Life in the Scottish Highlands
Some other Interesting Meadow Plants
SEMI-PARASITES OF MEADOWS AND PASTURES
plant world, as with man, we find individuals who have forsaken the honest
ways of living and steal from their more industrious fellows, thus living
easily at the expense of these unfortunates.
robber plants, or as they are termed botanically ‘parasites’, are fairly
common in warm latitudes, and even in these islands we have quite a number
of species. The real parasites depend absolutely upon their host for
sustenance, tapping either their roots or their stems and stealing their
vital juices. These plants are of rare occurrence in the Highlands.
plants quite widely spread throughout the Highlands which are
semi-parasitic. That is to say they obtain nourishment from the soil like
the other plants, but also tap the roots of neighboring grasses, etc., and
absorb their juices.
semi-parasitic plants all belong to the Figwort family (Scrophulariaceae);
they are the Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), a beautiful biennial
very common in woods and thickets; the Alpine Bartsia (Bartsia alpina),
found rarely in mountain pastures on some of the higher Scottish
mountains; the Red Bartsia (Bartsia Odontites), very common
throughout the Highlands and attaining considerable altitudes; the Yellow
Rattle (Rhinanthus Crista-galli), common in meadowlands; the Red
Rattle (Redicularis palustris), common in damp meadows and in
marshy places, the Housework (Pedicular sylvatica), very common in
moist meadows and pastures, and the Cow-wheat (Melampyrum pratense),
very common in woodlands and shrubby borders of fields. These plants are
all very similar in habit and they all practice parasitism in a similar
have seen, plants are dependent upon their roots to obtain nourishment
from the soil, and upon their leaves which obtain nourishment from the
semi-parasites, however, have gradually slipped from the true way of
life. They produce roots like other plants, but rather fewer of the fine
thread-like roots which are the real absorbing medium. If we dig up a
plant of say Yellow Rattle, we shall find that it is impossible to detach
its roots from the surrounding roots of grasses. Closer examination would
show us that at certain places the roots of the Yellow Rattle seemed to be
stuck to the roots of the grasses. If we placed one of these points of
union under a magnifying glass, we should find a tiny sucker upon the
roots of the Yellow Rattle which joined it to the roots of grasses at
certain points. Through these suckers the Yellow Rattle draws off the
vital juices passing along the rootlets of the grass. This stealing of
nourishment gradually causes the grass to become yellow and withered and
large colonies of Yellow Rattle are very detrimental to the meadowlands.
same time the roots of the Yellow Rattle also obtain nourishment from the
soil in the ordinary way.
look at the above ground portion of these plants, we shall notice that the
leaves of many of these semi-parasites are not the beautiful bright green
of ordinary plants, but are tinged with dull red and purple, the green
being often almost indistinguishable. Thus these plants, which slyly live
upon the toil of others, are as indelibly marked with the token of their
crimes as the robber in the broad arrows of his prison garb.
Naturally, a plant which obtains its food already half-prepared, is not as
dependent upon the chemistry of sunlight and chlorophyll as other plants
in order to obtain nourishment. Hence the bright green chlorophyll is
much less evident in their leaves, its place being taken by dull colours.
Foxglove is rather different in appearance from the other semi-parasites.
This is because it has not yet decided upon its future career, or rather
is at the stage of evolution which marks the line between parasitism and
hones living. The Foxglove can live in ordinary soil as an ordinary plant
without stooping to theft, but if its roots do encounter the roots of a
suitable plant they may attach themselves to them and become
semi-parasitic. The fact that it is not yet dependent on a host is shown
in that its leaves are large and green.
described the semi-parasites generally, we will now describe more fully
the more important species. The Foxglove, however, has already been fully
described in the chapter on the plants of the woodlands.
Alpine Bartsia (Bartsia alpina)
plant is actually an inhabitant of the higher mountain pastures.
It is a
small plant seldom more than six inches in height and is hairy on the
leaves and stems. The perennial rootstock sends up an erect stem clothed
with alternate leaves which are without stalks and have crenate margins.
They are dull in colour and the upper ones, especially, are usually of a
deep violet hue. The flowers are arranged in a short leafy spike at the
summit of the stem, and are of a deep livid purple colour tinged with
violet in the lower part. The calyx is short, but the corolla, like that
of all flowers of the Figwort family, is of peculiar form.
petals are united to form a long tube, the entrance to which consists of
five lobes; these lobes are arranged to form two lips; the lower lip is
often large and wide consisting of three lobes, while the upper one is
smaller and erect consisting of the other two lobes. The whole gives the
effect of an open mouth with an extended lower lip.
