Life in the Scottish Highlands
Plants of the Marshlands
marshes differ from the bogs by the fact that they are usually produced at
low altitudes and do not form peat. They are usually found around
low-lying lochs, especially where streams enter them, forming muddy deltas
as they run into the still waters. In other places they are found where a
loch or pond has become silted up until the water is shallow, giving marsh
plants the chance to establish themselves.
be remembered that a marsh flora is only transient and is not a fixed
association of plants like that of the Pine Forest. The marsh plants are
continually adding to the soil by the decay of their leaves and stems,
whilst their stems also cause obstructions which make the water deposit
mud and sand around them. In time the upper layers dry out and the marsh
plants gradually give place to shrubs, and finally trees. We shall come
across marshes in all states of advancement in various parts of the
plants have their roots and lower stems embedded in mud and water, and
therefore these parts are usually spongy in structure, with many air
passages and air spaces, which allow oxygen to pass down inside the
tissues to the buried roots, rhizomes and stems.
rarely possess xerophytes adaptations as they have an abundant water
supply and, as they inhabit low-lying, less windy situations than the bog
lands, they do not suffer from drying winds.
often form large colonies, as for example the reeds and various kinds of
sedges and grasses.
Marigold (Caltha palustris)
the commonest flowers of the Highlands is the Marsh Marigold, which is
found in boggy marshy places and beside rivers and streams throughout the
Highlands and well up the Highland mountains. I have discovered forms of
this plant at 2,500 feet on Braeriach in May/
not admired in spring-time the beautiful golden beds of these lovely
flowers with their large bright green leaves? Wherever we find their
golden cups, we may be sure that the soil is wet and marshy, and we must
walk warily to escape wet feet.
Highlands there are least three distinct forms of the marsh marigold.
lower valleys, in the ditches around the meadows, in swampy riverside
marshes and around lochs, the common species C. palustris is
abundant. In more elevated regions this species is often replaced by
C. radican, a much scarcer plant.
higher regions, climbing well up the mountain sides, we have the form
C. minor, which is a small species and quite common in boggy areas.
Marigold is a perennial, the thick tuberous root being buried deep in the
mud, where it passes the long hard winter safe from frost and cold.
return of milder conditions, a green bud forms at the tip of the rootstock
and from this arise the leaves and then the flowerstalks. The radical
leaves are on long, thick, hollow stalks and are large and kidney-shaped
with a slightly crenate border, and as they are absolutely glabrous and
very smooth, water does not lie upon them. The stems often root at the
lower nodes, are often branched, and attain a height of about one foot,
producing one or two flowers on stalks about two inches in length.
flowers are large, of a bright golden yellow and very conspicuous. As
this plant usually forms large colonies, the conspicuousness and beauty of
the flowers are greatly enhanced.
flowers of the Marsh Marigold are peculiar in that they possess no petals,
the sepals taking their place. Within the bright, golden, glossy cup, we
find that the centre of the flower occupied by a green cone which consists
of five to ten carpels. Around the central core are arranged the many
stamens whose anthers open outwards toward the sepals.
secreted on the sides of the carpels and an insect naturally alight on the
centre of the flower where it must leave imported pollen upon the carpels.
As it turns round to obtain the nectar secreted around the cone, it
becomes dusted with pollen, which it will transfer to the next flower it
visits, thus effecting cross-pollination.
insects visit the flower--honey-bees, bumble-bees, mining bees, flies and
Syrphidae being the chief visitors attracted by the beautiful
species the plant is much more slightly built, with much more fragile
stems. The radical leaves, which are on very long stalks, are
heart-shaped and have an acutely toothed edge, whilst the upper leaves are
small and kidney-shaped. The flowers, which are quite small, are usually
solitary and terminate a long stalk. They are much less conspicuous than
those of C. palustris, which may account for its comparative
flowers, as with the business man, a advertisement if the key to success.
species, which is probably a mountain variety of C. palustris,
varies greatly in size in relation to elevation and the exposure of its
approaches Caltha palustris although it is never so luxuriant, the
stems being shorter and less thick, while the leaves are much smaller.
