Monday, 20 June 2016

Sanna Wildflowers

The weather wasn't too promising when we arrived at Sanna this morning, to find only one other car in the car park, but.... the time we reached an almost-deserted beach the sun was struggling through.

This time of year sees relatively few visitors compared with May and July/August, yet it's a wonderful time to be wandering round a place like Sanna as there's a good chance of sunny days, and the wildflowers are coming into their best.

Sanna is home to an wide variety of orchids, and every year at around this time we take a walk across the machair to find the areas which they favour. Identifying them is a nightmare as the differences between the species are small, so it's really a job for experts. This tower of blooms is probably a northern marsh orchid, while....

....this pale pink one is probably an early marsh - most of the similar plants were already over their best.

This bright pinky-red orchid may be a variety of the early marsh, the subspecies coccinea, and, if it is, it's described on one site as 'very rare'.

The trouble is that the various species come in a variety of colours and some, like the northern marsh, hybridise with other species such as the common and heath spotted.

The northern and early marsh orchids favour slightly damp places while the fragrant (above) seems more tolerant of drier and more exposed places.

If one is looking for a plant which tolerates extreme conditions, there's not much to beat sea rocket, a member of the cabbage family. This specimen was growing amongst the drying seaweed at the high spring tide mark and presumably finds nutrients from seaweed rotting in lower layers of the sand.

This burst of yellow flowers is biting stonecrop, another amazingly tolerant plant which was growing at the edge of the marram grass just a few metres inland from the sea rocket.

By comparison with some of our walks, this was a gentle and joyous wander through a natural garden filled with flowers. Yet when we returned to the car park there was still only one other car there.


  1. So beautiful. I have never noticed before but the florets of the orchids spiral up the stem anticlockwise. I wonder if there are opposite handed types?

  2. You're very observant, Derryck! I'll see if I can find one which goes the other way. Jon