Alpine Bartsia this lower lip is very short. Nectar is secreted at the
base of the tube. The four stamens are arranged in two pairs, one pair
being longer than the other, and are placed near the roof of the upper
part of the flower. The pistil is long and projects just beyond the lip.
A bee arriving at a flower will bring pollen from another plant, which
will be transferred to the stigma at the entrance. On pushing its head
into the flower to obtain the nectar, it will be dusted upon the back and
head with pollen from the anthers situated in the roof of the corolla, and
it will be transferred to the next flower visited. Thus cross-pollination
is obtained. Bees are the flowers’ chief benefactors, although
butterflies may also be seen around them.
Alpine Barsia is parasitic upon the roots of the alpine grasses and is a
rather rare plant, being only found at high altitudes on some of our
highest Scottish mountains.
Red Barsia (Bartsia Odontites)
Bartsia is closely related to the Alpine Barsia, but it is confined to the
meadowlands, the borders of cultivated fields and in the lower pastures.
It is a dull dingy-looking plant and decidedly unattractive. It is much
branched and erect, attaining a height of from six inches, the branches
being clothed by small purplish colored opposite leaves which are covered
with a short down.
reddish flowers are arranged in spikes which are long and often
one-sided. They are shaped much like those of the Alpine Barsia, but the
upper lip is longer than the lower. It is a parasite on the roots of corn
crops and grasses, and has been subdivided into two or three varieties,
which are very difficult to distinguish.
Eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis)
little plant is very common and is to be found over a wide range of
countryside, ascending to considerable altitudes. It may be found in
meadowlands, in pastures, in woods and thickets, and on waste lands.
greatly in form, size and colour, and has hence been divided into a great
number of supposed species, sub-species and varieties.
It is an
annual, rarely more than six inches in height and often in alpine
situations hardly attaining one inch. It is but little branched and is
clothed in small ovate leaves which are usually deeply toothed. The
flowers are arranged in a leafy terminal spike. The corolla is usually
white, streaked with purple, and often with dark honey guides, whilst a
yellow spot usually occurs on the throat, but in high alpine regions where
the season is short the flowers may be minute and almost totally yellow.
The corolla tube is quite short and the flower is probably designed for
fertilization by small bees.
Red Rattle (Pedicularis palustris)
Rattle is the largest and most conspicuous of the semi-parasites, if we
except the Foxglove. It is a common plant in the Highlands and one may
find it in boggy meadows, in marshes, along the edges of ponds, lakes and
streams and in ditches.
It is an
almost glabrous annual with erect, often much branched stems, attaining a
height of from one foot to two feet. The leaves are pinnate and
beautifully cut into crenate segments, often being fern-like. The flowers
are arranged in short, terminal spikes and are of a deep purple red, the
calyx being rather broad and lobed with jagged segments. The corolla
itself possesses a tube about as long as the calyx, a large lower lip
consisting of a broad middle lobe and two smaller lateral lobes, and an
erect upper lip which is slightly curved over to give the effect of an old
church pulpit with a canopy. The stamens are situated on the lower
surface of this upper lip. The flower is pollinated in the same manner as
the Bartisia, but is much more conspicuous, arranging a fine landing
stage, with its broad lower lip, for its insect visitors.
Lousework (Pedicularis sylvatica)
Lousewort is another very common semi-parasite in meadows and heathy
pastures. It is related to the Red Rattle, but is much smaller, seldom
attaining six inches in height, and is a perennial. The rootstock sends up
spreading, branching stems clothed in pinnate leaves much like the Red
Rattle. The flowers, which are arranged in a close terminal spike, have
the same form as the Red Rattle, but have a much longer tube to the
corolla. They are of a pinkish-red colour, although they may sometimes be
Louseworts are common plants in the Swiss pastures and meadow-lands
ascending high up the mountain sides.
Britain, however, our two species are confined to the lower lands.
Yellow Cow-wheat (Melapyrum pratense)
plant is also very common in the Highlands, especially in wooded
districts, although it may be found along the scrubby edges of fields and
pastures as well as on banks and waste land. Its very similar, but
smaller relative, the Small-flowered Cow-wheat (M. sylvaticum), is
also very common in the Highlands.