The flowers are produced on long stalks and are solitary, being slightly
smaller than in the common species. This type is common in the upper
glens and I picked several fine specimens in a bog close to the Fairy Loch
in the Pass of Ryvoan at 1,200 feet.
elevations it becomes much smaller in all its parts, often being under
four inches in height with solitary small flowers.
the reverse of what often occurs in mountain varieties of lowland plants
where usually the flowers are much larger and more conspicuous.
found this variety at altitudes of 2,500 feet on Braeriach and at over
3,000 feet on Ben Nevis.
Water Avens (Geum rivale)
Avens is quite a common plant in marshy places, along streams and ditches
and in boggy meadows. We may find it in company with the Red Rattle, the
tall strangely perfumed Marsh Valerian, the beautiful hairy fringed
flowers of the Bog-Bean and the dusky red Marsh Cinquefoil.
became acquainted with it near the head of the beautiful Glen Nevis, where
it was growing in a marshy patch at the bottom of the deep, boulder-strewn
gorge of the Nevis, and whenever I review my specimens this romantic spot
comes back to me with its black precipices, its huge rough boulders, its
swirling waters and its beauty and peace. Its rocky sides are a perfect
rock garden with Yellow Saxifrage, Wood Geranium, Melancholy Thistle,
Rose-root and the Butterwort watered by the little streams that tumble
down from the high summit of Aonach Mor.
Avens is a member of the Rose Family and closely related to the Common
Wood Avens, so common in the Lowlands.
possesses a perennial rootstock which usually creeps for a short distance
in the muddy soil, where it makes its home. The rootstock is crowned by a
rosette of radical leaves which are long-stalked and pinnate. They
consist of one large, rounded, terminal segment which may sometimes be
divided into three, with several much smaller leaflets further down the
main mid-rib. They are covered on both surfaces with fairly long hairs,
which prevent moisture being deposited upon the surfaces and clogging the
stomata. This rosette sends up simple, unbranched stems to a height of
one or even two feet in luxuriant specimens, and they are also clothed in
termination of the stems solitary flowers are formed on long peduncles,
which are curved, with the result that the flower is in a drooping
flower is a rather interesting structure possessing a double calyx
consisting of five sepals surrounded by another calyx of five sepals known
as the epicalyx, the sepals of which are placed in the spaces between the
sepals of the inner calyx. The whole structure is hairy and forms an
admirable protection to the flower whilst in bud, and also acts as a
barrier to creeping insects, which would try to steal pollen and nectar.
The five petals are semi-erect and of a deep purple colour shaded to
flowers secrete abundant nectar like many other marsh plants do, water
being a prime factor in the manufacture of this sweet substance. They are
visited by many insects, especially bees. The erect position of the
petals makes it necessary for these insects to alight in the middle of the
flower, where they must leave imported pollen upon the hairy carpels. As
the stigmas mature before the stamens it is impossible for
self-fertilization to take place.
flowering each carpel produces a long awn which, after it has reached a
certain length, develops a kink and then continues to grow. In a little
while the piece beyond the kink breaks off and leaves the carpel with a
long hooked awn. What is the reason for this hook? Well, it is a means
to ensure the distribution of the species.
have already seen, plants try to distribute their seeds as far away from
themselves as possible. Thus there will be no competition between the
parent and its offspring and the species will be distributed further and
further from its place of origin.
at this end, plants have adopted many ingenious devices whereby the seed
is transported for long distances. As we have seen the Wood Geranium
throws its seeds a considerable distance by the recoil of sections of the
capsule; the Hawkweeds, Dandelion ad many other Composites as well as
Willow-herbs, Willows, etc, are fitted with parachute-like hairs by which
they float away on the wind; others, such as the Primrose, having very
light seeds which are blown considerable distances by windy gusts; others,
as the Wild Rose, Whortleberry, etc., enclose the seeds in a succulent
envelope which is devoured by birds, the seeds being dropped far from the
Water Avens has so adapted its seeds that they may take ride upon the back
or sides of any passing animal.
hooked awn catches into the wool of sheep, or the hairy coats of cows,
horses, etc., or perhaps in the clothing of a passer-by, and drags the
rest of the seed in its hairy coat with it. The animal moves on with its
tiny voyagers who gradually drop off one by one. Some perhaps fall on dry
ground and do not germinate, but others will fall in wet places and give
rise to new clumps of Water Avens.
the study of plant life illustrate how amazingly Nature obtains her ends.
