New Reekie

More plants. This time Titum Arum in the Botanics. Potentially a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see this ‘corpse flower’ – 13 years in the making. One of the more bizarre sights I’ve spent time queuing to see, but absolutely worth it. Thankfully the smell had dissipated and the wait wasn’t as long as we’d feared. Well done to all the Botanics staff working round the clock while the spectacle lasts.

Titan Arum

Titan Arum

Titan Arum

I was quite taken by a good number of other plants and flowers on the way in as well.

30 days wild

An attempt to join in with the 30 days wild challenge set by the Wildlife Trusts. I try and observe what is going on around me as it is but I felt it couldn’t hurt being a bit more active in engaging with nature. My daily commute on Uist saw short-eared owls most days, almost certainly various birds of prey and often many types of ducks and waders, just from the car window. Once even a snowy owl. Being out for even a short walk it was impossible not to notice the abundance of flora and fungi all around. Living in the city you have to look harder for the wildness around you. Edinburgh, as far as cities are concerned, it still at the mercy of the weather and nature, but it doesn’t compare to leaving the office for a lunchtime walk on the machair. Still, you have to take what you’ve got and this seemed like a fitting opportunity to engage with the summer as it emerges. You can follow some of my tweets from earlier in the month, though I stopped over the last week or so. It’s easy to get derailed, but I’ve still been trying me best to look out around me.

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Photos all taken on my phone, so excuse the differing quality.

Honesty

The walk home from work is a dull one. For all the grandeur Edinburgh has in her city centre, there are as many outlying areas of anonymous suburbia. My walk passes through some of these areas, with little of interest save a small section of the Water of Leith. There on the banks, last week, I spotted a tall plant showing off its purple flowers. I didn’t recognise it and without having my plant book to hand, a quick text to my mum tells me it’s Honesty (thanks mum!).

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Excuse the terrible quality of the photo; with thanks to Wikimedia for a better quality one…

Honesty in flower
Despite Honesty’s apparent ubiquity I don’t recall noticing it before. It’s the first flower I’ve seen in bloom this year, with only the earliest of blossoming trees being out so far. As I always do, I looked it up, intrigued by any other names it goes by. I found a solitary reference to it called gealach-lus in Gaelic, meaning ‘moon plant’. I can’t find any other reference to it by that name so I presume it’s simply to correspond with the latin name, Lunaria annua. Either way, I’m quite taken by it and am looking forward, as the seasons progress, to do as my mum says: collect the dried seedheads and decorate the house with those little moons.

Honesty seedheads

Brisgean – Silverweed

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Suddenly it’s June and we’re running headfirst into Summer. The open moorland has tipped over into green after shades of brown dominated Winter. Verges and lochans are ready to burst into a song of yellow with the first flag iris in bloom. Elsewhere, silverweed lies low on the roadsides, shimmering in whatever sun it catches. It’s an unassuming plant but I’m fond of it and it has a revealing history.

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In Gaelic, many things have more than one name and silverweed is no exception. It’s common name in brisgean (breesh-kun) but it’s ’poetic’ name is An Seachdamh Aran, literally meaning ‘the 7th bread’. It has been, in the recent past, relied on in times of famine to provide much needed sustenance. The root can be ground into a kind of flour from which bread can be made.

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In the days before tatties, it was reputedly used extensively as a foodstuff, not just as a last resort. I’m not going to be digging up the verges to try it anytime soon but I’d be interested to hear if anyone has tried some.

More here by Ruaraidh MacLean for SNH.

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Langass Woods

DSC00057Uist is not well known for its arboreal landscape. The ever-present wind and salty air straight off the sea make for a climate ill-fitted to trees. Instead, peat and sand dominate. I never consider myself to be a ‘tree’ person, but it’s only on walking around this small area of forest at Langass that I realised just how much I’ve missed them in the months living on Uist. DSC00069DSC00063The distinctive smell of pine, the mosses and lichens abounding on the forest floor and that glorious rustling of branches as the wind blows through them. Yes – I enjoyed being back in a wood very much.

DSC00070DSC00067DSC00065 - CopyThis area of forestry was first planted in the late 1960s, using species known to thrive in similar climates in North America. Since then, it’s been developed further, been taken into community ownership and has seen numbers of small birds previously uncommon on North Uist increase in this area.
stamps at LangaisArtists and community groups have worked to develop a trail of stamps to collect along the path through the trees, each bilingual and creating poetry as you collect them. It’s a lovely touch – especially with an important stamp celebrating perhaps Uist’s most famous ever resident, a fine statue of whom stands at the end of the trail.
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www.langasswoods.co.uk