Common Cow-wheat is an erect plant which may attain as much as one foot in
height. The stem is usually branched, the branches being opposite to one
another and almost at right angles to the stem, and they are clothed with
a few, fairly long, lanceolate pairs of leaves which are of a deep
flowers occur in pairs in the axils of the leaves and all face the same
direction. They are pure yellow with a long tube.
of the Small-flowered Cow-wheat (M. sylvaticum) the plant is much smaller
in all ts parts and its flowers are also small and of a deep yellow.
is rich in species of Yellow Rattles, two of them actually belonging to
the mountain pastures. They can only thrive in close contact with
grasses, upon which they are semi-parasitic.
various species can be divided into two sections--those with glabrous
calyces and those with hairy ones. The first section contains species
more or less confined to the lower valley pastures.
commonest species and the one most likely to be met with by the tourists
is the Common Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor). It has an erect
simple stem, sometimes giving rise to three or four short, sterile
branches, and is usually quite smooth, whilst the stems and leaves have a
brownish-green or bronze hue. The stem is terminated by a spike of bright
yellow flowers which are remarkable for their large inflated-looking
calyx, and are surrounded by numerous dark green, deeply-serrate bracts.
The plant has earned its popular name from the fact that the seeds rattle
inside the capsules when ripe. It can be found in full flower in May and
June in the lower areas.
species, R. stenophyllus, is very similar to the Common Yellow
Rattle, but is distinguished from it by the fact that it braches from the
middle, the branches being as tall as the main stem and also bearing
flowers. A very distinctive character is its flowering period, which is
from July to August, two or three weeks after R. minor has finished
to bloom. It may be looked for in grassy places in the eastern Highlands,
Argyll, Skye, and in the northern Highlands.
species, R. monticola, is confined to poor, grassy pastures in
Scotland, being found only in Perthshire, Angus, Inverness-shire and the
northern Highlands. It is easily distinguished from the preceding species
by its dull, treacle-brown flowers and its deep violet calyx.
species with hairy calyces are both mountain plants and are confined to
Scotland. R. borealis has a short, densely downy, simple stem with
small, ovate-oblong leaves and, although a rare species, is widely
distributed being found in Perthshire, Inverness-shire, Argyll, Sky and
second species, R. Drummondi-Haye, is a very local plant, and is
distinguished from R borealis by its branched hairy stems and very
narrow leaves. It has a similar distribution and is also found on Ben
OTHER COMPOSITE PLANTS
composites with their perennial habit, long flowering period and parachute
seeds, are very common in the meadows and pastures. Most of them are
abundant and, being gregarious in habit, form large colonies whose flowers
give their colour to the meadows.
Knapweed (Centaurea nigra) is a handsome member of this family and
is very common at low levels. Its tough underground tap-roots is
surmounted by a rosette of long-stalked, ovate, spreading leaves which are
tough with minute hairs.
summit of the stock arises a tall, wiry, branching stem covered with
leaves, the upper ones being narrow to cut down transpiration.
branch is terminated by a large flower head. In bud the head appears as a
hard, blackish globe, the black colour being due to the many imbricated
bracts of the involucre, each of which is fringed by spreading, stiff
teeth in the upper part. These form a perfect protection to the florets
when n bud and a fence against creeping insect when in flower.
consists of many, tubular, purple-red florets, each containing stamens and
a pistil. The style on lengthening pushes the hairy stigma through the
anther ring, brushing the pollen out. Later on the stigma lobes spread
apart ready to receive any transported pollen.
corolla tubes are deep, and hence the nectar in only obtainable by
long-tongued insects, bumble-bees and butterflies being the chief
pappus is often lacking in this plant.
very common meadow plant and a general favourite with everyone is the
Ox-eye Daisy (Chrysanthemum Leucanthemum). This plant is also a
perennial and forms vast colonies in the meadows. I have seen the grassy
fields along the shore of Loch Linnhe white as with freshly fallen snow,
the blooms were so numerous.
are tall, much branched and tough, and are usually smooth. They are
covered with narrow, toothed, smooth leaves, which become almost
scale-like on the upper part of the branches where the plant is most
are solitary and large, the involucre consisting of several rows of
imbricate, brownish, scale-like bracts.