For had the seeds dropped down to earth around the parent plant they would
have been suffocated and would have died for want of living space, but
being carried far away they have a much better chance of survival.
Sweet (Spiraea Ulmaria)
common plant of the marsh lands, riversides, lochsides and ditches is the
Meadow Sweet, or as it is often known, the Queen of the Meadow. Like the
Water Avens, itelongs to the Rose Family, although at first sight one
would hardly associate its small clustered blooms with that family.
Meadow Sweet is a large plant with deep-striking perennial roots which
push down into the muddy soil, and tall, strong, flowering stems which may
attain a height of as much as three feet, and are usually of a reddish
hue. The stems and rootstock are covered with large pinnate leaves
consisting of from five to nine leaflets which are deeply toothed on the
edges. These leaflets are smooth and green above, but the under surface is
covered with a thick, white, felt-like down. This down is a common
feature of marsh land plants, its purpose being to protect them against
condensed moisture which would otherwise clog the stomata.
flowers, which are very small, are arranged in very dense clusters at the
termination of the flowering stems, and are cream colored and very sweetly
have a case of flowers being conspicuous, not because of their
individually large size or striking colours, but because of the grouping
of great numbers of small flowers to form a very conspicuous cluster of
blooms, and as if that were not enough, and to make even more sure of
visitors, these flowers are endowed with a very sweet perfume. The Meadow
Sweet blooms in mid-summer when competition is at its peak and only those
plants which show the greatest executive ability can hope to attract
little flowers are each formed like a small rose, with many stamens around
a central disc which contains the few carpels, and around which the nectar
stigmas mature before the stamens so that imported pollen will be left
upon them before their own stamens mature. The stigmas continue to be
receptive after the stamens have reached maturity so that in dull weather,
when few insects are abroad, self-fertilization will take place, this
being better than failure to set any fertilized seed at all.
bees and flies arrive to sup at the nectar so liberally presented to them,
whilst beetles and pollen-seeking bees arrive for the pollen so easily
obtained from the myriad flowers.
conspicuous and imposing member of the Marsh Flora is the Marsh Thistle (Carduus
palustris). It is a plant of the less moist marshes and is not found
in standing water, although its roots dig deep into the mud and water
below the surface of the soil It attains a greater height than any other
British thistle and nine to ten feet is not unusual for it.
belongs to that section of plants known as biennials, i.e. it only flowers
in the second year of its existence and then dies down.
first year it forms a fine rosette of large, narrow, fiercely spinous
leaves, deep green above and possessing a few scattered hairs on both
surfaces. During this period the leaves are actively engaged in
manufacturing starch, which is stored up in a large, fleshy, tap-root.
The spines prevent the leaves being eaten by animals.
rosettes pass the winter safety as they offer little exposure to the wind,
can support the weight of snow and, being of a tough consistency, are not
damaged by frost.
spring a tall stem arises from the midst of the radical leaves, and
nourished by the abundant starch contained in the tap-root, it rapidly
increases in height.
are produced upon the stem and their margins runs some distance down the
stem as a line of stiff, sharply-pointed spines. The leaves themselves
are narrower than the radical ones, but are also very spiny, and thus the
whole plant is well armed against the attacks of animals.
supports a large and heavy inflorescence and is particularly strong.
