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  • Writer's pictureHarris Brooker

Botany in Speyside (Part 2)

Hello everyone, it’s Harris here and we are back with part two of ‘Botany in Speyside’. Last time we looked at some of the rarest plants in our area. Here we look at a few of the more widespread ones, plus one extra scarce species.


Chickweed Wintergreen (Trientalis Europaea)

This plant is neither a chickweed nor a wintergreen but is named for jointly resembling members of those families. It has white flowers and a ring of five or six ovate-lanceolate leaves around its stem, which have no stalks. The flowers are solitary, fifteen to eighteen millimetres across and typically have seven petals and sepals though sometimes less. It is unbranched, hairless and spreads itself by rhizomes or underground stems. It can be found from June to July in pine, birch and oak woodland and also moorland.

In this picture is a plant called a Chickweed Wintergreen which has white flowers with a ring of green rounded leaves. There are several flowers in this image surrounded by grasses and mosses.
Chickweed Wintergreen (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)

In this image is a closeup of a Chickweed Wintergreen flower with its ring of leaves visible.
Chickweed Wintergreen flower (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)

Bog Bean (Menyanthes Trifoliata)

A plant of bog land lochs and other still bodies of water, or if not still, then water no faster than a stream. It’s known for its resplendent white flowers and rounded leaves, split into three leaflets. The common name is derived from the fact their leaves are shaped like broad beans. Its Latin name Menyanthes means in Greek ‘disclosing flowers’ which is a reference to the fact that it opens its flowers in a sequence. Trifoliata refers to its three leaflets. The leaves and stems are interconnected like a set of buoys floating on the sea that grow on rhizomes. The flowers look fluffy because they are fringed and are often tinged pink. It flowers from May to July, though it looks its most resplendent in June. It is one of the most protected plants in Britain, with people being legally prevented from picking it. In China it is known variously as either, ‘Sleeping Herbs’ or ‘Herbs that calm consciousness’ and has been used to treat insomnia.

In this image is a plant called a Bog Bean with white flowers fringed with white hairs. This particular plant has multiple flowers. There is a blurred background of vegetation. One flower has a Green Veined White butterfly to the left.
Bog Bean (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)

In this image are two sets of Bog Bean leaves which are split into three leaflets supported by a long rhizome that stretches from underwater. They are surrounded by water.
Bog Bean Leaves (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)

In this image there is a swathe of Bog Bean growing in shallow water with lots of leaves and flowers.
A swathe of Bog Bean (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)


Cranberry (Vaccinium Oxycoccos)

This is a plant of wetland and boggy areas. It likes to grow over the top of thick beds of sphagnum mosses, on thin pinkish-red stems with tiny narrow leaves. The flowers are pink and have their petals arched backwards. When the flowers have expired they produce tiny red berries, which are edible. There is a similar species called Small Cranberry (Vaccinium Microcarpum) which has smaller flowers and leaves but also hairless or glabrous stems. In case you’re wondering what their relationship is to the cranberries you see in cranberry juice, that is a related species known as American Cranberry (Vaccinium Macrocarpon) that is grown commercially mainly in Eastern North America.

In this image there are plants known as Cranberries, which have pink flowers, red shoots and green leaves. They are surrounded by grass.
Cranberry (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)

This is a zoomed out image showing the pink flowers of Cranberries, their red shoots and green leaves which are surrounded by grasses and a bed of yellow-orange Sphagnum mosses.
Cranberries (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)


This is an image that is further zoomed out to see multiple pink flowers, red shoots and green leaves of Cranberries surrounded by grasses and yellow-orange Sphagnum mosses.
Cranberries (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)

This image is zoomed in on the tiny triangular leaves of Cranberry attached to red stems.
Cranberry Leaves (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)


Hare’s Tail Cottongrass (Eriophorum Vaginatum) - There’s two species of cottongrass that you’ll most likely see in Speyside. While they are called cottongrasses, they’re actually in the sedge family, owing to their angled stems, often three angled. The stems are usually solid on the inside. Hare’s Tail Cottongrass is one of the most distinctive. The reason for its common name is its clumped appearance that looks like the tail of the namesake creature. It also likes to grow in thick tussocks not unlike the way Soft Rushes grow in fields of rough pasture and can reach up to fifty centimetres in height. The leaves are narrow and bristle-like. The flowers are solitary and can stand upright, the glumes (membranous bracts that look like petals, that support the tiny flowers inside) are between six and seven millimetres long and have a single nerve. They have bristles that are two to two and a half centimetres long. A plant of upland areas which flowers from April to May but fruit from May to June.


