For those of us who love the changing in the seasons and measure those seasons by the colours of wild flowers and plants that come and go, month by month – well this part is just for us!
When we first moved to Skye it was early Autumn. Tall green ferns were becoming a deep russet, the Larch – scattered throughout the Spruce and Pine plantations – were turning pink and Birch leaves were slowly changing from green to yellow as cooler nights signalled the end of summer. It was surprisingly stunning.
When winter grips the Island in her frosty grasp, and deciduous trees sketch blackened fingers to the skies, the naked forest reveals countless lichens and mosses in the strangest of places. Almost like a tropical forest, lichens cling to trees with ferns and mosses lined up along dead branches long felled by winter gales.
However, no matter how many years I live here, nothing ever quite prepares me for the oncoming of Spring on Skye. First, the Gorse, dark spiky leaves contrast with bright yellow flowers, and a lingering perfume of vanilla pervades the air. Its like a magnet luring early Bumblebees to its tempting early nectar.
Second and by no means of lesser significance are the Violets. Tiny purple, lavender and pink flowers nestled in the dense grasses in great drifts. The sheer quantity of them in places, quite simply gladdens the heart! Bullfinches, usually shy and secretive birds, boldly feast on their seeds as they go over – another rare treat to be savoured.
I had never seen Horsetail ferns until I came to Skye. Never seen them emerge from their winter state, looking like strange prehistoric plants in miniature.
But the very best part, certainly in my mind, happens between May and July. Orchids, many and varied push their leaves through the boggy ground and send delicate flowers to dress the glens with fragile beauty. Some rare, other ‘locally common’ but none-the-less, a joy to behold.
Who would have thought though, that even the many lochans and bogs would hold amazing flowers? But they do and these are some of the strangest and most beautiful of all. Carnivorous plants included!!
In August there are years when the Bell Heather, Ling and Cross Leaved Heath all burst into flower together transforming whole hillsides into a lilac wonderland and of course a veritable paradise for Bees, providing a plentiful feast before the cold winds of Autumn return.
After a particularly wet summer, autumn fungi can also be spectacular. ‘Oh Yuck’ you say. Well get prepared to be surprised! Because, partially hidden away alongside shaded walks through forests and quiet glens, the variety of fungi is quite breathtaking. I just have to look beneath the trees, amongst the sagging grasses and beneath the rotting trunks of fallen pine to find them.
But of course if you are as fascinated by these weird… well they’re not plants as such….. but if I want to see lots of fungi without having to search, then a trip to Dunvegan Castle Gardens, in very early September, never fails to satisfy. I am especially going to see plenty walking through the woodland walks that will reveal a host of varieties, some really bizarre.
Well, these are just a few examples of the varied flora that cover this beautiful Island. With all this colour and beauty and variety how could I not fall head over heals in love with Skye. And there’s more……..
It is Wow!