Besides its outwardly stout appearance, we should find that it is hollow
within and as a tub is a very strong structure, the stems are well able to
resist strong winds.
flower heads are numerous and arranged in several clusters in an irregular
corymbs at the summit of the stem. They are rather small and egg-shaped
and are surrounded by an involucre of many prickly pointed bracts, often
with spider web-like hairs intermingled with them. Their function is to
stop creeping insects, such as ants, reaching the flowers.
flowers are purple-red in colour, but plants with pure white flowers may
be found. They contain both stamens and pistils and are pollinated in a
similar fashion to those of the Spear Thistle (see Chapter XX)
fertilization the flower heads are transformed into a mass of silky down,
as the pappus of the seeds lengthens. When ripe they are borne away on
the wind to recommence the life cycle if they fall on suitable ground, and
as the stems are so high the seeds get a good send off.
has been said it must be obvious that the Marsh Thistle is well adapted to
the life struggle and it is not surprising that it is a very abundant
very common, plant in marshy and wet places is the Marsh Ragwort (Senecio
aquaticus), which is closely related to the Common Ragwort (see
It is a
more slender plant than the latter, and the radical leaves are undivided,
whilst the yellow flowers are in the much less dense corymbs.
It is a
perennial, but very often behaves as a biennial, this seeming to depend
largely on the suitability of its habitat, good conditions being conducive
to a longer span of life.
Hawks-beard (Crepis paludosa) is quite a common plant in the
marshy land over much of the Highland area, but is more particularly a
shade plant, and hence prefers shady marshes such as occur where streams
and springs are found in the woodlands or in the shade of cliffs and steep
plants consist of a rosette of large, ovate, coarsely-toothed leaves which
are deep green in colour and quite devoid of hairs. The rosettes are
rooted in the soft soil by a large, white, fleshy tap-root containing a
white acrid fluid which prevents them being eaten by animals.
a leafy stem arises from amidst the leaves to a height of about two feet.
The stem leaves are oblong and toothed and clasp the stem by two large,
pointed auricles, this last character being of value in identifying the
plant. These leaves are thin in texture and quite smooth as the Marsh
Hawks-beard is not troubled by lack of water.
is terminated by a corymbs of from eight to ten large, yellow, flower
heads, whose involucres consist of several rows of deep, green bracts
covered with black spreading hairs, which are often glandular and act as a
barrier to crawling insects.
flowers are pollinated in the same way of those of the Wall Hawkweed. (see
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
the only member of the Valerian Family which we shall meet with in the
Scottish Highlands. It is a handsome and rather imposing plant and is
quite common in some places, being a typical marsh plant.
the winter by means of a thick, tough, underground rhizome which is filled
with starch and gives off several runners which creep through the mud and
become erect at the extremity. They produced many fibrous roots and are
covered by small scale-like leaves.
their tip is produced a rosette of large and beautiful leaves consisting
of from nine to twenty-one leaflets arranged innately. Each leaflet may
be from one to three inches long, is lanceolate in form, and its margin is
coarsely toothed. The under surface is covered by scattered coarse hairs,
which save the stomata from becoming blocked with water by preventing the
formation of a water film over the surface.
flowering stems may attain more than four feet in height, are rarely
branched and are rather hairy at the base. They produce a few scattered
leaves resembling the radical ones, but much smaller in size.
flowers are arranged in large, terminal, corymbs cymes, which are very
conspicuous and of a pale pink or lilac colour. The individual flowers
are very small, the calyx being almost imperceptible as it is only a tiny
green ridge around the summit of the inferior ovary.
corolla consists of a narrow tubular portion, becoming funnel-shaped with
five small spreading lobes. Within the tube are a few white hairs which
prevent the entry of small creeping insects.
three stamens are produced and their filaments are connected to the
corolla tube, whilst the anthers are produced well beyond the corolla
green ovary is surmounted by a large fine style which is, however, shorter
than the filaments of the stamens, hence the two lobed stigma does not
project as far from the corolla tube as do the anthers.
flowers are mainly constructed for pollination by butterflies which are
always to be seen around the dense masses of flowers. For this reason the
nectar is hidden at the base of the corolla tube, and the flowers produce
a sweet and powerful perfume.
anthers mature before the stigma and when they have shed their pollen, but
not before, the two lobes of the stigma spread apart and the flower is
ready to be pollinated.
the cymose arrangement of the flowers, there is a long flowering season,
the flowers opening in succession a few every day. Thus in a single
inflorescence we may find flowers in every stage of development, hence one
insect may pollinate quite a number of blooms at a single visit.
flowering, a ring of hairs grows up from the summit of the ovary, in a
similar manner to that which takes place in the Composites. The hairs
from a pappus which acts as a parachute to the seed when it is blown from
its lofty perch by the autumn winds.
