Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Flora of an Exposed Coastline

West Ardnamurchan doesn't boast many large, mature trees.  There are some within its townships, such as the sycamores along the drive of Meall mo Chridhe, and there are sycamores at Camas nan Geall, but these were probably planted and tended by humans rather than growing naturally.  Once out of the glens, trees of any sort are rare.

Along the shores around Camas Choire Mhuilinn to the east of Mingary Castle, there are some exceptions.  These fine trees are miles from any human habitation, yet they face almost straight into the prevailing, salt-laden winds, the soil can't be either particularly deep or rich, and they back up against a steep cliff.  But look carefully - there's a very old stone wall running diagonally up from the beach, so perhaps the people who built it had something to do with their nurture.

Just along the shore from them there's a mature oak - the bracken in front of it gives some sense of scale.  It's just as exposed, just as taxed as the other trees, yet it has grown asymmetrically, as if bent over by the winds.  From seeing the effect of local gales, we now know that this asymmetry is caused by the burning and killing of the leaves on the upwind side.

Some plants manage to grow, and even thrive, in the most unlikely of places.  This skullcap, Scutellaria galericulata, wasn't alone in growing in amongst the cobbles at the top of the beach.  It's usually found in marshy, damp places, but in this part of the Highlands it's common along beaches.

This plant should be in someone's garden rather than on a marshy section of beach, just above the high-tide mark.  It's sea aster, Aster tripolium, and it thrives on Scotland's beaches and salt marshes.

Bell heather is a tough plant, growing on some of the rocky headlands that cut up this section of coast.  This picture looks across the bay called Camas nan Clacha' Mora to Maclean's Nose.

All these pictures were taken along the section of shoreline to the east of Mingary Castle in July.  There's a map of the area here.

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