a large territory which it is
leaves, which are given off from each node, have fine, long, pinkish
stalks surmounted by three heart-shaped, thin, pale green leaflets which
are usually pinkish on the under side, an are covered with short, soft
hairs. The thin texture of the leaves is an adaptation to the shady
conditions prevailing in woodlands, permitting the light to penetrate more
easily into the tissues.
leaves are very interesting subject from the botanical point of views,
because they illustrate the rare occurrence of movement in the plant
daytime, under ordinary conditions, the three leaflets spread outwards
until they are in the same plane where they obtain the maximum
evening, or on the approach of cold weather, or in strong sunlight, the
leaflets commence to move. The two lateral leaflets move backwards toward
each other, until their under surfaces meet, whilst the upper one bends
backwards and downwards until it covers the two lateral ones. In such a
position the stomata on the under surfaces are closely protected and
transpiration is reduced to a minimum.
movement results in the delicate tissues being less exposed to the sunís
rays during the day and diminishes loss of heat from the leaves by
radiation at night.
movement is caused by changes in the turgidity of the thickened stalks or
pulvini of each leaflet.
flowers are produced singly at the summit of a slender stalk which has two
tiny bracts about half-way up and is covered by fine, weak hairs.
flower is delicately beautiful structure. The calyx is a tiny green cup
formed by five obtuse thin sepals which are united together towards the
base. The corolla is also cup-shaped and if formed of five fairly large
egg-shaped white petals which have a very delicate texture and are
beautifully marked by fine lilac veins, and are often pinkish on the outer
flower contains ten stamens arranged in two whorls, the stamens in one
whorl being longer than those in the other.
is a conical green body surmounted by five spreading styles with receptive
stigmatic surfaces on the upper side.
flowers produce little or no nectar and are visited by small bees and
flies for the sake of their pollen. The stamens and the stigmas mature at
the same time but as the latter are above the stamens, cross-pollination
the showy flowers, however, the Wood Serrel produces small blind flowers,
known as cleistogamous flowers.
pulled up a plant and examined it, we should notice some tiny, green,
bud-like object on long, slender stalks, produced at the base of the
plant. If one of these buds was carefully opened, it would be found to be
hollow and to contain a pistil and stamens. These flowers, however, have
no entrance and are never visited by insects, their only function being to
produce self-fertilized seed.
plants produce such cleistogamous flowers and by their means the plant is
assured of setting seed. Experiments have shown that these seeds are
quite fertile and give rise to strong plants. They are formed with the
greatest economy, only four hundred pollen grains being produced in the
cleistogamous flowers, whilst over a million may be produced in the showy
can afford to depend on self-fertilized seed alone and lose the advantage
of cross-fertilization, hence the showy flowers that can only be
Hedge Woundwort (Stachys sylvatica)
plants impress themselves upon us by the striking beauty of their flowers,
other by their sweet perfume, and others, like our present subject, by
Woundwort is one of our most common plants and is to be found on the edges
of woods, in thickets and bushy places and in hedgerows, but it does not
attain very high altitudes.
It is a
tough, robust plant, the companion of nettles, docks and Figworts, rough
members of the plant world, jostling each other for space in the limited
place available in the bushy thickets and hedges.
of its abundance, however, it s a very interesting plant and a good
illustration of the fact that we can learn more from a detailed study of
common things than from many of the rarer things in life.
set out to conquer in the struggle for life and has done so by means of
marvelous adaptation to ensure perennation, to colonize, to defeat
competitors, and to ensure cross-fertilized seed in abundance as well as
its efficient distribution.
It has a
tough, creeping rootstock which is often woody in texture, and is buried
in the soil. From the nodes, long, fibrous roots are given off which
anchor the rhizome firmly in the soil. In the autumn, the rootstock
produces buds which lengthen into short branches call scions. Tiny,
fringed, scale-leaves are given off at the nodes of both the scions and
the rhizome. The scions end in a large bud which in the spring gives rise
to the tall flowering shoots. The rhizome often decays, with the result
that the scions form new, independent plants.
creeping rhizomes advance outwards from the centre of the colony and thus
the area of the colony is continually increasing, so that in time the
Hedge Woundwort occupies large areas to the complete exclusion of other
species, whose seeds are unable to thrive in the shade of the tall stems
and leaves of the colony, and whose creeping stems are unable to penetrate
the dense mass of roots.
flowering stems, which attain two to four feet in height and are often
much branched above, are covered with coarse hairs and are square in
section with strong, woody fibres at each corner which make the stems very
leaves, which have long, hairy stalks, are produced in opposite pairs, the
blades being ovate, cordate and crenate and covered with coarse hairs,
which often impart a dull grayish-green colour to them. The leaves, like
the rest of the plant, are strong smelling and this sves them from
destruction by herbivorous animals.