fully open the flower heads are over two inches in diameter and are very
conspicuous. The central portion consists of a bright yellow disc of
small, tubular florets, contains both stamens and pistil and consisting of
a short tube surmounted by a tiny yellow cup. The outer florets have a
large, ovate limb of a pure white colour. These florets forma very
conspicuous ray and are the advertising agents for the flower head. They
only contain a pistil and secrete very little nectar.
are attracted to the outer, conspicuous florets, where they leave
transported pollen upon the stigmas. As they find little nectar there,
they wander on to the disc of tubular florets where they find florets and
at the same time become covered in pollen. Many insects visit these
flowers, especially the smaller butterflies and bees, flies, hover-flies
and even beetles.
possess no parachute and depend for their distribution upon the swaying of
the stems in strong winds. When cut with the hay many seeds are
transported long distances upon the farmers’ wagons. Thus man himself
aids the distribution of this lovely plant.
plant which is common in the meadows and closely resembles the Ox-eye
Daisy, is the Scentless Mayweed (Matricaria inodora). It is an
annual and is more partial to cultivated land or fields which have been
shorter in stature and less robust than the former plant, its leaves being
cut up into very fine, hair-like segments, resembling those of a water
plant. Its flowers are smaller than those of the Ox-eye Daisy, but are
similarly constructed and pollinated.
the subject of Daisies mention must be made of this lovely, little pasture
land plant the Common Daisy (Bellis perennis). This is one of the
commonest of British plants, but is also a general favourite and one than
can be found in flower almost throughout the year.
possesses a short, underground stem, crowned by a rosette of spoon-shaped,
smooth , spreading leaves pressed close to the soil. Their closeness to
the soil saves the plant from being eaten by cows or sheep, and hence
allows it to survive where these animal are kept.
rootstock often gives rise to offsets which also produce plants. For this
reason the Daisy forms large, close colonies which other plants are unable
plant gives rise to a short, naked, slender flower stalk which bears a
single, small head flowers, which is a miniature replica of that of the
Ox-eye Daisy. They are visited by small insects such as flies and smaller
plant might at first be mistaken for an Umbelliferous plant. This is the
Yarrow (Archillea millefolium), a very common plant that must be
familiar to everyone and often forms colonies in meadow land.
perennates by means of a tough, long, creeping rootstock which gives rise
to many leafy, barren stems, and forms dense colonies which invade
colonies of other plants. It thus extends its domain, unless checked, to
the detriment of better pasture plants.
leaves are pinnate and consist of a large number of fine segments, which
are again divided into hair-like lobes, so that they have a featherly,
light appearance. The upper leaves are much smaller, as in all tall
plants, to counteract excessive transpiration.
flower head are arranged in a corymbs and give the appearance of a flat,
white table composed of many heads all at the same level. As the heads
are small and close together, one might be excused for thinking the plant
was an Umbellifer.
head, however, contains five or six white ray florets and several yellow,
inner, tubular florets, and are thus like daisies in miniature. The ray
florets possess a broad limb which may be white or pink in colour. In
spite of the smallness of the individual heads, they are very conspicuous
through being massed together.
pollinated by bees, butterflies and small insects such as flies and
damper meadows we may often meet with a similar looking plant, but with
fewer and larger heads. This is the Sneezewort (Achillea Ptarmica).
Its leaves are entire, but toothed, and hence are being correlated to its
have from ten or fifteen ray florets, the ray being very wide, and a
proportionately larger number of disc florets. It is pollinated by bees
common weed, especially in neglected fields and pastures, is the Common
Ragwort (Senecio Jacobaea).
possesses a short, tough rootstock which gives rise to a tall, branching,
leafy stem which is very strong. It forms huge colonies when allowed to
spread and then, although very beautiful with their masses of golden
blooms, betray the lazy farmer.
leaves are pinnate, the segments being narrow and smooth, and as the
contain an acrid juice are not touched by grazing animals. In spite of
this, they are greedily devoured by large, black and golden striped
caterpillars, dozens of which may be found on a single plant.
flower heads are about an inch across and are produced in a very large
corymbs, the ray florets being bright golden yellow in colour and forming
a very conspicuous border, whilst the disc florets are also bright yellow.
visited by many insects, including butterflies, hover-flies and flies.
plants of very common occurrence in fields and pastures as weeds are the
Creeping Thistle (Cirsium arvensis) and the Spear Thistle (Cirsium
former possesses a long, creeping, underground stem which gives rise to
several annual stems. This makes it a very difficult plant to eradicate
once it is established, as any pieces of stem left in the ground give rise
to new plants. If undisturbed it will form large colonies which play
havoc in wheat fields, the leafy stems shading the wheat plants and
retarding their development, whilst they absorb all the goodness and water
in the soil, which should be available to the wheat.
annual stems are three or four feet high and are very strong and much
leaves, which are adapted to dry conditions, are narrow and lanceolate,
their margins being produced into strong, stiff, sharply-pointed spines.