Woundwort (Stachys palustris)
plant is abundant in marshy places and is a close relative to the Hedge
Woundwort (see Chapter XIII)
plant, it possesses a creeping rhizome giving off runners which produce
new plants. It differs in the leaves, which are oblong or lanceolate and
possess very short stalks. They are a paler green in colour and much less
hairy, whilst the odour of the plant is much less offensive.
spikes of flowers are much more crowded, the flowers themselves being pale
bluish-purple in colour, whilst the corolla tube is shorter in length and
the lower lip is broader and shorter than in the case of other plant.
pollinated in exactly the same way, being constructed for the visits of
Robin (Lychnis Flos-cuculi)
handsome plant is a close relative of the Red Campion (see Chapter XIII)
and is a characteristic plant of marshy and wet places.
It is a
perennial and, like most marsh plants, possesses a short rhizome which
gives rise to several erect flowering stems which only branch in the upper
part. They are clothed with roughish , short, stiff, downward pointing
hairs which make it difficult for ants and other creeping insects to climb
the stems. Even if they do traverse this formidable barrier, it is only
to find the upper part of the stem is covered with sticky hairs which trap
the poor unfortunates, who in spite of their struggles are doomed to a
horrible death. Thus does Nature arm her children against thieves and
flowers are produced in terminal panicles and are unmistakable. They
resemble those of the Red Campion in structure, but each petal is cut into
four linear lobes, the whole effect being to give the flowers the
appearance of having been torn to shreads. The reason for the cut up
flowers is difficult to imagine, for entire petals, as in the case of the
Red Campion, would be more conspicuous.
flowers are scentless and are visited by butterflies, for which the
flowers are adapted.
them in bloom we must visit the marshes in June as this species is in
flower only when the cuckoo is singing, hence its Latin name of
Flower (Cardamine pratensis)
beautiful marsh plant which must be looked for early in the year s the
Cuckoo Flower, which belongs to the Cruciferous Family.
be know to most people, its dainty flowers being welcomed with the same
sentiment as those of the Primrose. It is a perennial with a short, tough
roostock which often produces small tubers which are easily broken off and
form new plants.
summit of the rootstock is given off a rosette of thin textured, pinnate
leaves each consisting of from seven to eleven leaflets which are rounded
flowering stem is erect and smooth and may attain over one foot in
height. It produces scattered pinnate leaves with narrow leaflets quit
different from those of the radical leaves. The stem is terminated by a
dense raceme of white or lilac flowers, which are often three-quarters of
an inch across.
flower consists of a calyx of four green, narrow, erect sepals, two of
which have a pouch like base in which nectar is secreted.
petals have long, narrow, erect claws, whilst the rounded limb spreads
outwards to make a landing stage for the bees. They are lined with dark
veins which run down towards the claw and guide the bees towards the
the flower we should find six stamens, four of which are longer than the
other two. They form a ring around the cylindrical ovary, which is
terminated by a short style in the young flowers.
must push its proboscis down between the claws of the petals to reach the
sepal pouches and their nectar, but in so doing it must brush its face and
head against the anthers. At a latter period the style lengthens to place
the stigma beyond the anthers where it must be touched by any insect
arriving at the flower.
fertilization the ovary forms a slender pod about one inch in length and
containing many seeds. The pod opens by two valves and the seeds are left
upon a central partition from which they are blown by the wind.
Arrow-grass (Triglochin palustre)
little grass-like plant s very common in marshy places in the Highlands.
It has a tufted rhizome which gives off slender runners forming daughter
plants and in time forming large colonies.
leaves are peculiar in being succulent in texture and cylindrical in form,
their bases being swollen and sheathing. From their midst arises a smooth
stem about six to twelve inches in height.
terminated by a spike of inconspicuous greenish flowers, each of which is
surrounded by a perianth of six green rounded segments and possesses six
stamens on long, slender filaments.
is a rounded structure and consists of three chambers, and is surmounted
by three feathery stigmas.
can guess this flower depends on the wind for fertilization.