part of the stem is taken up by the inflorescence consisting of a tall,
leafy spike in which the flowers are arranged in whorls in the axils of
opposite leaves, the lower whorls being fairly widely separated. Toward
the summit of the inflorescence the leaves become sessile, narrow and
bract-like in order not to hide the flowers.
whorl is actually two whorls, one being produced in the axil of each
leaf. The flowers are arranged in a cymose manner, i.e. as in the Red
Campion, but in this case the flower stalks are so short that the cyme
appears to be a compact whorl.
result of this arrangement s that the flowers in any particular whorl do
not all bloom at the same time. There is thus a succession of blooms, but
owing to the fact that the whorls are arranged in a spike, the lower ones
have finished flowering before the upper ones have commenced to show any
blooms. This results in a long flowering period which gives a good chance
of much fertile seed being set. The flowers are specially constructed and
adapted to humble-bees.
flower is surrounded by a campanulate, hairy calyx which is fringed by
five, fine teeth. Sticky glands are scattered among the hairs, their
function being that of preventing creeping insects reaching the flowers.
corolla is in the form of a tube, about one-third of an inch in length,
and is suddenly narrowed towards the base, a ring of hairs completing
blocking the entrance to the narrow portion, where the nectar is
secreted. This is an additional protection against creeping or small,
flying insects that might try to steal the nectar.
part of the tube widens out to form two lips. The upper one is concave
and projects beyond the tube like a hood, into which the anthers fit and
are perfectly protected against rain and damp. The lower lip, which is
grooved in the upper part, is hanging and three-lobed, the middle lobe
being broad and forming a landing stage for the bees. It also forms the
conspicuous part of the flower, being purple-red in colour, beautifully
mottled with white and violet.
stamens are arranged in two pairs, which differ in length and are placed
one behind the other in the roof of the hood-like upper lip.
ovary, consisting of four green compartments, sends up a long style, the
bifid stigma being situated between the two pairs of anthers.
young flower only the first par of anthers are open, and when they have
shed their pollen they turn outwards, the second pair then opening to turn
outwards also when their pollen is shed.
of the stigma which occupy the same place as the anthers now open out and,
all danger of self-fertilization having passed, they become receptive.
bumble-bee alights upon the beautiful lower lip, it pushes its face into
the entrance of the tube and in so doing its head brushes the under side
of the upper lip. Thus, in a young flower it will be dusted with pollen,
but in an older flower it will touch the stigma. The bee then pushes its
proboscis down the corolla tube, through the ring of hairs and so to the
nectarines at the base of the ovary, the humble-bee being the only bee
which has a tongue long enough to reach so far.
bees always start with the lower flowers (the older stigmatic flowers)
first, visiting the younger upper ones afterwards, and it is thus obvious
that they will always bring pollen from one plant to the stigmas of the
next plant visited. Cross-pollination is thus assured, self-fertilization
being impossible, and this explains the great success and abundance of
fertilization the corolla withers, but the hairy calyx enlarges and
completely protects the four developing seeds. When ripe the seeds are
black and shiny and are scattered as the wind shakes the tall flowering
Ground Ivy (Nepeta hederacea)
favourite spring flower with many people, and coming into bloom as it
does, so soon after the gloomy, cold days of winter, it is doubly welcome.
woodland banks and hedgerows are its favourite habitat, and here it forms
large colonies, often covering the surface with its kidney-shaped leaves
and purple-blue flowers.
well adapted to colonization as its weak stems creep over the surface of
the soil and grasses and root at the nodes. It is a perennial and
produces runners from which new plants are eventually formed, so that in
time large colonies appear which are penetrated with difficulty by other
plants, and those who find themselves caught up in their advance have a
hard struggle to survive.
bend upwards and become erect in spring, and are covered in pairs of long
stalked, dark green ,kidney-shaped leaves coated with roughish hairs, and
with large rounded teeth around the their margins,
flowers are a deep blue in colour and produced three or four together n
the axils of the upper leaves of the erect portion of the stems, so that
they overtop the surrounding vegetation which at this early season is
still short. Later on the colonies disappear in the grasses and rank
vegetation, and hence the reason for its early flowering season.
flower are similar in form to those of the Hedge Woundwort, but these are
two kinds of blooms. Some are large and showy and are hermaphrodite, the
others are smaller and less conspicuous and contain a pistil only.
botanist Muller believed that this was an aid to cross-pollination, the
smaller less conspicuous flowers being visited after the showy ones, they
were therefore sure to be pollinated, the bees being covered by pollen
from the showy flowers.
flying bumble-bees are the only insects capable of reaching the nectarines
and of pollinating the flowers, and for this reason they are blue in
plant contains an aromatic, bitter substance which prevent it being eaten
by herbivorous animals.
