Friday 20 June 2014

Alpines and sunshine

As the mercury soared in Perthshire, we decided to get up into the cooler hills to search for alpine flowers on the top of Beinn a’ Ghlo – designated a Special Area of Conservation and a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its rare flora and fauna. This hill habitat includes alpine and boreal heathland, the best examples of which, in the UK, are found in the Scottish highlands. 

Taking our time, we shuffled from Glen Tilt up Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain ("the upland of the corrie of the round lumps") heads down and necks exposed to the sun as we examined the ground flora. Amongst the scratchy heather and a feathery, spongy and scaly mix of mosses and lichens, we found a rich carpet of bright flowers such as tormentil, milkwort, buttercup and heath bedstraw, and some beautiful specimens seen usually at higher altitudes.

If you're out on the hill, look out for these tiny but stunning plants, which survive extremes of Scottish weather to display their vibrant colours in the summer!

Mountain pansy (Viola lutea)

Common cow-wheat (Melampyrum pratense)

(Further down Glen tilt, the rare flower Small cow-wheat grows in two protected sites - it appears in only 19 sites in the whole of the UK!)

Small cow-wheat (Melampyrum sylvaticum) 

Dwarf cornell (Cornus suecica)

Alpine azalea (Kalmia procumbens)

Alpine clubmoss (Diphasiastrum alpinum)

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