Stitchwort (Stellaria uliginosa)
small plant is distributed throughout the Highlands and is very common in
marshy places, being especially fond of the edges of rivulets and
springs. It climbs the mountains to over 3,000 feet, but at the same time
it is abundant at sea-level.
remarkable in being an annual and this explains its small size. The
plants usually grow together in large tufts, each individual consisting of
an erect stem about six to ten inches in height and clothed with little,
sessile, opposite, smooth leaves.
is terminated by a slender panicle of tiny flowers, in which the calyx
consists of five very narrow, pointed sepals, which are longer than the
white petals. Within the corolla are ten stamens at the bases of which
tiny drops of nectar are secreted. The stamens mature before the pistil
and hence cross-pollination is often secured. Small flies are the chief
visitors, being attracted by the glistening drops of nectar.
Pimpernel (Anagallis tenella)
plant is not common, although distributed throughout the Western counties
of the Highlands and Hebrides. I have only twice encountered it during my
tramps in western Scotland. Once I found it covering the sides of a ditch
which bordered a road in the southern part of Mull. Its lovely pink
flowers starred the bright green, mossy banks and it gave me a thrill of
pleasure to find it there in such beautiful surroundings. I found it
again one bright September day, this time in the land of Lorne, but it was
too late for any flowers and only its seed capsules were to be found.
prefers wet, mossy places along the edges of streams and rivulets, and
wet, boggy places in meadows and moorlands often in association with the
It is a
lowly plant with delicate, slender stems which creep over the mosses, and
give off fine roots at each node which help to anchor the stems and at the
same time assure its water supply. The stems are covered with tiny,
rounded, opposite leaves which add to the delicate beauty of the plant.
upwards at the tips, and from the upper leaves arise a few pale pink
flowers on fine stalks about an inch in length.
It is a
lovely sight to see a large colony of these plants covered with dozens of
dainty, bell-like flowers. This, of course, helps to make the flowers
attractive to insects as they are not perfumed.
flower consists of a calyx of five, very tiny, pointed lobes surrounding
the pink, campanulate corolla, which is deeply cleft into five narrow
segments. Within the corolla, and standing erect around the pistil, are
five segments. Within the corolla, and standing erect around the pistil,
are five stamens whose filaments are covered with woolly hairs. A little
nectar may be produced, but the flowers are mainly visited by small bees
and flies for the sake of the pollen.
fertilization the flowers fade and the ovary swells to form a many-seeded
capsule. When ripe the upper part of the capsule breaks away, like a tiny
lid, from the lower portion, leaving the seeds exposed upon the central
receptacle, and as they are very light they may be blow a considerable
distance by the wind.
exploring the edges of streams and rivers and the marshy ground around
them, we may often become aware of a strong, mint-like smell, especially
if the day be warm and damp. This odour betrays the Water Mint, of which
two main species occur in the Highlands. One is called the Water Mint (Mentha
aquatice), the other the Whorled Mint (M. sativa). The latter
is a hybrid species arising from a cross between the Water Mint and the
Corn Mint (M. arvensis), which is also a frequent plant in
cultivated fields in the Highlands.
species form dense colonies into which competitors penetrate with
difficulty, and the numerous runners push outwards, increasing the
territory of the colony each year.
Mint has a long, creeping stem, giving off long, branching roots into the
mud and water. The stems produce rounded scale leaves at each node. In
the summer and autumn the stems give rise to many slender runners which
rest snugly buried in the mud and dad leaves till the following spring.
rise erect at their extremities to a height of about eighteen inches, are
covered with soft hairs and produce pairs of stalked, ovate, toothed
leaves, which are also hairy. The stem is terminated by a large, close
spike of pinkish flowers.
tubular flower secretes nectar at its base, the inner, lower portion being
covered with short hairs which impede the entry of creeping insects. In
the young flowers, the four stamens project beyond the corolla, where they
will be touched by any insect visitors, the stigma being at this time
hidden in the corolla. In older flowers the stamens have withered and the
style has so elongated that the stigma lobes project and occupy the
position originally held by the anthers. Bees and butterflies attracted
by the large, conspicuous heads of sweetly-smelling flowers visit them in
great numbers and much cross-fertilized seed is formed.