Bugle (Ajuga reptans)
another very common woodland plant, but it comes into flower in summer and
hence is more common in glades and clearings and thin parts of the wood
where there is less shade from the trees.
possesses a short, thick, erect rootstock producing buds from which long,
leafy runners are given off, and these root at the extremities to give
rise to new plants. The Bugle thus forms large colonies and is well
adapted to spread over surrounding grasses and other lowly vegetation.
gives rise to a fairly stout, flowering stem covered by several pairs of
large, stalked, smooth leaves.
inflorescence consists of a crowded spike of several whorls of blue
flowers which are very conspicuous upon their tall stem, smaller whorls
being produced in the lower pairs of leaves.
flowers are similar in structure to those of the Hedge Woundwort, but as
the upper lip is reduced to a small tooth, the anthers are without
protection from the corolla. They are, however, sheltered by the bracts
surrounding the next whorl of flowers above them This is an example of
the economy effected by Nature, for as the anthers are effectually
protected by the bracts, there is no need for a hood, as in the case of
the Hedge Woundwort, and it has thus been dispensed with.
pollen is shed, the style lengthens and the stigma is produced in the
place originally held by the anthers, which in the meantime have turned
outwards in order not to be in the way.
flowers are pollinated by bumble-bees, and only one kind of flower is
beautiful Speedwells are found in the Highland woods, the Common Speedwell
(Veronica officinalis) and the Germander Speedwell (V.
Chamaedrys). The former is a typical woodland plant and adapted to
shady conditions, but the latter is less tolerant of shad and is much more
abundant on the edges of woods and copses, on sunny banks, in clearings
and in hedgerows.
Germander Speedwell is a beautiful little plant, forming dense colonies
which, when the flowers are fully open, are covered by a mass of
exquisite, bright blue blooms which rival the summer skies in glory and
are hardly surpassed for purity of colour by any other British flower.
As a boy
I was always attracted to these lovely flowers which grew in profusion on
a garden bank of my old home is southern England, but the Scottish plants
seem to have deeper, more intensely blue flowers. This I have remarked in
several species of flowers that grow both in the south and in the
Highlands, the Dog Rose and the Harebell being good examples.
present plant is a perennial with long trailing weak stems which clamber
over the surrounding vegetation and turn up at the extremities, their
lower parts producing roots which anchor them securely.
are covered by pairs of opposite ovate leaves, which are almost stalkless,
have a wrinkled surface and are covered with weak hairs.
flowers are produced on long stalks from the axils of the upper leaves,
one stalk arising in each opposite leaf. They are terminated by a raceme
of very beautiful, bright blue flowers with a white conspicuous eye.
anthers and stigmas mature together, but as the former open outwards there
is no danger from self-fertilization.
flower are pollinated by hover-flies in exactly the same way as those of
the Alpine Speedwell (see p. 31).
Common Speedwell is a rather similar plant, but has thinner leaves as an
adaptation to is more shady habitat.
creeping stems, which root at the base, form colonies, although they are
not as dense as those of the Germander Speedwell.
leaves are stalked, but are similar in shape to those of the preceding and
are hairy. The stems do not become so erect and the plant has a much more
trailing appearance than in the preceding.
flowers are similarly produced, but are much paler lilac-blue in colour
and are rather smaller. They are pollinated in the same way as those of
the Alpine Speedwell, but are less visited by insects than the conspicuous
flowers of their woodland cousin and are often self-fertilized.
Yellow Pimpernel (Lysimachia nemorum)
This is a
common plant in shady places along the edges of woodland rills and
streams, by springs and in damp places. It is a member of the Primrose
It is a
pretty little plant with its trailing reddish stems rooting at the nodes,
its pairs of smooth, dark green, egg-shaped leaves and its solitary yellow
flowers on long, fine stalks.
It is a
typical shade plant with think leaves into which the weak light can
penetrate without difficulty. The absence of hairs also means that
nothing obstructs the passage of the light to the leaf. As it grows in
moist places, it does not fear drought and hence has made no provision
against it, thus it is not found where the soil is dry or where it would
be exposed to winds.
flower has a smooth cup-shaped calyx with five pointed teeth, whilst the
corolla is a shallow, bright yellow cup about half an inch across with a
tiny collar as in the Veronica. The five stamens have long
filaments which spread out from the centre of the flower, so that although
the anthers open inwards, the danger of pollen falling on the stigma is
flowers do not produce nectar and are visited for their pollen by small
flies and bees.
