Holy Island Meeting July 15th & 16th 2006

Acaena novae-zelandiae Acaena novae-zelandiae(Pirri-pirri Bur)

Centaurium littorale Centaurium littorale(Seaside Centaury)

Botanists Hydrocotyle vulgaris (Botterazzi surround rare plant)

Drak Green Fritillary Argynnis aglaja (Dark Green Fritillary)

Atropa belladonna Weed in Hedge(Deadly N S)

Hydrocotyle vulgaris Hydrocotyle vulgaris(Pennywort)

Leontodon saxatilis Leontodon saxatilis (Lesser Hawkbit)

Gentianella septentrionalis Gentianella septentrionalis(Autumn Gentian)

Friday Evening 14th July Pre meeting

One of the special parts of WFS meetings is that there is a social aspect to the meetings as well as the obvious botanical one. Elizabeth Herd and her mother Mary Craster kindly invited us to their home on the Friday evening at West Craster House deep in the Northumberland countryside.

No pre-meeting would be complete without little botanical input and Elizabeth showed us a plant growing as a weed in their hedge. You can guess what it was from the photo and yes, we washed our hands before dipping into the nibbles.

Lindisfarne: July 15th morning: The Snook I

This very popular tourist spot is connected to the mainland by a causeway which floods at high tide. This meant that our stay was determined by forces of nature so we needed to be off the island by late afternoon.

Strandings do happen and sometimes in embarrassing situations. Half way across the causeway the authorities have thoughtfully erected a little hut on stilts in which you can stay for a few hours and contemplate the purchase of a more accurate time piece. This wooden “cage” is full view of the car park on the dry mainland side where those sensible enough to have allowed time to get off the island can point and snigger at the stranded souls.

Elizabeth organised us into fewer cars and we crossed the causeway and set out to explore the dunes at one end of the Island known as The Snook. The day was perfect with blue skies, temperatures in the 80s but with a cool sea breeze.

The first botanical lesson was concerned with a local invader. Acaenae novae-zelandiae (Pirri-pirri bur) has taken a liking to Lindisfarne and is dotted about throughout the dunes. In some places there are just one or two plants and in others you can’t move without treading on them which is a big mistake. The bur is every bit as efficient as Arctium sp (Burdock) or Galium aparine (Goose grass) at sticking to clothes or shoes and at one point burs were on shoes, bags and shirts. This bur has another trick which beats Goose-grass and Burdock for efficiency of seed distribution. When you try to brush off a mature bur it breaks in to pieces, each one is a seed with its own spine attaching itself to you. Painstaking picking is the only way to remove the seeds but the hooked spines usually stay where they are.

Almost as soon as we had started our botanising we found Centaurium littoralis (Seaside century) which has much deeper pink petals than the common Centaurium erythraea (Common Century). There was some debate about whether it could possibly be C pulchrum which also has deep pink flowers but this larger plant with strap shaped leaves was more typical of C. littoralis.

A plant often overlooked was covering the dune slacks: Hydocotyle vulgaris (Pennywort) is famous for showing plenty of leaf but very few flowers. For some reason there were plenty of tiny flowers on these particular plants but quite a few of our party hadn’t seen them before so the first one found attracted attention normally reserved for rare alpines.

The commonest composite we found was identified Leontodon saxatilis (Lesser Hawkbit until recently known as Leontodon taraxacoides) which like many of these “yellow daisies” sometimes had no leaves and one flower and sometimes a luxuriant growth of both.

During our time on Lindisfarne (Holy Island) we were aware of the large numbers of Dark Green Fritillary butterflies which were flying. Normally a difficult butterfly to get close to these seem to settle and pose very conveniently.