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A History of the Parish of Neilston
Chapter XX. — The Botany of Neilston Parish


The Botany of Neilston Parish.
By J. M. B. Taylor
(Ex-Curator of Paisley Museum).

The earliest known state of the vegetation of the parish of Neilston is that of the Carboniferous Period—which may be regarded as about the middle of the history of the earth’s crust. At that time the vegetation grew very rapidly, and consisted of various species of Lepidodendroids of eighty or more feet in height, gigantic ferns, and numerous calamites. There is distinct evidence that this state of vegetation was at one time broken down by volcanic outbursts, and the breaching of volcanoes. From this cause, whole and massive forests were not only broken down, but were covered by arenaceous debris, and to-day are found solidified into rock. This early state of vegetation was very largely of the endogenous type, but there were also exogenous trees and shrubs. These latter are still to be had in the rocky mass, and when sliced and seen under the microscope, they show the annual rings, and the cell structure as distinct as if the specimen had been sliced off one of our present-day growing plants.

Latent Seeds.

A botanical peculiarity connected with the parish is the high percentage of plant seeds that lie latent in the soil. By “ latent seeds ” is meant seeds that are in the soil, but at such a depth that they do not spring, but when such seeds are brought near enough to the surface, they sprout and yield their own species. In research work carried on in the County of Renfrew, by the writer, Neilston parish yielded by far the highest percentage of latent seeds. In this research work quantities of soil were collected at various parts. Certain quantities of the several soils collected were put into boxes of equal sizes and of a certain depth (both of soil and box), and these were exposed to the ordinary atmospheric influences, such as light, heat, and cold—in short, to the weather— and a register was made of how many seeds sprang up in each of the soils. As a means of check, every sample of soil was exposed in duplicate, but before being exposed, it was raised to a dull-red heat, and kept at this for a certain time. These observations of the soils were carried on for several years. Neilston gave a percentage per square inch of 41.11. The next two highest were Kilmacolm, 22-2 per cent, per square inch, and Abbey, Newton Woods, 13'88 per cent, per square inch. This shows Neilston parish to stand very high.

Col.Ol’llATION OK VlOLKTS AM) P\\SIES.

On the eastern side of the parish, the colour of the violets and pansies in the wild state is quite exceptional. The colours are remarkably fine, and depart considerably from that usually met with in the same species. Here the violets and pansies are most abundant, thev grow in profusion, but in general they are smaller than the same spceies in other parts of the country. Planted in flower-pots they are very pretty, and if planted in tin same soil the colour remains. If, however, they are planted in other soils, they slowly lose their remarkably fine colour—which goes to show that the composition of the soil has got to do with colouration.

1’itKsii Water Alg.e.

In the parish there is a fine display of fresh water alga?. In the early months of the year many of the streams 011 the higher parts, and the ponds and pools, are often rendered very pretty by the colouration of the fresh water alga*. Various species of Houmiscia, such as Houmiscia subtilis, var. Tenekiuna, is general 011 Fereneze. In spring fresh water alga1 is very abundant in the sandstone quarries about Loch Libo, where their action is very marked in the changing of rock into soil. Various species of Oscillaria (these moving plants under the microscope) are abundant in various parts of the parish. Species met with are O. sim.enhida, O. amiuiiiua, and O. chalyiiea. The fresh water algaa Nostoc LiNcKi is got about the waterfalls 011 the northern boundaries of the parish. One of the rarer fresh water alga* is common as a jelly 011 grassy parts of Fereneze in the autumn in rainy weather. Various beautiful Diatoms are got about the streams near Netherton, Dyke farm, and Walton ; and Loch Libo is itself a study for Diatoms. That loch is very shallow, and is being slowly but surely filled up, and 111 whose bottom mud the Diatoms are very abundant.

Fungi.

In the parish there is to be met with a fine assortment of various fungi. Various edible species are found in considerable abundance on the grassy parts of Fereneze, and on furnace slag.

Liverworts.

The liverworts are commonly met with in the parish, but as yet they are imperfectly worked. In the spring of 1908 a very fine display of one species was observed in Killoch Glen wholly confined to a narrow igneous dyke.

Mosses.

The mosses are abundant in the parish, especially on the western boundary. Here we met with the formation of peat from mosses, such as Fontinalis antipvretica, and various species of Sphagni. Fine mosses are got about Moyne moor, and in the neighbourhood of the Long Loch.

The Flowering Plants.

Considering the flowering plants, Neilston parish shows a goodly number of all those that are British. In Great Britain, there are of flowering plants in all 92 natural orders. Of this number, Neilston contains types of 72, which only leaves 20 without types. They may be tabulated thus :—

The parish contains several of the rarer plants. The Mud Crowfoot (llanimculns Lenomiandi): it is not so long since this plant found a place in our British Flora. It grows fairly abundant in the streams and marshes about Dyke. On the eastern boundary of the parish there is a plant new to the British Flora, which was discovered by the writer in 1883, and is named in honour of the old man who first taught him botany, John Duncan. This plant is Duncan’s Simple Mint (Mentha Simplex-Dnncani, Nov. sp.). It is described in the yearly circular of the Paisley Practical Botany and Geology Class. This plant was first got in Abbey parish, and the additional station for it in Neilston parish was discovered by Miss L. Innes, teacher, Paisley, a field botanist. In the parish there are three species of sensitive plants; four species that live on insects; and one, a parasite, which lives on the juices of other plants. In the parish the travelling of plants has been observed. This is well known among the Orchids, but on Fereneze, a little cruciferous plant, Eriophila verna, which is an annual, has entirely left one station, and travelled 250 yards further north.

Of introduced plants, two, at least, have become well established in the parish, viz. :— The Monkey-flower (Mimuhis ringans), us at Uplawmoor; and the Canary grass (Phalaris Canariensis), around Neilston, Barrhead, and other homes in the parish. Sweet Cicely (Mi/rrhis odorata) is abundant, and has many stations in the parish.

Botanically Loch Libo is the richest part in the county ; here there is to be found such plants as Whorled Caraway (Carton vertieillatimi), said to be its furthest inland point from the sea. The Water-Hemlock, or Cowbane {('icnta virosa), that highly poisonous plant with a peculiar chambered root. That rare plant the Water Starwort (Call it riche antumrialis). The Lesser Skullcap (Scutellaria minor), and the Great Cavex (Carex vulpina), which, if the collector should obtain a specimen without parting with some blood—that would be the exception to the rule. The following is a short list of plants that are met with in the parish :—


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