Dogís Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)
plant is very typical of the woodlands and is one of the first to be found
in flower, its bright green stems shooting up almost as soon as the snow
has disappeared from the woods.
into flower in March in sheltered spots in the Highlands before the trees
have even begun to think of producing their leaves, and thus it can profit
from all the available light. When the leaves throw their dense shade in
summer, the plant dies down till the following spring.
hardly exact for the Dogís Mercury is a perennial with a creeping
underground rhizome in which food is stored, and which lies dormant in the
soil during late summer, autumn and winter. The rhizomes spread through
the soft woodland humus in all directions, with the result that the
flowering stems appear in countless numbers beneath the naked trees.
annual stems, which may attain a foot in height, are at first leafless as
the shoot up rapidly into the sunshine, but later they are covered by many
dark green, oblong leaves which are crowded together toward the summit of
the stem. They are roughly hairy and toothed, and contain crystals of
calcium oxalate in their tissues, which render them unpalatable to
herbivorous animals, and even snails and slugs do not enjoy such a bitter
flowers are unisexual, the females being produced on one plant and the
males upon another so that cross-pollination must be effected. The pollen
is carried to the female flowers by the wind and this is another reason
for their early flowering, as the wind can blow through the naked woods
quite easily whereas in summer the woods are remarkable for their peace
flowers are produced on long stalks in the axils of the upper leaves and
they overtop the plant by several inches. They are very inconspicuous,
being green in colour and produced in clusters toward the summit of the
stalks. The actual flower is reduced to three green segments which
correspond to the calyx of other flowers, and about twelve stamens are
present in each flower. A vast amount of pollen is produced, witness to
the great waste involved when pollination depends on the wind.
female flowers are even less conspicuous and as they are borne in a single
cluster at the summits of slender stalks which are no long enough to
overtop the upper leaves, one must look carefully for them. The flower
has three green sepals as in the males and the rounded ovary produces two
fertilization the ovary becomes warty and often produces prickles so that
the seeds are often transported by animals, the prickles catching in their
hairy coats as the pass through the undergrowth. This is another
marvelous adaptation to the woodland habitat, as many hairy coated animals
make their homes there.
Enchanterís Nightshade (Circaea)
this name we have two British species one, the Alpine Enchanterís
Nightshade (C. alpina), is very abundant in Highland woods and is
confined to the northern parts of Britain, the other, the Common
Enchanterís Nightshade (C. lutetium), is abundant in all British
strangely named plants grow in fairly dense shade and flower in full
summer when the light intensity is at its lowest. They are thus typical
shade plants and like others of the same class have thin, dark green
leaves and white flowers which are more conspicuous than colored ones
would be in the semi-light.
common species is a perennial plant with a creeping rhizome which branches
here and there until compact colonies are produced. This the reason for
its persistence as a garden weed.
annual stems are about one foot in height and are covered with pairs of
long-stalked ovate leaves. These are very thin in texture and are covered
like the stems with fine white hairs.
flowering stalks are given off from the axils of the upper leaves, each
producing a raceme of small white or pinkish flowers.
flower is produced upon a slender pedicel and consists of a calyx of two
reflexed green sepals which are found upon the summit of the ovary. The
corolla has only two petals which spread horizontally. They are thin
textured and often crinkled. Only two stamens are formed and these are
placed in the same way as those of the Speedwell. The style is situated
between the two stamens.
flowers are visited by small bees and flies. These alight upon the style
and the stamens, the anthers of which dust the under part of the insectís
body with pollen. As the insect descends upon the style any pollen will
be left upon the stigma before the anthers touch its body. Thus
cross-pollination is assured.
alpine species is smaller in all its parts and has no hairs; its leaves
are even thinner and it produces a single raceme of very small flowers.
plant can be found in the greatest profusion in the beautiful birch woods
of the Trossachs between Loch Achray and Loch Katrine. There, in company
with the Yellow Cow-wheat, the Yellow Pimpernel, the Chickweed Wintergreen
and tall Mosses, it forms a soft starry carpet under the graceful
birches. The beautiful woods can compete with any Britain for their
loveliness and verdure, with their mossy, flower-adorned dells, where one
would never be surprised to find a fairy frolic in progress.
little plant is quite common elsewhere in the western Highlands and in
Pertshire wherever the woods are damp and shady.
fertilization the ovary, in both cases, becomes covered with curved
prickles and fors a burr. These catch in the fur of animals or upon the
clothing of passers-by and are transported far from the parent plant
before falling to the ground. In woods where there is a little wind,
parachute seeds would be of little use, so the plant has forced animals
and man to distribute its seeds. Thus, even the most humble plants are
amazingly adapted to their chosen habitats.
Wild Hyacinth (Scilla non-scripta)
has their favourite flower which brings back to them sweet memories of the
past. Some prefer the beautiful Rose, others the sweet-scented, shy
Violet, others the Primrose, but for me there is no flower to compare with
the lovely Wild Hyacinth.
probably nothing so glorious in this country as the sight of a blue sea of
Wild Hyacinths sweeping away beneath the noble trees of an oakwood.
