Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Treasure Beneath our Feet

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Yesterday I took part in a walk led by one of our country rangers and a botanist around Brough Bay. The walk is the brainchild and efforts of many people in the Brough Bay Association. My friend Angela has a special fondness for the flowers on the brae because she remembers them from when she was a child coming back to Caithness in the summers to visit. After the walk she showed me a small black and white photo of her sitting atop the brae--chubby cheeked barely past toddling age in a smart little cotton dress and ribbons in her hair clutching a fistfull of flowers.

So I was with her on the brae along with half a dozen others and we tried bravely to recall that the tiny flower nestled into the grass was common mouse-eared chickweed or that there are several varieties of dandelion and this fern is the golden scaled male fern and brackens are not ferns (and are pretty nasty characters, too, as it turns out). Besides taxing my limited aility to memorize such things, I was trying out my digital camera.

At one point I got a great photo of the tip of my boot (I really appreciate that delete button. Now only I have to see the gaffes I make with the camera rather than having them come back in a jaunty Kodak envelope.) I'll unload the shots and probably put them on my blog tomorrow. (Why wait? Well, today I have to prepare my crafts room for embryo transplants tomorrow and have coffee with the ladies of leisure in town. )

Among many discoveries large and small among the flora and with my camera, I was struck overall with the supreme irony that the rarest plant of all was nearly wiped out by the good efforts of the association in cleaning their slipway. An unassuming plant--even less so than the common mouse eared chickweed--is the northern salt marsh grass. I could not get a photo of it because an admirer stood so close that it was nothing but a shadow no matter how I wriggled. So I will describe it for you. It is a scruffy little grass lying close to the ground that looks like a bad hair day. The grass is short, ground-hugging and kinda spiky with no pattern in the way it grows out. And it lives in a crack in the slipway.

In better days, northern salt marsh grass spread out on the piers. Now it just hangs on wherever it can. I was very careful not to tread on it, having made its acquaintance.


At 3:37 PM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

I wondered why bracken was so evil and see that Wikipedia says it can disturb or destroy below-ground archaeological objects and "obscure archaeological sites which could lead to their inadvertent damage." Yik. But what a lovely day it sounds like you had, especially with Angela.

At 8:16 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Bracken is also apparently a cancer causing agent tho just how it does that I am not sure. At any rate, I will admire it from a respectful distance from now on.

It was a good day. I hope Angela lets me share her story here someday.


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