Islay Sand Dune Floristic Display

It's Friday night and Teresa Morris from Islay Wildscapes sent me another one of her highly interesting blogs, accompanied with great pictures, this time from the largest dune system on Islay at Killinallan:

Teresa Morris: There is nothing more enjoyable than taking a stroll along Killinallan Beach on these long hot midsummer days. Within the adjoining dunes there is a profusion of flowers bursting into bloom with the hot sunshine. The dramatic dune landscape provides a variety of habitats for numerous plants many of which flower in June and July.

Killinallan Dunes at Loch Gruinart

Adjoining the vast Killinallan beach a large range of sand dunes have developed from millions of grains of sand which have been blown landward off the beach at low tide. The sand dune vegetation varies depending upon the time elapsed since the sand was deposited, sand stability and localised hydrological conditions. Standing at Killinallan point there is a superb view of the dunes sweeping inland from the point. Continue reading....

On the lower parts of the shoreline where the daily wave action washes the beach only seaweeds survive. Above and along the drift line where disturbance is less frequent a sparse vegetation can brave the waves. Annuals such as Sea Rocket (Cakile maritima - image right) with its pretty pink flowers and succulent leaves can endure salt spray and root successfully in organic debris such as rotting seaweed. A characteristic feature of this species is that it can grow rapidly and seed quickly in the brief spells between high tides and storms which continually pound the Islay coast. These plants have adapted to this precarious habitat with their waxy leaves enabling them to survive.

The shoreline is backed by the embryonic and mobile dunes on the seaward side where sand deposition is occurring. Here marram grass is the main vegetation. Fixed dunes form where sand has stabilized and where a rudimentary soil has had a chance to develop. These areas usually have lime-rich soils and are particularly rich in plant species. It is in these areas plants such as the Pyramidal Orchid, (Anacamptis pyramidalis) flowers from June to August and is pollinated by butterflies and moths.

On older dunes calcium may be leached from the soils leading to the development of acid dune grassland or dune heath. In wet depressions between dune ridges, dune slacks may develop. These are often characterised by the presence of Creeping Willow (Salix repens) and a number of moss species. The Burnet Rose (Rosa pimpinellifolia) flowers from May to July. It forms a dense bristly and prickly low spreading shrub. Its creamy white flowers are borne singly and the hips are purplish black.

Sand dune systems support a wide range of plants, animals, and invertebates including some species which have very specialised requirements. They are a constantly mobile environment on the shoreline edge and change from season to season.

Pyramidal Orchid

Burnet Rose

Sea Rocket

With thanks to a good friend of mine on Islay for providing the photographs of the Pyramidal Orchid, Burnet Rose and Sea Rocket.

Tag: wildscapes killinallan flowers nature gruinart seasonwatch

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