Probably no other plant can show such glory when in the mass, and in no
other country does one plant form such a magnificent display of colour and
beauty. For truly, there is nothing more beautiful than their thousands
of spikes, each with up to twenty dainty bells swaying gently in the
breeze, perfuming the air with their delicate bells swaying gently in the
breeze, perfuming the air with their delicate sweet odour, a nostalgic
odour associated with spring, the cuckoo, the sweet tenor of the blackbird
on its favourite branch and the twittering of the red-breasted swallow as
it sweeps by overhead.
Highlands is to be found in every county, but rarely does it make such a
show of colour as in the English woodlands. This is mainly due to the
fact that sheep are widespread in the Highland and they prevent the
development of great masses of plants. Wherever woods have been fenced
in, however, we can find them in abundance.
Hyacinth is a typical plant of the oakwoods, and is to be found at its
best in the deep humus beneath their noble branches. It is also fairly
common in some birchwoods and is quite frequent in the rough, scrubby
woods which straggle along the deep valleys of streams and rills where
sheep have difficulty in penetrating.
visit the woods in the depths of winter, when the ground is not covered by
snow, we should see no sign of the beauty to come. Deep down in the warm,
decaying leaves and twigs, the hyacinth bulb sleeps snugly out of reach of
the cold winter winds and frosts. If we dug up one of these bulbs, we
should find that already life was stirring in the centre of the bulb. If
we cut it open, we should find that the centre was occupied by the embryo
flower stalk, flowers and leaves. The bulb itself is remarkable for the
fact that the scale leaves are filled with a sticky, unwholesome mucilage
which prevents them from being eaten by predatory insects and animals.
spring the leaves begin to lengthen and burst above the ground to form a
rosette of shiny, bright green, linear foliage. From their midst arises
the tall, cylindrical, flower stalk. At first it is perfectly erect and
the flower buds, protected by the bracts, are pressed closely to the stem
so that they will not be damaged in their passage upwards through the soil
from the bulb. At the end of April the flower stalk curves over
gracefully at the top and from it the beautiful flowers hang like fairy
bells. Each flower sways delicately upon a tiny bluish stalk, which
arises from the axil of a pair of narrow, bluish colored bracts.
flowers are not really blue in colour, in spite of the popular name of
Bluebells, and it is remarkable how few truly blue flowers exist. They
are more accurately described as purple-blue in which the blue
predominates. A white-flowered variety sometimes occurs ad plants with
pinkish flowers may be found.
tubular flowers consist of six segments which spread outwards toward their
tips, the edges being slightly recurved. If we carefully dissected a
flower, we should find that a stamen was seated below the middle of each
segment so that the anthers formed a ring round the entrance to the
flower. At the base of the flower we should find the round ovary
surmounted by a longish style which projected just beyond the ring of
It is a
sad and sobering thought that all this beauty is after all not for our own
enjoyment. The flowers are but signboards displayed for the benefit of
the hosts of hive-bees and humble-bees for whom the nectar is reserved at
the bottom of the corolla tube, whilst the perfume serves a similar
watched a bee visiting a flower, we should see that it grasped the
recurved tips of the corolla on alighting and then pushed its head into
the flower, touching the projecting stigma and then the stamens.
Obviously, any pollen brought from another flower will be left upon the
stigma and cross-pollination assured.
visiting the wood in late summer and autumn, we should find that the
beautiful flowers had gone, the leaves would be withered and yellow, and
all that remained of so much loveliness was an upright stalk with several,
brownish capsules, opening at the top by three valves. As the stalks
swayed in the wind, the seeds would be thrown out to fall fairly far from
the parent plant. Several years elapse before the seedlings are mature,
Wild Garlic (Allium Ursinum)
plant, like the Wild Hyacinth, belongs to the Lily Family and is a close
relative of such common garden vegetables as the onion, garlic and leek.
Seen from a distance in early summer in the depths of a damp, shady wood,
it is quite an attractive plant with its large umbels of pure white
flowers and its rosette of large, shiny-green, spreading leaves.
Unfortunately, all its beauty disappears on nearer approach, as from the
whole plant emanates a strong, overpowering, garlic-like odour. I have a
pressed specimen in my herbarium which was collected in 1936, but the
odour is still there and can be smelt at some distance as soon as the
sheet is exposed. The strong smell and acrid juices with which the plant
is permeated make it objectionable to animals and insects.
