On the Whalsay hill


A busy day at home today, but in amongst the catching up after my latest trip to Spain there was time to take a short wander out on the hill behind the house. I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t hoping to stumble across some more Bog Orchids… but alas, it wasn’t to be (not that I shall stop looking in future!)

Instead, with drumming Snipe and the calls of Whimbrel and Dunlin as a soundtrack, I found a few other, more typical flowers of the Shetland moors. I’ve been seeing a lot of Round-leaved Sundew these past weeks, and here on Whalsay they’re just coming into flower.

140713 Round-leaved Sundew Whalsay blogsize

Also newly flowering are one of my favourites, Bog Asphodel Narcethium ossifragum. It’s a striking flower, a rich yellow starburst at your feet. In the past, it was used by islanders as a source of yellow colouring; but it’s the slightly more sinister properties that always pique my interest. In Norway, it’s believed it causes a disease in sheep called alveld, or elf fire; and the Latin name ossifragum means ‘fragile bone’, as the plant was traditionally believed in the UK to cause brittle bones in sheep. An old English name for it was ‘bastard asphodel’, which seems a little harsh to me – but perhaps it was named by an old-school sheep farmer!

140713 Bog Asphodel Whalsay blogsize

Last but by no means least were small nodding heads of Cross-leaved Heath. The heather here seems to be more floriferous when the summers are warm and dry. This year’s been a great improvement on the summer of 2013, but is by no means a classic either; it’s good to see some heather flowers regardless.

140713 Bell Heather Whalsay3 blogsize


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