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A Walk along the River Almond in April 2015

19/08/15
There can be little doubt that Few-flowered Leek (Allium paradoxum) was the most common plant flowering at this time, forming dense carpets of leaves and producing its strong garlic odour. It is native to the Caucasus and was first recorded in the wild near Edinburgh in the mid-1800s. It is becoming increasingly abundant in Southern Scotland and there is concern that it may be outcompeting native plant species. There were bumble bees visiting the flowers and an orange tip butterfly was seen roosting on the inflorescence, no doubt probing for nectar.

Orange Tip Butterfly on Few-flowered Leek
Orange Tip Butterfly on Few-flowered Leek


The native wild garlic or Ramsons (Allium ursinum) has broader leaves and flowers later and large numbers of both species were growing together in an area near the Queensferry Road. In the region of the Salvesen steps there were areas entirely covered with Ramsons whereas around Braehead, for example, many areas contained only Few-flowered Leek.

Few-flowered Leek at Braehead
Few-flowered Leek at Braehead


Ramsons at Salvesen Steps
Ramsons at Salvesen Steps


At Dowies Mill, other species growing amongst the Few-flowered Leek included Ground Elder, Celandine, Cow Parsley, Creeping Buttercup, Comfrey, Cleavers, Ivy-leaved Speedwell and Butterbur. There was also some Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara). Nearby, patches of Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) appeared to be successfully escaping the Few-flowered Leek at the present time.

Coltsfoot
Coltsfoot


Celandine
Celandine


Between Dowies Mill and Peggy’s Mill, on the riverbank were several very attractive flowers - Spotted Dead-Nettle (Lamium maculatum) an introduced naturalised species, Cuckoo Flower (Cardamine pratensis) and Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea). Spotted Dead-Nettle is a very variable species in the wild and numerous cultivars with decorative leaves with white blotches have been bred for gardeners. Apparently Ground Ivy was widely used by the Saxons in brewing beer before the introduction of hops!

Between Peggy’s Mill Road and the Salvesen steps Wood Anemonies were in full bloom.

Spotted Dead Nettle
Spotted Dead Nettle


Ground Ivy
Ground Ivy


Cuckoo Flower
Cuckoo Flower


Wood Anenomes
Wood Anenomes


At a number of places along the Walkway Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) was beginning to emerge and requires control. Native to the Caucasus it is now common across much of the UK especially along river banks. It was first introduced to the UK in the early 1800s as a garden plant being advertised in 1849 as ‘One of the most magnificent plants in the World’ but in the early 1900s it began to escape into the wild. It forms dense stands which can absorb up to 80% of sunlight thus suppressing other vegetation other than trees and shrubs. It can also cause river bank erosion and affects the amenity of areas by restricting access. When it became known that sap from the plant could cause burns to the skin on exposure to sunlight it was added to the list of species in the appendix to the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 which meant that it was an offence to plant or tolerate it in the wild. The photo below shows several plants between the Salvesen Steps and Fair a Far weir.

Emerging Giant Hogweed
Emerging Giant Hogweed


Emerging Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) was also present in this area. This species has become one of the UK’s most widespread invasive weeds which can form dense stands and reduce biodiversity. Last year we removed many plants from this area, but unfortunately some had already produced seed. We must try to remove these plants earlier this year. It is interesting to note that CABI (Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International) has been working on a project which involves the introduction of a rust fungus which attacks this plant but not native species and sites in three areas in England were being trialled last year using this natural means of control.

Himalayan Balsam
Himalayan Balsam


And to end my walk, just past the Fair a Far weir on top of the wall above the river was a beautiful little plant about 3cm tall with delicate little white flowers called Whitlow Grass (Erophila verna).

Whitlow Grass
Whitlow Grass

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Walks along the River