Whorled Mint is a very similar plant, but the flowers are produced in
whorls in the axils of all the upper pairs of leaves. They are also
visited by bees and butterflies, but as the plant is a hybrid, very little
fertile seed is set, the plants depending on their runners for the
continuation of the species. The plants vary greatly in character and all
types may be found grading from one parent to the other. For this reason
many sub-species have been named and several of these may be found in the
already made acquaintance with the Speedwell in other sections of this
book and here in the marsh lands we again meet three members of this
commonest and most outstanding species is the Brooklime (Veronica
Beccabunga). I forms large masses along the edges of rivers, streams
and rills, on low, marshy loch shores, in wet ditches and meadows.
fairly thick, smooth stems which creep over the mud or even float on the
water along the streams edge. From the nodes bundles of fine roots are
given off to anchor the stems in the mud so that floods will not sweep the
plants away. The stems give off runners during summer and autumn, and
these pass the winter safely buried in the mud.
curve upwards at their extremities and rise to about one foot, producing
fairly large, ovate leaves, which are in opposite pairs, rather fleshy,
very smooth in texture, and of a bright green.
leaf axil arises a raceme of small, very bright blue flowers, the upper
petal of each possessing dark blue veins, which form honey-guides to the
bees and flies which visit the flowers.
Speedwell (V. Anagallis-aquatica) is a rather similar plant, but
its leaves are lanceolate, the racemes of flowers are rather longer,
whilst the blooms are smaller and pale blue in colour. This plant is
rather less common than the Brooklime, but is usually a stouter and larger
plant, being often as much as three feet in height.
Speedwell (V. scutellata) is a more slender, less robust plant, but
of a similar habit, the stem being covered in pairs of smooth, lanceolate
leaves. It can be identified from the other two Speedwells by the fact
that only one raceme of flowers is produced by each pair of opposite
leaves. The flowers are very small and flesh-colored with dark
Speedwells are pollinated in the same way as the Alpine Speed-well (see
Willow-herb Family (Onagracea) is well represented in Britain and
eight members of the genus Epilobium are to be found within the
Highland area. The marshlands claim two of these species and they are of
widespread occurrence, especially by streams, ditches and lochs, and also
in wet meadowland.
Small-flowered Hairy Willow-herb (E. parviflorum) is not a very
conspicuous plant, but it is very successful in the life struggle. Below
the surface of the mud, it possesses a slender, woody rhizome giving off
many much branched roots. From its extremity arises a fairly tall, leafy
stem at the summit of which the flowers are produced.
If we dig
up a plant in the autumn, we shall find that the rhizome has given rise to
several pinkish buds, which in some cases may have produced short, scaly
outgrowths, known as offset which next year will give rise to new plants.
almost stalkless leaves are alternate and usually grow more or less
erect. They are covered with soft hairs which give them a greyish hue,
although in some forms the hairs are almost absent.
flowers are produced singly in the axils of the upper leaves and, although
they appear to have long stalks, they are in reality nearly sessile, the
apparent stalk being the long cylindrical ovary at the summit of which the
flower is produced.
composed of four small pale rose petals arranged as a cup at the base of
which nectar by a disc on the summit of the ovary. The eight stamens form
two rings round the four-lobed stigma. The small, inconspicuous flowers
are visited by small bees and flies, but are probably more often
self-fertilized, as the narrowness of the cup keeps the stamens pressed
toward the middle of the flower where pollen may be left upon the stigmas.
fertilization the long ovary lengthens and swells until, when the seeds
are ripe, it splits open by four valves and seed are released. Each one
has a tiny tuft of silky hairs attached at one end and by this means
floats upon the wind to be distributed far and wide.
second species is the Marsh Willow-herb (E. palustre). It is very
widely distributed and climbs the mountains to well over 2,000 feet. Some
authorities believe that it is only a lowland form of the Alpine
Willow-herb which it greatly resembles, although, of course, on a much
larger scale. Like that plant it perennates by means of slender runners
and it has smooth, narrow leaves.
stamens are in two rows, the anthers being at first situated below the
club-shaped stigma. Later on, however, the stamens of one row lengthen so
that the anthers are placed above the stigma, so that if cross-pollination
has not been effected the flowers can be self-fertilized. This must often
happen as the flowers are not at all conspicuous. The seeds are
distributed as in the preceding.
