Wednesday 13 June 2012

Small Cow-wheat is Special

Small cow-wheat (Melampyrum sylvaticum) grows on at least 2 sites on Atholl Estates. This is pretty good going as it's only found in 18 sites in the whole of Britain, most of which are in Scotland. Now is the perfect time to see it as it's flowering, and relatively easy to distinguish from its common cousin - common cow-wheat (Melampyrum pratense). It likes to grow in areas that are somewhat damp and shady, and also steals some nutrients from other nearby plants - it is a hemi-parasite. Its seeds are dispersed by ants, in fact, ants assisted with some conservation work here to spread out the range of one patch of cow-wheat, by taking the seeds further than they had been put by humans.
Removing bracken from a small cow-wheat site
Small cow-wheat flower
The seeds of the small cow-wheat are dispersed by ants. Where this doesn't happen, the flower doesn't spread to new areas and simply becomes very concentrated in one small locality. This is happening here to some extent and so, in conjunction with the National Park, we are trying to help the flower's future success by dispersing some seeds, and also keeping back invasive plants such as bracken and horsetail.

One of our small cow-wheat sites is very easy to visit up Glen Tilt, and we hope to have some interpretation on site soon.

Small cow-wheat is one of the species involved with the Cairngorms Rare Plant project, which aims to deliver urgently needed action for four threatened plants of high conservation importance in the Cairngorms National Park.

We also got the priveleged but very sad close-up of a male pine marten today. It had been hit on the road near the House of Bruar but was still in very good condition. The canine teeth and claws are particularly impressive so close up. We have many pine martens living in the woods here, but being nocturnal and shy, they are rarely seen. We will use this one for educational purposes.

1 comment:

  1. The Cairngorms National Park Authority's Rare Plant Officer visited us on Friday to check up on the condition of our small cow-wheat sites. He was pleasantly surprised at how well both sites are doing. We also tested out some brand new tools for bracken thwacking that he brought along so we can do a bit more practical management for maintaining the small cow-wheat habitat.