The under surface is covered with cottony down, the upper epidermis being
thick and smooth. The base of the leaf usually runs down the stem for
some distance as a spiny wing. No grazing animals, except donkeys and
goats, will touch this formidable-looking foliage.
branch is terminated by a loose corymbs of medium-sized purple heads. The
involucre consists of numerous, closely-pressed bracts with small, prickly
plants are remarkable in being dioeciously, i.e. the males and female
flowers are found on different plants.
florets are similar to those of the Black Knapweed and possess a very long
tube. They are visited by bumble-bees and butterflies, which alone can
reach the nectar.
male flowers an abortive style is found, crowned by a ring of hairs, which
brushes the pollen out of the anthers, but as there are no stigmas, the
flowers can never be fertilized.
fertilization the female florets five rise to large, silky parachutes.
The heads of flowers at this time form a beautiful, spherical mass of
silk, greedily stolen by goldfinches and titmice to line their nests.
Their beauty, however, spells disaster to the farmer as thousands of
parachuted seeds fill the air and after drifting, often for long
distances, descend like an invading army upon his fields and pastures.
The following year hundreds of prickly-leaved plants reduce crop yields
and impoverish the soil. At the same time, the parent plants will have
further increased their territory by means of their creeping stems.
Thistle is a very handsome plant in spite of its formidable, spiny leaves,
and is a very common plant, wherever the soil is deep enough for its large
tap-root. It is not a perennial, but a biennial, and is quite at home on
the borders of fields and poor pastures.
its first year, it produces a deep-striking, fleshy tap-root surmounted by
a rosette of very large, lanceolate, spiny leaves. These rosettes are
very beautiful objects with their regular arrangement of the large leaves,
and are very impressive when covered with dew in September, each spine and
hair covered with scintillating drops, which turn the rosettes into
diadems of brilliants.
is cut into toothed lobes, each lobe ending in a stout spine. The upper
surface is covered with stiff hairs, whilst the under side is covered with
white, cottony hairs.
the first year the tap-root becomes fat and fleshy with stored up food
manufactured by the leaf rosette. This store passes the winter safely in
the soil. As soon as the warmer weather returns, a tall, stout stem
arises from the middle of the leaf rosette.
covered with large, prickly leaves which diminish in size towards the
summit of the stem. The upper part of the stem branches, each branch
being terminated by a very large flower head.
involucre is composed of many imbricate green bracts, each of which is
terminated by a stout spine.
plant is thus strongly armed and is avoided by herbivorous animals.
beautiful flower heads consist of a large number of purple-red florets,
similar to those of the Creeping Thistle, but are much larger and are
hermaphrodite. The corolla tube is over an inch in length and widens out
above to form a cup about a quarter of inch deep.
are sweetly perfumed and are very conspicuous, and as the nectar is only
accessible to long-tongued insects they are much visited by the larger
each seed, surmounted by a large, silky parachute which forms a glove of
fine hairs when air-borne, travels long distances on the breeze.
Field Gentian (Gentiana campestris)
one of the most beautiful plants we can find in the Scottish pastures is
the Field Gentian.
a common plant in many meadows, especially in Speyside, I first made its
acquaintance in a grassy glade in Rothiemurchus Forest. A tiny stream
trickled through the lush grass and every blade was scintillating with
multi-hued raindrops, as the sun, chasing away the heavy clouds, broke
forth in splendour. The stately ferns hung their feathery foliage in
graceful curves whilst the shining drops of water fell on them from the
gently , whispering pines. A red squirrel popped head out of a hollow
pine where it had been sheltering and began to brush its whiskers and ears
with its front paws. A roe-deer stayed its flight to browse awhile in the
sweet grass and then bounced away into cover.
twittering of warblers, the soft cooing of the wood pigeons, the sweet
music of the brook, the soft soughing of the pines and the murmuring of
bees, all proclaimed that this was summer, and as if to emphasize that
this was so, the sun shone down warm and bright.
