Tuesday, 19 July 2011


If you are travelling along the Kirkwall/Stromness road at this time of the year, it's well worth stopping at Davey's Brig. Just south of the picnic tables at Davey's Brig, lying in the valley, is a swathe of yellow - Monkeyflowers in their golden glory. I haven't seen a more extensive spread. Smaller patches can be found in many waters including near the dam at Tormiston and even in the Willow Burn in Kirkwall. Arguably the upper reaches of the Desso Burn in Evie has some of the most spectacular clumps of Monkeyflowers.


Monkeyflowers at Tormiston Mill

Desso Burn, Evie

Desso Burn, Evie
Here is the draft text for Monkeyflowers for the Orkney Book of Wildflowers

Monkeyflowers (Mimulus agg.)                   
Figwort family
Height to 40cm; flowers July to September. Local and scarce in Orkney (10/28); widespread and frequent in Britain (1275/2852)

Monkeyflowers originate in the Americas; native Americans and early travellers used it as a salt substitute to flavour wild game. It appears that the first plants to reach Europe came from the Aleutian Islands off the western coast of Alaska in the 18th century. The family includes Monkeyflower, Coppery Monkeyflower, Musk and Blood-drop-emlets and a very complex assortment of hybrids. By 1812, English gardens were resplendent with the family’s colourful blossoms and escaped plants were first noted during 1824 in South Wales. In the following 100 years members of the family became widely naturalised throughout Britain especially on marshy ground, along the edges of watercourses and on river shingle. Colonisation was made easier with the great increase in mileage of Britain’s canal system

In Orkney the most common species are Monkeyflower and Blood-drop-emlets. Both have yellow flowerheads but Monkeyflower has small red spots in its throat while Blood-drop-emlets has large red or purple blotches. Coppery Monkeyflower, with its coppery-orange flowers, occurs sparingly. It is believed to have been introduced in 1903 but Magnus Spence’s Flora Orcadensis (1914) makes no mention. They are thoroughly naturalised in Orkney and although looking quite at home along burns and ditches, they are absent from many parts of the county. Apparently it was common practice for a couple who were moving to a new parish to take a handful of roots to naturalise in their new surroundings.

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