It is to
be found throughout the lower parts of the Highlands, in damp oakwoods,
and in those rough thickets of rowan, aspen and oak which fill the deep,
rocky valleys of so many Scottish streams. It is usually in company with
such woodland plants as the wild hyacinth, primrose, and woodland grasses.
perennates by means of a white, evil-smelling bulb sunk deep in the
woodland humus. It spring the bulb sends up several large, broad, deep
green leaves which are attached to a short stalk.
midst of the leaves arises a three-sided, leafless flower stalk terminated
by an umbel of about twelve white flowers, each seated upon a slender
pedicel. The umbel is concealed by two white membranous scales, known as
the spathe. When the umbel expands, the spathe is pushed apart and
usually falls back and hangs below the flowers.
perianth consists of six ovate, white segments of delicate texture. The
ovary is formed of three rounded chambers surmounted by a short,
awl-shaped style, and is surrounded by a ring of six stamens.
the bases of the stamens and ovary are nectarines which are visited by
bees and flies which do not seem to be perturbed by the strong odour. The
visiting insect must align upon the centre of the flower, that is to say
upon the stigman. As it partakes of the nectar it becomes liberally
dusted with pollen which it will deposit on the stigma of the next flower
visited, thus effecting cross-pollination. As the stigma lies below the
level of the anthers, the flowers must often by self-fertilized.
Giant Bell-flower (Campanula latifolia)
one of the most handsome plants to be found in the Highlands, but
unfortunately it is not a common plant and is confined to the area south
of the Caledonia Canal. It prefers rough woody glens where it is
sheltered from strong winds.
It is a
perennial with a thick, short stock giving rise to stout, furrowed stems
which attain as much as five feet in height in luxuriant specimens. The
stem is leafy, the lower leaves being stalked, often as much as six inches
long and over two inches wide, ovate-lanceolate in shape, with a serrate
margin and a covering of soft hairs. The upper leaves are sessile and
decrease in size as the summit of the stem is approached.
flowers are produced in a beautiful, long, terminal raceme, each flower
being seated on a short pedicel, subtended by a leafy bract.
flower is a lovely structure, being deep purplish-blue in colour or pure
white, and having the form of a large bell over one and a half inches in
length and over one and a quarter inches in diameter at its mouth. The
bell has five pointed lobes, which curve backwards towards the tips.
interior of the bell is covered with soft hairs, which prevent small
insects creeping into the flower to steal the nectar secreted by the
nectarines at the base of the ovary.
flowers are adapted to pollination by large bees, which alone are able to
push into the bell-shaped corolla in spite of the hairs, and have a tongue
long enough to reach the nectar. For details of the pollination the
reader is referred to the Harebell (see Chapter XIX).
Common Twayblade (Listera ovate)
Orchid Family is well represented in the Highlands and species may be
found in every type of situation. Our present subject can be found here
and there in woodlands throughout the Highland area.
another member of the oakwood flora and loves deep leafy humus. On
digging a plant up we should find that its roots are composed of a mass of
thickish fibres. They are remarkable from being inhabited by a mycorrhiza
as in the case of many plants which inhabit humus.
necessary because, although humus contains a large amount of nutriment, it
is not readily available to higher plants. This is the reason why an
orchid dug up from its natural haunts and planted in a garden will not
flourish, the necessary fungus not being present in garden soil.
March or April the Twayblade breaks through the soil, it has the
appearance of an Arum. It only produces a pair of large, broadly ovate
leaves during the season, but these are pressed close together, to protect
the young flower stem as the plant bursts through the ground. The stem
keeps growing until the leaves are about one foot above the ground, when
they spread outwards.
between the leaves arises the tall flowering stem, which possesses no
leaves, but is terminated by a very long spike of greenish flowers, each
of which is fairly widely separated from the next. Each flower has the
appearance of a tiny green man, the labellum being in the form of a narrow
two-lobed, hanging segment. The upper part of the labellum is deeply
furrowed and in this furrow nectar is secreted.
mechanism of pollination in Orchids is dealt with in Chapter XX. In this
case the flowers are pollinated by small bees and flies and are no so
constructed that they can only be fertilized by insect aid.
Cross-pollination only is possible, thus in the absence of insect visitors
no seed to set, but this very rarely happens in nature.
reader who would like to know more about the amazing way orchids are
adapted to insect visitors for pollination, should read The
Fertilization of Orchids by Charles Darwin, in which all British
orchids are fully treated.
Knotted Figwort (Scrophularia nodosa)
present subject, which is a common plant in the lower woodlands and shady,
damp, waste places, cannot be called a lovely plant. It has nothing to
charm the eye, being tall, coarse and angular with a long, terminal spike
of brown, dingy flowers. It is even less pleasing to the nose as its
leaves, stems and flowers exude a most disagreeable odour.
ground it possess a short, tough, perennial, knotted rhizome from which
arise the stout flower stems, which may attain three feet in height. The
stem is very distinctly four-sided with prominent corners, and it is
clothed with many pairs of large, stalked, ovate leaves with serrate
margins. They are usually quite glabrous and a bright, shiny green
part of the stem is occupied by the long panicle, consisting of a number
of horizontal branches, each producing a few dull flowers.