I contemplated this lovely scene, I noticed, what I had not seen before,
that the grass was studded with pale blue stars that seemed to reflect the
rain-washed sky. Stooping, I found that the grassy glade was covered with
plants of the Field Gentian, whose lovely flowers had been closed during
the rain and had now opened under the influence of the benign sun.
since found it in many spots in the Highlands, but usually in meadows and
already met the Snow Gentian in the chapter on Alpine Plants; it, however,
belonged to the section of Gentians in which the five petals are smooth
and free of scales. In the Field Gentian there are only four petals and
there is a fringe of scales just within the corolla throat.
Gentian is an annual. Its tiny seedlings can be found in early April when
the season is mild, and by July they are already in flower.
which is square in section, is rarely more than six inches high although I
have found luxuriant specimens of nine to ten inches in height. It is
clothed by several pairs of sessile, opposite, ovate or lanceolate leaves,
which are quite smooth and have an entire margin. They are deep green in
colour, often with a purplish tinge.
flowers are produced in panicles, the calyx being tubular in form and
composed of our sepals, two of which are small and narrow, while the other
two are much larger and almost conceal them.
corolla is a beautiful structure, consisting of a deep, narrow tube
widening upwards and then expanding out into four triangular, lilac-blue
lobes. These, when the flower is fully open, spread at right angles to
the tube and form a landing stage for winged visitors.
examine the corolla, we should see that at the base of each lobe, just
below the entrance to the throat, there was a fringe of long, narrow
segments. These fringed scales meet and shut the entrance to the corolla
tube, keeping crawling insects from entering the tube to steal the nectar.
is a cylindrical, green body arising from the base of the corolla tube and
is surmounted by the stigma which ahs a very short style and is
two-lobed. The four stamens are connected to the corolla tube towards its
base and are so arranged that the anthers are situated just below the
fringe of scales, and also below the stigma.
secreted in abundance by glands around the base of the ovary. It can only
be reached by long-tongued bees and butterflies, as they alone can force
aside the scales, and have a proboscis long enough to reach to the bottom
of the tube.
stamens and stigma mature at the same time, but as the latter is above the
anthers there is no danger from self-pollination.
Snow Gentian, the flowers are very sensitive to sunlight and will close up
immediately the sun is obscured by a passing cloud. This is a clever
device by which the pollen is protected from damage by the rain.
OTHER INHABITANTS OF THE PASTURES.
other plants may be met with n the grassy pastures. Some, like the
Cathartic Flax (Linum cathartic), being widespread and common,
whilst others like the Bloody Crane’s-bill (Gereanium sanguineum)
are much less common and local in their distribution.
commence with the Cathartic Flax. It is the only member of the Flax
Family to be found in the Highland pastures and it is often overlooked as
it is small and inconspicuous. It is an annual which produces slender,
erect, branching stems clothed with pairs of small, ovate, sessile leaves
which are quite devoid of hairs. It only attains about six inches in
height and the stems and braches are terminated by cymes of white flowers,
each seated upon a fine pedicel. Each flower possesses five tiny white
petals and produces nectar at the bases of the five stamens. They are
visited occasionally by insects but, due to their inconspicuous flowers,
are usually self-fertilized.
plant in more heathy pastures in the Thyme-leaved Speedwell (Veronica
serphyllifolia). It may be met with at great heights on many
mountains where it often runs into the alpine species V. humifusa.
It is a perennial with short, creeping stems which root at the nodes, the
whole forming a flat, leafy tuft. The leaves are usually ovate, quite
glabrous and sessile. The erect flowering stems may attain four inches in
height and are clothed with small, ovate, smooth leaves, in the axils of
which a single blue flower is produced. They secrete very little nectar
and are rather inconspicuous, thus insect visitors are not frequent and
they depend largely on self-pollination.
plant we may sometimes meet with is the Lesser Meadow Rue (Thalictrum
minus), a relative of the Alpine Meadow Rue. It produces a rosette of
much divided, radical leaves consisting of very small, rounded leaflets.
