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Dr Andy Scobie,
Project Officer

Cairngorms Rare Plants Project
Scottish Natural Heritage,
Achantoul, Aviemore,
Inverness-shire,
PH22 1QD

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News
A late start to the 2012 flowering season

June 2012. Cold, overcast and wet – that pretty much describes most of spring and summer so far in the Cairngorms area this year. The miserable weather is not only disappointing for lovers of outdoor pursuits and gardeners alike, but it has implications for our wild flowers and their pollinators too.

Normally at this time of year, around the 20th June, Twinflower is coming into full flower and puts on a spectacular display at some of the better sites and, on a sunny day, the flowers are often moving with small files and hoverflies feeding on nectar and pollen. Common Wintergreen reaches peak flowering around the same time, with Intermediate Wintergreen following 2 weeks or so later.

A lonely early flower on Twinflower at Curr WoodHowever, the story is a different one this year. A visit to a few local Twinflower and Wintergreen sites, during the week of the 18th June, revealed that the vast majority of flowers were still in bud with at least a fortnight to go until flowering.  This is late indeed, and it seems that it will be into July before flowering of these plants is at its peak this year.

It’s not just the pinewood flowers that are behind; Lesser Butterfly-orchid is similarly late. The lowest flowers are only just beginning to open on Lesser Butterfly-orchid spikes at Glencairn Meadow. Flowering is normally underway by mid-June in this species, and it’s often a case of ‘blink and you’ll miss it’, with all of the flowers over by the first week in July. Things are much slower this year and planned monitoring of Lesser Butterfly-orchid at Glencairn Meadow and other sites in the Park, which is usually conducted during the last week in June, will now be postponed until July.

It’s been an equally slow start for many of our insect pollinators; hoverflies, bees, butterflies and moths alike, who are less active when weather conditions are cool. Butterfly Conservation volunteers are primed and ready for another attempt at trapping the moth pollinators of Lesser Butterfly-orchid this year. This study was met with limited success due to poor weather conditions last year [ click here to read more ] so we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed for some milder weather conditions over the next few weeks to get the moths moving.
 
We mustn’t forget about Small Cow-wheat. This plant is usually described as ‘flowering throughout June and July’. However, on a visit to the Glen Tilt sites on the 15th June the first few flowers were only just opening.

Let’s hope the weather improves soon and July turns out to be a bumper flowering month.

 
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