Highland marshes possess another beautiful plant in the Water
Forget-me-not, of which modern botanists have distinguished three
species. The first is Myosotis palustris which, although not
common in the Highlands, may be found here and there south of the
Caledonian Canal, especially in the west. It frequents wet ditches and
the sides of streams and rivulets, usually forming dense masses.
possesses a creeping stem rooting at the nodes and becoming erect at the
extremity to give rise to weak, leafy stems about one foot in height. The
sessile, ovate leaves are almost smooth in this species. The flowers,
which are produced in a branched cyme, are of a beautiful, pale blue
colour, which matches the rain-washed sky of April, and as if to enhance
their beauty, they possess a yellow eye at their centre. They are
distinguished from those of the other two species by being over half an
inch in diameter, and are constructed and pollinated in a similar manner
to those of the Alpine Forget-me-not (see Chapter VI).
Tufted Forget-me-not (M. caespitosa) is a much more common plant
and I have found it in large quantities in the marshy Lochaber meadows.
It is a much branched plant with slender, hairy, erect stems and small
downy leaves. The tiny sky-blue flowers, which are produced in long
racemes arising from the axils of the upper leaves, are only one-sixth of
an inch across, and are thus distinguished from the other two species.
Creeping Forget-me-not (M. repens) has a short rhizome producing
numerous, leafy runners which help the plant to form large colonies. Its
erect stems and leaves are covered with long, spreading hairs, whilst the
pale blue flowers are about one-third of an inch across. It can be
distinguished from the other tow by the fact that the flowers have very
long slender stalks, and when they have been fertilized, these stalks bend
downwards. This species is widely distributed in the Highlands and has
been found at 2,000 feet in some mountains.
in Britain two Golden Saxifrages belonging to the Saxifrage Family. The
Oppoisite-leaved Gold Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositifolium) is
to be found throughout the Highlands in marshy places by streams and
tarns, in boggy woodlands and up the mountain sides into the realm of
alpine plants. I have found it at least 3,500 feet up on Ben Nevis
forming large, green masses beside those beautiful fresh springs, where we
may find the Starry Saxifrage, the Alpine Stitchwort and the Alpine
Willow-herb. On the other hand, it can be found in bogs at sea-level in
the Western Isles.
species, the Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage (C. alternifolium),
has a much more restricted range, being found in the eastern and central
Highland area and in Argyll. It is found in the same places as the other
species and also climbs to over 3,000 feet on the mountain sides. This is
yet another member of the flora of Ben Lawers.
plants are of a low habit with delicate, creeping stems rooting at the
nodes and sending up many erect, leafy shoots which are never more than
four or five inches in height. The leaves in the former are bright green,
rounded, shortly stalked with a crenate margin, and they are always
opposite, and covered with a few weak hairs. In the latter the lower
leaves have longer stalks and they are always alternate.
branch above to form a spreading tuft of leaves. The stalkless flowers
are very small and golden yellow in colour, and are surrounded by leaves
which are often golden hued, hence the name of plant.
flowers possess not petals, the calyx taking on their function. They
possess eight tiny stamens surrounding the two-styled ovary, which stands
upon a nectar-secreting disc, the nectar glistening like dew in the sun to
attract small flies.
young flower, the anthers will be seen to be placed at the centre of the
flower, but when they have shed their pollen they recurve exposing the now
mature stigmas. It has been suggested slugs, which abound in damp places,
pollinate the flowers by crawling over them, if so, then even these
miscreants have some good in them.
This comment system requires
you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an
account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or
Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these
companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All
comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator
has approved your comment.