is remarkable for the fact that the flowers are constructed for
pollination exclusively by wasps.
brown corolla, tinged with green towards the base, has the form of a
coal-scuttle placed horizontally with the spout, which consists of two
forward pointing loves, uppermost. In the roof of the corolla is a tiny
flap which projects towards the mouth.
examine a newly-opened flower, we shall find a conical ovary at its base,
surrounded by a fleshy gland which secretes nectar, and surmounted by a
long style which protrudes just beyond the corolla mouth. The four
stamens at this stage are curled up inside the corolla.
disagreeable odour and brown colour seems to be attractive to wasps and
these yellow and black banded visitors are to be seen in the large numbers
around the plants. On visiting the newly-opened flowers, it hangs on to
the corolla by its curved basal rime and pushed it head inside to reach
the nectar, but it is pushed downward by the flap in the roof and its
thorax and abdomen rub against the stigma projecting from the base of the
In an old
flower, we shall find that the stigma has bent down under the corolla
where it is out of the way of visitors. At the same time the four stamens
lengthen and occupy the place originally held by the stigma. When a wasp
visitís the flower its under body touches the stamens and becomes powdered
with pollen, which it transfers to the stigma of the next newly-opened
flower that it visits.
plants are beautifully adapted to the wasps as the lower ones open first
and are thus staminate when the newly-opened upper flowers are still
pistillate. The insects visit the upper flowers first and work down to
the lower ones, where they become covered with pollen, for wasps work in
the opposite direction to bees. On going to the next plant, they visit
the upper, pistillate flowers first and thus cross-pollination is assured.
WOODLAND ST. JOHNíS-WORTS
members of the St. Johnís-wort Family (Hypericaceae) are found in
the lower parts of the Highlands and three of them are woodland plants.
The Tutsan (Hypericum androsaemum) is practically confined to the
western Highlands and the Hebrides and is far from common, but it does
occur here and there in thickets, woods and hedges. The Square-stalked
St. Johnís-wort (H. quadrangulum) is even less widely distributed
and is hardly found beyond the limits of Argyll and the islands as far
north as Mull. It prefers the borders of woods and damp, bushy places.
The Common St. Johnís-wort (H. perforatum) has a rather irregular
distribution, and is mainly restricted to the Highlands area south of the
Caledonia Canal, although it does penetrate into Ross and Cromarty. It
prefers more open woods and scrubby places on dry soil, especially if
limestone be present.
Tutsan is one of those plants which once seen will never be confused with
any other British plant. It is rather fine looking, shrubby plant, with a
short, woody stock giving rise to several, erect, flowering stems which
may reach two feet in height. They are covered with very large, ovate
leaves often three inches in length. The base of the leaf is
heart-shaped, whilst the margin is without any trace of teeth or lobes.
The leaves which are quite smooth and shiny are arranged in pairs, one
above the other, along the stem at intervals of two or three inches and
they distinguish the plant from any other. If held up to the light, they
will be seen to dotted with tiny, pellucid spots. These are sac
containing resin and they are of quite common occurrence in the
are terminated by small corymbs of rather small dull yellow flowers which
arise in axils of two leafy bracts. The calyx is peculiar, consisting of
five green sepals of which two are large and ovate, and the other three
are small and narrow. The saucer-shaped corolla consists of five yellow
petals, which are rather shorter than the sepals.
stamens are very numerous, but if we carefully dissect the flower we shall
find that they are actually united into five bundles. At the centre of
the flower is the spherical white, shiny ovary, which is surmounted by
flowers possess no nectar and depend upon the abundant pollen produced by
the large number of stamens to attract pollen-seeking bees, flies and
beetles. They are compelled to alight upon the ovary by the fence of
stamens, and hence transported pollen will be left upon the styles.
Self-fertilization can occur as the stamens stand well above the styles.
is a glossy, black, berry-like capsule containing a large number of seeds,
so that here again we have a woodland plant dependent upon birds for the
distribution of its seeds.
Square-stalked St. Johnís-wort is a herbaceous perennial with, as its name
suggests, four-sided stems. They are clothed with small, oppoistie, ovate
leaves which have numerous pellucid dots and veins and few black,
glandular dots round the margins. The flowers are produced in terminal
corymbs and are rather small and of a pale yellow, and the stamens are
united into three bundles. The petals and anthers sometimes have a few
black glands upon them. This plant may be distinguished from the next by
its narrow, pointed sepals and four-angled stem.
