Thursday, 19 May 2011

A botanical break

The cliffs on this part of  the Buchan coast tend not to be high or continuous.  Between the stretches of rocky cliff are steep slopes of grass and sharply incut geos.  In these places there are great areas to see wildflowers.

The mats of Thrift (Armeria maritima), also known as "Sea Pink" for its resemblance to Carnation, are the most common flowering plant in spring and early Summer, along with Sea Campion (Silene uniflora).

Close up, the Thrift flowers are very pretty and look to be quite delicate.  This is an illusion though as the plant grows abundantly on rocky cliffs and shores and also on mountains right up to the summits;  it seems to thrive in tough environments.  It's one of my favourite plants and one I've planted in my own garden.

Thrift is often seen sprouting from seemingly bare rock, anchored into a crack, but where conditions are favourable it can grow in profusion.

At the back of a tiny bay it seemed to be forming a cascade of pink flowers.

Where the rocks of the shore meet the grassy slopes I found a few Common Scurvy Grass (Cochlearia officialis).  A member of the Cabbage family, it has leaves rich in Vitamin C and was once eaten to prevent Scurvy. Perhaps this is the origin of the Gaelic name for the plant - "Am Maraiche" (the Sailor)

In the more grassy areas is another favourite of mine, Red Campion (Silene dioica).  It's a beautiful plant which grows in most places; again I've planted an area in my own garden.  It's particularly beautiful when seen in low sunshine when the hairs on the stems and leaves give the plant a halo of light as they catch the sun.  A word of warning though - Red Campion is very vigorous in a garden, it spreads by throwing seeds from the bladders under the flowers when the wind blows.  Once you plant an area it's a constant process to stop it taking over!

The relative quiet of the grassy slopes was quite a contrast to the noise and smell of the cliffs, but it was time to move on.  The tidal movement on this bit of coast is stronger than elsewhere in the north east and I didn't want to miss the free push!

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