In this image is a sedge called Hare's Tail Cottongrass which has white fluffy heads where its flowers are, atop thin green stems. There are multiple flower heads in this image arising from a tussock outside the image.
Hare's Tail Cottongrass (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)


This is a zoomed out image of the Hare's Tail Cottongrass, showing its multiple white flower heads atop thin green stems arising from a tussock which is visible in this image.
Hare's Tail Cottongrass (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)


Common Cottongrass (Eriophorum Angustifolium) - This species differs from its previous relative by the fact that it often has more flower heads and they dangle rather than stand up straight. The leaves of the plant are narrow, about two to five millimetres wide with channels that narrow to a triangular tip that often has a rusty red colour. This is important because it has a rarer look-alike further north called Broad Leaved Cottongrass (Eriophorum Latifolium), which as its name suggests has broader leaves and doesn’t rust. The other British species Slender Cottongrass (Eriophorum Gracile) lives further west in Western Wales, Ireland and Southern England and is slimmer and appears hairier, and likes much wetter ground.

In this image is a sedge called a Common Cottongrass, and this image is zoomed in on the white nodding heads of the cottongrass which bear its flowers.
Common Cottongrass (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)

This is a zoomed out image of two Common Cottongrasses which are slightly out of focus, behind them is a bed of grass and green Sphagnum mosses.
Common Cottongrass (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)


Frog Orchid (Dactylorhiza Viridis) - A tiny unassuming orchid, usually about five to fifteen centimetres tall. The flowers are in a lax, cylindrical spike and can look reddish or greenish yellow. The common name comes from the resemblance of the labellum (or lip of the flowers) to a frog’s tongue, which are often twice as long as the actual flowers. The labellum is oblong, parallel-sided and three lobed. The spur in the middle is about two millimetres. The outer tepals (petal-like structures) on the flowers converge to give them a hooded appearance. It’s a plant that likes short grassland, dunes, scree and limestone pavements and flowers from June to August.

In this image is a plant called a Frog Orchid. This one has finished flowering and its reddish capsules are visible on its stem. Behind it is a blurred background of grassland.
Frog Orchid (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)

This image shows a Frog Orchid with its greenish red flowers, behind it is a blurred background of grass.
Frog Orchid (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)

This is a zoomed out image showing the Frog Orchid in relation to the grasses surrounding it.
Frog Orchid (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)

Creeping Ladies-Tresses (Goodyera Repens)

A kind of orchid that grows in pine forest. Its spreads by rhizomes and has an inflorescence that twists slightly, like a spiral staircase. It has white flowers that look hairy, with tepals about the same length, with a labellum (lip of the flower) that is shorter, unlobed and without a spur. It can grow to thirty-five centimetres and the stem has green bracts or very small leaves. There are basal leaves to this plant as well, which are rounded, net veined and evergreen. It flowers from July to August.

In this image is the upper half of an orchid called Creeping Ladies-Tresses and it has hairy white flowers, the stalk twists slightly. Behind it is a blurred background of heather and mosses.
Creeping Ladies-Tresses (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)

In this image is the leaf of a Creeping Ladies-Tresses surrounded by mosses. The leaf is rounded with veins, the upper half of the leaf is missing.
Creeping Ladies-Tresses leaf (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)


Birds Nest Orchid (Neottia Nidus-Avis)

A scarce orchid in Speyside and one with an unusual colour. The yellowish-brown colour is from a lack of chlorophyll, as the plant doesn’t photosynthesise the sun’s rays like others do, but uses its roots to tap into the roots of trees (mainly Beech) and steal nutrients, a kind of parasitism. So even if the canopy is shaded over it can survive just fine.

It can grow up to fifty centimetres and on its stem it has glandular scales that look like wood that hasn’t been sanded. It flowers from May to July.

In this image is a plant called a Birds-Nest Orchid which is a yellowish brown orchid with multiple flowers and yellowish leaves. Behind it is a blurred background of sunlit grassland.
Birds-Nest Orchid (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)

This is a zoomed in image of the flowers of the Birds-Nest Orchid, which look globular. Behind it is a sunlit background of grassland.
Birds-Nest Orchid (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)

This is a zoomed out image of a Birds-Nest Orchid showing it in relation to the sunlit grassland surrounding it.
Birds-Nest Orchid (Photo Credit: Harris Brooker)

If you would like to enjoy a day out with one of our guides head over to our Day Guide page and enjoy what’s out there.






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