Mudflats, Mud, and Mudwort

Stephen has been working at Loch Leven NNR for the last 18 months

Stephen has been working at Loch Leven NNR for the last 18 months

It is with regret that at the end of this month we bid farewell to our colleague, Stephen Longster, as he returns to his usual patch based in the Stirling SNH office.  Steve has been covering for Jeremy while he’s been working as Seasonal Reserve Manager for the past three summers on the Isle of May NNR.  Steve’s botanical knowledge, general passion for nature and expert handling of all things mechanical has been of huge value to us during his time here, and I’ve certainly learned a lot from him.

So, I asked Steve to put together another blog entry whilst he was still with us, and here he reports on the current state of Levenmouth ‘pools’ and a fantastic botanical discovery that has been exposed:

The view from the hide

The view from the hide

It was time to cut the grass and reeds at Levenmouth pools, or more accurately, Levenmouth Mudflats.  This is done each year to prevent encroachment, and to improve the habitat for wintering wildfowl.

A closer look at the dried, cracked mud

A closer look at the dried, cracked mud

A Duck Mussel left high and dry

A Duck Mussel left high and dry

After almost losing David in the mud (I thought he was getting shorter) he was quite happy to get on with the raking, seen here using the side rake to ready the reeds for baling.

David using the hay rake

David using the hay rake

I decided to wander out on to the Mud and have a look for some of the ephemeral plants that I don’t often get a chance to see, because it’s normally covered in 2 feet of water.

The first surprise of the day was lesser water plantain. Not especially common as it likes calcareous or brackish mud. Fairly common in the Western Isles which is where I have seen it before. The leaves smell strongly of coriander and it looks like a small white buttercup with three petals.

Lesser Water Plantain Baldellia ranunculiodes

Lesser Water Plantain Baldellia ranunculiodes

Then came the real find of the day. The less than romantically, but appropriately named Mudwort.

Mudwort Limosella aquatica

Mudwort Limosella aquatica

This is a nationally scarce plant (found in less than 100, 10×10 km squares in Great Britain since 1987). This is the first time I have ever seen it, although it had been recorded at Levenmouth Pools previously.

It’s a small annual plant with a tiny delicate pale lilac flower.  Apologies for the poor quality of the photo, but I was getting a distinct sinking feeling while taking it. I strongly advise not to go out to look for this plant yourselves, there are some very soft patches out on the mud and you may never be seen again!

About Craig.Nisbet

Reserve Officer Loch Leven National Nature Reserve Scottish Natural Heritage
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