Common St. Johnís-wort is a rather similar plant, but coarser and larger
and much branched. As each branch terminates in a corymbs of bright,
golden yellow flowers, the plant is quite handsome when in full bloom and
is visited by numerous bees and flies for pollen. The petals and anthers
are much more frequently spotted with blank glands. The fruit, as in the
case of the preceding, is a many-seeded capsule.
already made the acquaintance of two Wood-rushes in the section on the
alpine plants, and in the woods we can find two more of them, the Great
Wood-rush (Luzula maxima) and the Hairy Wood-rush (L. pilosa).
former s a fine plant and the largest of the genus. It is to be found n
all parts of the Highlands and I have found really luxuriant specimens in
the wooded area of Glen Nevis. It is a perennial and consists of a large
tussock of bright green, grass-like leaves over one foot in length. The
flower stems attain over two feet in height and are terminated by a large,
branching, compound panicle of small brownish flowers.
flowers are clustered, two or three together, and consist of six scarious,
brown, finely-pointed segments. They are adapted for pollination by the
wind, and to this end the style is very long so that the three spreading
stigmas are produced well above the flowers where they are exposed to the
wind. Self-fertilization is avoided as the stigmas mature well before the
Wood-rush is another common woodland plant to be found throughout the
Highlands. It is more aggressive than the preceding, as the stock is
branched and tufted and gives rise to creeping runners which root and form
new plants. Thus it gradually increases its range and forms colonies
often of large size.
grass-like leaves are mainly radical, although two or three occur on the
flowering stems, and are fringed with long, white, cottony hairs. The
flowering stems attain about one foot and are terminated by a panicle of
pale brown flowers, the centre one being sessile, the other solitary on
short, erect stalks. The perianth segments is this plant are very narrow
and finely pointed. The flowers are wind pollinated.
number of grasses are to be found in the Highland woods and they contain
several characteristic species. They do not form the same dense carpets
of turf as the grasses of the mountain pastures or the meadows, this being
due to the much less intense light in the shade of the trees, and also to
the more restricted water supply. They are more usually found in glades,
woodland borders and in open scrubby places.
lovely and delicate grasses belong to the genus Melica. The Wood
Melic (M. uniform) is an elegant, slender plant which supports
shade very well and forms patches here and there beneath the trees. The
flowers are produced in a fine branching, panicle of a few slender
branches, each producing two or three one-flowered spikes with brown or
purple glumes. The plants make a lovely sight when the breezes sweep
through the woods, the delicate panicles dancing in the wind. It is of
very local distribution in the Highlands, being confined to Perthshire,
Angus, Argyll and Mull.
Mountain Melic (M. nutans) is more widely distributed than the
preceding and is found in most of the central and northern counties, in
both woods and on rocky hillsides. It also is quite a slender plant and
produces a one-sided panicle of from ten to fifteen spike lets, each
consisting of two flowers, with brown or purple glumes.
woodland grass, common in some places, but wanting in others, is the
Creeping Soft-grass (Holcus mollis). It has an underground,
creeping rhizome giving rise to tufts of leaves at the nodes and forming
new plants by the decay of the intervening portion of the rhizome. It is
thus a colonizing grass and an aggressive species. It is easily known by
its leaves and stems covered with very soft, white down and hairs, and its
dense, soft spike of very pale green flowers, theouter glumes of which
bear short points or awns. Each spikelet, if carefully dissected, will be
seen to consist of two flowers, the upper one of which bears stamens only,
whilst the lower one has both stamens and a pistil. These details can
only be made out under a lens.
Another frequent inhabitant of the woods is the Wood Poa (Poa nemoralis).
It is found throughout the Highlands, but is more common south of the
Caledonia Canal and is rare in the Hebrides. It is a tufted plants which
sends out short, creeping stems. Its leaves are narrow, rather weak and
slender, whilst the panicle terminates a slender flower stalk. It is
composed of very small spike lets produced along the very fine branches of
the panicle. It is thus a very graceful and airy grass and not likely to
be confused with any other.
different grass is the Giant Fescue (Festuca gigantea), which is a
stout perennial to be found in damp woods and thickets in all but the
northern Highlands. It is destitute of hairs and its tall stems often
reach four feet in height and are clothed with long, smooth leaves. The
drooping panicle is composed of long, pale green spike lets, each of which
contains several flowers and each glume is terminated by a long, thin,
large coarse grass is the Hairy Brome (Bromus ramous). This plant
may attain as much as six feet height in good soil and in sheltered
positions. The leaves are very hairy with long, hairy sheaths.
panicle is very large and branching, and the spikelets resemble to a
certain extent those of the oat, being about one inch in length, slender
and green, whilst the glumes are terminated by a stiff awn.
Slender False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum) is found throughout
the Highlands in woods and shrubby places. It produces a tuft of long
leaves which have a few weak cottony hairs upon their under surface. The
flowers are produced in a narrow, loose spike, each spikelet being
arranged alternatively upon the central axis. They are about one inch in
length, are pale green in colour, and the flowering glumes are terminated
by a long weak awn about as long as themselves.
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