Early summer in the Caledonian Pinewoods

Abhain Ruigh-eunachan burn, Glenmore
The typical riparian scene in the ancient Caledonian Pinewoods is a mixture of pine, silver birch, downy birch. alder and goat willow.

I’m revisiting the Scots Pine trees I mentioned ten days ago, to show the flowers again. A friend mentioned noticing the red blooms on the trees. These two pictures show how the male flowers are initially covered in red scales which protects the pollen. The red scales are now beginning to fall off and the yellow pollen can clearly be seen.

scots pine

This pollen has now started to be dispersed by the wind and already the tents,  caravans, sheds and roads at the camp site are beginning to be coated in a layer of yellow ‘dust’.

On Saturday I took a walk along the banks of the Abhain Ruigh-eunachan burn and saw the Greater Woodrush (Luzula sylvatica ) is starting to flower.

Greater Woodrush (Luzula sylvatica)

The flowers of this plants, being brown and rather insignificant, are easily overlooked unless you get down to their level.

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Greater Woodrush is known as an ancient woodland indicator species.  Ancient woodland is woodland that has existed continuously since 1750 in Scotland * (or 1600 or before in England and Wales). Before those dates, planting of new woodland was uncommon, so a wood present in 1750 was likely to have developed naturally, ie could have continuity of woodland cover back to the original post–glacial forest.

*The Roy Military Survey of Scotland was conducted between 1747 and 1755. It was carried out at a scale of one inch = 1000 yards, or 1:36,000 and given the surveying techniques of the time, surprisingly accurate. The maps give a picture of Scotland at the time showing hills, rivers, settlements, woods, roads and tracks.

The Greater Woodrush is growing under and alongside Alder trees (Alnus glutinosa ) which line both banks of the burn.. Alder are the most common tree species in riparian forests, and is very common at Glenmore both around Loch Morlich and the burns and rivers.

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It thrives on the river banks, often with the roots immersed in water. It has deep roots and these help to maintain the soil and reduces the effects of erosion. The leaves are opening here on the trees growing along the burn which flows into the east end of Loch Morlich. In the summer the foliage provides shade which is beneficial to fish, including the brown trout. Also, when the leaves fall into the water they are relatively quick to decompose in water, and provide nutrients for invertebrates such as the larvae of caddisflies, stoneflies and water beetles.

As I headed back from the river I spotted Greater Stichwort blooming along the edge of the woodland.

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Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea ) is of the same order as Chickweed and their second name, Holostea, signifies “all bones,” because the whole plant is very brittle. As its common name suggests, the great Stitchwort has a widespread reputation for curing the stitch, or sharp muscular pain, which often attacks one or other side of the body about the lower ribs.

“They are wont to drink it in wine with the powder of acornes against the paine in the side, stitches and such like,”

says an old writer.

I think stopping to pick the plant would probably cure the stitch!

Back in the Scots Pines on the edge of the camp site I spotted this small clump of lichen and moss on a tree stump. The tiny wee Cladonia lichen (the grey-green on the right of the photo) is known as pixie cups lichen because it resembles cups that you’d imagine pixies would use! The moss is Polytrichum commune and shows the fruiting bodies which produce the spores. Most mosses don’t have a common name, but Polytrichum commune is known as Common Hair Cap Moss or Star Moss.

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3 comments on “Early summer in the Caledonian Pinewoods

  1. Love the last picture of the tree-stump sprouting moss and fungal blooms. Reminds me of the time when my mains water supply sprang a leak under the floor, soaked the carpet and we had a similar fungal growths on the dining room carpet. My wife still has nightmares about them!

    Lovely enlightening post about the hidden delights of a Scottish forest

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