BPS-SLEF FERNS WEEKEND 14-16 August 2015

Leader: James Merryweather


This weekend meeting - studying and enjoying ferns in the Lochalsh region of Wester Ross in the Scottish Highlands - will be a collaboration between the British Pteridological Society (Scotland) and Skye & Lochalsh Environment Forum. It will also be included on the summer programme of the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Skye Region Group.
Full Programme BELOW

Our base will be the education room belonging to the National Trust for Scotland in Balmacara Square where projection equipment and microscopes will be set up for use when needed and to keep us busy at times when the weather - as it occasionally does up here - turns 'orrible.

N.B. It is wet under foot almost anywhere in the Highlands, particularly where ferns grow and very particularly where I tend to take parties of people to look at 'em. There will be one fen (potential sinkage depth ca. 20 cm), several stretches of gooey mud and at least two burns we must ford (alternatives: wet feet or grumpy retreat). Relentless stretches of squidgey moorland are also a distinct possibility.

THEREFORE, wellies are not so much recommended, as compulsory. I will announce if we are going to places where walking boots would be preferable (so, of course, bring them too). During one excursion, we will be walking several miles in wellies, so make sure the ones you bring are comfortable and don't slop around giving you blisters. If you're really feeling flush, I recommend Aigle 'Parcours' wellies, the sort they make with walking boot soles and a foot-shaped fit. I got my most recent pair on Ebay for significantly less than the shop price (which is a bit scary if you're accustomed to Dunlop or LiDL prices). They take several years of regular heavy wear and I routinely walk in them all day long in complete comfort.

 GETTING TO THE VENUE: Download and print information pages for those attending the meeting (includes where to find us at the start and accommodation suggestions). It lacks a programme, which I will show below as it evolves in my mind. Note that the programme's evolution will involve mutation, so please check from time to time. Please be assured that, contradicting idiotic but habitual creationist dogma, mutation will lead to a net increase in information as evolution proceeds.

Please let me know if you intend to join us for the whole session or parts thereof. I will post here in the programme where we will be and when so that latecomers can attempt to find us.

ADDITIONAL We will be taking packed lunches with us. Sandwiches and the wherewithal to make lunches can be had from the following shops, all close to the various accommodations recommended HERE.

Kyle: Co-op and the ?Spar shop near the medical centre.
Reraig: Spar
Dornie: the village shop


The fern illustration above features a single pinna that occurred in 2007 on a plant of Dryopteris affinis in an area we will be visiting. There are lots of straightforward and anomalous male ferns there, which I intend we will visit, discuss and analyse (as best we can). I think what I found was the result of a somatic mutation occurring at the base of the pinna early on during frond development, expressing a character present in the plant's genes but usually not expressed (or perhaps suppressed).

I have failed to relocate this plant, but there are many others not far away that have this character throughout the plant, indeed a whole colony of them ... ... but they are, I think, Dryopteris borreri that we might agree is the variety 'Robusta'. The 'normal' type grows right next door, so we will have that for reference as well as the illustrations in Ken Trewren's book (if you have one, bring your copy). This is just a hint of the fascinating pteridology we will be enjoying during the weekend.


(evolving, so please check in from time to time)

PRINT the PROGRAMME or BACK to the top of the page

Friday 14 August, 5-6 pm Gather at the NTS education room in Balmacara Square (NG8061328252). At 6 o'clock sharp we will walk a circuit of local sites to look at polypodies, maybe straying as far as the NTS property Balmacara Woodland Walks. We have both Polypodium vulgare  and P. interjectum in Lochalsh. As I verify various specimens the latter is 'becoming' much more common than I previously thought. That is because we have plants here that look like large P. vulgare, but when their sporangia are checked turn out to be P. interjectum (right). We have plants of P. interjectum here that actually do look like what they are supposed to be, but many others break the rules. I have verified a single plant of P.x mantoniae with its parental species growing within a hundred yards of it. Great! I'll proudly show you on Saturday. However, I've recently become aware of extensive, vigorous colonies of polypodies with long narrow fronds that might well turn out to be the same hybrid. They are within a short stroll of Balmacara Square, so they will be our pre-supper starter and we will collect material for microscopical verification later.

Friday 14 August, 7.30 pm Supper at Beth's Café in Balmacara Square (max. 22 covers): Cullen Skink, Mogerley's Haggis, neeps & tatties, Cranachan. It is vital that everybody lets me know if you want this supper and also if you require a vegetarian or gluten-free option (also for Saturday though there's less  urgency as the menus have choices).

Saturday 15 August, 9 am (Is that too early? Agree on Friday evening.) Visit Nostie (NG8507427257) to see three polypodies (P. vulgare, P. interjectum, P. x mantoniae). Here, P. interjectum is epiphytic on elderly elders and a riverside alder. The contents of nearby woodland is available and we can choose on the day exactly where we want to go. We will also visit a habitat that's rare round here, a small fen. It has a large population of locally scarce D. carthusiana and what I think must be several specimens of D. x deweveri, its hybrid with D. dilatata. I'd be glad of some second opinions on these.

Saturday 15 August, 1-2 pm Park at Achmore (NG8553352754) and walk to Fernaig (NG8436433978), climb up through coastal woodland to the Achmore-Plockton road below the wooded cliffs of Ravenscraig (NG833336 - right). I can promise (off the top of me 'ead): H. wilsonii, P. connectilis, G. dryopterisP. aquilinumO. limbosperma, P. vulgare, (look out for other polypodies), P. aculeatum, D. dilatata, D. expansa, D. aemula, D. filix-mas, D. oreades (at sea level, almost in the sea), D. affinis, D. borreri, D. borreri var. 'Robusta', D. cambrensis, E. sylvaticum ... what have I forgotten?

Saturday 15 August, 5/6 pm (earlier if the weather makes indoors preferable) Indoor session back at Balmacara Square with specimens collected during the day.

Saturday 15 August, 7.30 pm Modified 26-02-15. Supper at the Taste of India, Kyleakin or Cafesia, Broadford for home-made pizza etc. (or alternatives may be recommended). Actually, the 'Indian' is run by some jolly Bangladeshi's, so it's a little different. Locals are impatiently waiting for reopening soon, after too long a refurbishment hiatus. Unless you care to make a special effort, this will be perhaps the only opportunity you get to step on the Isle of Skye, about 100 yd over the bridge. Let me know which supper you'd prefer so that I can book places.

Saturday 15 August, 9.30 pm Music and pterido-carousing, upstairs at Ross Calderwood's bagpipe workshop in Reraig (in the grounds of one of the B&B options with Rennie Mackintosh themed rooms). Ross and I will perform on various Scottish and English bagpipes. If you can and wish to contribute to the music, please bring your instrument along.

Sunday 16 August, 9 am Not entirely sure about this, so please let me know what you think. We went last time (Attadale), but there's lots to see there. So: How about an energetic scramble to re-visit the Ordovician (Durness) limestone pavement  above Glasnock (NG869444) where there are absolutely pewds* of P. lonchitis and a chance to look once more for the single plant of P. x illyricum I found and lost in the days before I had a GPS (left) in 2004? E. hyemale if we go to the right place, but this place is too big to be covered in one visit. On the way there we can visit the Adiantum ?aleuticum found near Kishorn (NG8830341002).

Sunday 16 August, pm If we go to Glasnock, we'll still be there.

Sunday 16 August, ? pm End and Home.



* A term coined by Martin Rickard meaning quite a few more than rather a lot.





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