They have a close resemblance to the leaves of the Maiden-hair Fern. The
flowers are produced in a compound raceme, and possess four, purplish or
yellow-green sepals and large numbers of bright yellow, conspicuous
anthers. The flowers are visited by bees and flies for the sake of their
abundant pollen, but they are usually wind-pollinated, which explains the
absence of any protective corolla.
attractive plant, but with a much more restricted distribution is the
Bloody Crane’s bill. We may be luck enough to find this lovely plant here
and there in the southern and eastern Highlands, and rather more
frequently in pastures bordering the western seaboard of Argyll, Inverness
and the Southern Hebrides.
possesses a thick, wood rootstock usually well ensconced in the fissures
of rocks and stones among which it loves to grow. It gives rise to
several leafy stems, which rarely stand erect but spread outwards, and are
covered with long, soft, white hairs. The radical leaves, which are
long-stalked, are beautiful structures, being round in outline but deeply
cut to the base into five or seven segments, which are again cut into
narrow lobes. The stem leaves are opposite and have few lobes than the
radical ones. At the base of each petiole are large, brownish, hairy
stipules which protect the leaf when in bud. The large crimson flowers
are produced singly on long, slender pedicels and are as much as one and a
half inches in diameter. A patch of this Crane’s-bill covered with these
glorious blossoms is a magnificent sight. The flowers are constructed and
pollinated in exactly the same way as those of the Wood Geranium.
member of the Geranium Family to be found in the pastures is the
Dove’s-foot Crane’s bill (G. molle). It is a widely distributed and
common plant and is to be found in the lower pastures, as well as in
cultivated ground throughout the Highlands and Hebrides.
It is a
prostrate, very downy annual which in its early stages forms a rosette of
long-stalked, round leaves divided into seven to eleven wedge-shaped lobes
which are again three to five lobed. They are covered with soft down on
both surfaces. Once the radical leaves are fully developed several,
short, weak, creeping stems are given off, each clothed with a few small
leaves which are more deeply cut than are the radical ones.
axils of the upper leaves arise short peduncles from the summit of which
two, tiny, purplish flowers are produced.
flowers first open, the outer row of five stamens is already mature, but
the stigmas are still immature. Later on the inner row of stamens ripens
as do the five stigmas, thus making self-pollination easy. This is very
necessary as the small flowers have very little attractive ability, and
hence are little visited by insects.
five members of the Umbelliferous Family may be found in the Highland
pastures. Two of them, the Sweet Cicely and the Spignel, have been dealt
with in Chapter VIII.
member of the lower pastures is the Burnet Saxifrage (Pimpinella
Saxifraga), an elegant plant to be found in most parts of the
Highlands, but absent from some areas and becoming less frequent towards
the north. Like most pasture plants, it bears a rosette of spreading,
graceful, radical leaves which are long-stalked and consist of four or
five pairs of oval, toothed leaflets. The perennial stock is very thick
and is continued downwards as a tap-root.
flowering stem is tall, often attaining two feet, and bears few leaves.
These are gradually modified from the base of the stem upwards, the lower
one or two being similar to the radical leaves, but with small much
divided leaflets; higher up the leaflets are reduced to narrow teeth,
while toward the summit of the stem only the sheathing base remains. This
is, of course, an adaptation to the drier conditions prevailing above the
herbage of the pastures. The stems branch towards the summit and produced
two or three umbels of white flowers. They are visited mainly by flies
who are attracted by the easily obtained nectar. Bees and butter-flies
rarely visit them.
Whorled Caraway (Carum verticillatum) is a much more local plant and is
restricted to the western parts of Argyll and Inverness, where it is often
quite common in the wetter, heathy pastures. It is easily recognized by
its long, radical leaves, covered with from twelve to twenty pairs of
leaflets which are cut up into fine, hair-like lobes, giving them the
appearance of being whorled. It is also a perennial with a short, thick
stock, giving rise to a tall flowering stem which possesses a few small
leaves similar to the radical ones. The terminal umbel is not very large
and is composed of white flowers, which are again largely visited by
flies, although beetles are often found browsing on the pollen.
Pig-nut (Conopodium denudatum) is another widely distributed plant
especially fond of sandy pastures. Its perennial stem consists of a
fleshy tuber hidden deep in the soil and giving rise to erect, slender,
glabrous stems, one to two feet high. The radical leaves are produced in
spring and are composed of three, long-stalked segments, each of which is
once or twice pinnate. The die down early in the season, the assimilatory
functions then being taken on by the green stems and the small, finely
divided stem leaves. It produces a terminal umbel of white flowers.
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