Innocent Walkway continued
After the shrubs of Hawthorn, Elder, Willow, Brambles, Raspberry
canes and Holly, the area opens out into wasteground herbs and rubble (including concrete, brick
and stone) which is covered with mosses, Common Mouse-Ear, Dandelion, Ribwort
Plantain and lichens. Watch this area for birds and butterflies in the
spring and summer. Rubble and stone provide
many nooks and crannies for insects to hide in, and the plants that grow
on them will depend on the materials they are made of. Cement has a lot of
lime in it, so it will support different plants to granite and sandstone,
which are more acidic.
Many different mosses on rock and cement
and mosses are the first to grow on rocks, as they need barely any soil to
grow. In many hundreds of thousands of years, these plants, together with
the wind, rain, frost, snow and sun, and other plants, will break down the
rock and turn it into soil. Mosses
grow well in shaded and damp areas, which is why they are usually
found on the shaded side of rocks and stones, and on the woodland floor at
the base of trees.
are many, many different kinds of moss. You can see the difference in some
by the way they grow – e.g. some grow upright and form dense cushions,
and some creep along the ground, forming tangled mats. For many mosses, you need
a hand lens or microscope to be able to see the difference in the shapes of their
leaves and fruit capsules.
Moss with fruit capsules, on
rock. Early spring
ground is then mostly covered by grasses. There are
about 10 000 different kinds of grass in the world! Unbelievable!! Grasses
don’t have big, colourful flowers, because they don't need to attract
insects. However, they do have flowers. Those feathery, grainy seed-heads that appear in June/July
are actually lots of tiny, green flowers. The wind carries their pollen
from one flower to another and it is this pollen in the air that causes Hay-fever.
Wild grasslands all over the world provide a rich habitat
for flowers and insects and support much larger animals such as antelope,
zebra and buffalo. These in turn provide food for lions, leopards, etc. and
As well as eating these animals, we also eat grass products—in
HUGE amounts! One of the main ingredients of our western diet comes from one
kind of grass. This grass is Wheat. We use the seeds (or ‘grain’)
to make flour, which goes to make all kinds of bread, pasta, pastries and
cakes. Other well-known important grasses, or ‘cereals’, include rice,
corn, rye, barley and oats. Think about the lions and leopards having to
stalk their food of antelope the next time you’re eating your breakfast
Back to Scotland …
Depending on the time of year, you may see the huge leaves and/or the
very distinctive, architectural flower-heads of
Giant Hogweed scattered along the raised bank to the right of the
path. This is quite a scary plant, because it can grow up to 5m tall! The
flower heads look like giant cauliflowers on stalks in the summer, and
their skeletons remain towering above us all through the winter. Giant
Hogweed was introduced to Britain from the Caucuses Mountains, to add a
crowning glory to Victorian gardens. But it is now considered a threat to
British plants, as it spreads easily and shades out other plants - it's
now against the law to plant one in the wild, unless you have a
Giant Hogweed is
often found beside rivers and streams because the seeds get washed
downstream and take root on the banks. It looks like, but is different to,
plain old Hogweed. The two can be told apart as Giant Hogweed has red spots
on its stem, and Hogweed doesn't. This is very important as Hogweed is
harmless, but Giant Hogweed has a sap that is poisonous to humans. If
we get it on our skin, and this piece of skin is exposed to sunlight, it
could come up in a very nasty sunburn.
Giant Hogweed skeleton. Early
Giant Hogweed in flower in autumn
(different part of Craigmillar)
The next area is mainly covered by large, bushy Goat
Willow trees, and graceful Silver Birch. Patches of Common Reed in here show that the
ground is pretty damp.
Looking back along path, with willowherb on left-hand-side,in front of trees. Winter.
Beside the path
there is a lot of Rosebay
Willowherb and Raspberry Canes. Rosebay Willowherb is another
non-native plant, which thrives on 'disturbed' ground – especially
after fires, which gives the plant its nickname of ‘fireweed’. It tends to
take over an area once it has got hold, and is seen as an unwelcome
weed by conservationists. However, it does have long spikes of many pink flowers,
which have a sweet smell and attract bees. After the flowers, it produces
feathery seed-heads in the autumn, which can be extremely beautiful, but make
sure that the plant will get to new areas with one gust of wind. In the winter, the
plants die back, apart from the seed-heads, which may remain on the dried up
plant throughout the winter, until the new growth appears.
Through the gate, there's more Goat Willow and Silver Birch.
(or 'Sallow') shrubs have a lovely rounded shape. They produce silvery,
furry 'pussy willows' in early Spring - one of the first signs of Spring.
These later turn into golden catkins.
The leaves provide
good food for moth caterpillars, e.g. Eyed Hawk-moth, Vapourer Moth and
Angle Shades Moth. Look out for caterpillars in Spring.
Goat Willow just coming into leaf, with small Sycamore beside it. Spring.
After this is
a clearing, surrounded by young Scots Pine, and
older Goat Willow, Silver Birch and Grey Alder. There’s
also loads of Black Knapweed amongst the grasses in the ground layer.
Amongst all this is a stone structure with carvings on it.
This was built and carved by adults and kids from GreenScheme (see list of projects).
It used to be a man, but has lost some of his features over the years. See
if you can find the carvings. Take rubbings of them.
Stone Man in winter, surrounded by Black Knapweed and Silver Birch
Opposite, on the left-hand side of the path, is a patch of
wasteground with Goat Willow, Elder, Gorse, Broom, Wild Raspberry, Bramble,
Dandelions and grasses.
Through the last gate …
There is an area of large trees on the right, mostly Wych Elm and Sycamore with one or two Common Lime trees. Elder and Holly make up
the shrub layer. Ground plants include Few-flowered Leek, Lesser Periwinkle, Cow
Parsley and an assortment of mosses and bracket fungi on rotting logs. In
summer, you'll find a lot of Himalayan Balsam here, with its distinctive sweet
smell. Closer to
the burn, there is also Wood Avens and Creeping Buttercup. This burn is
the Braid Burn.
On the gravel at the end of this walk, is an
assortment of mosses. There are carpet-forming and cushion-forming mosses here.
There is also Ragwort, Common Mouse Ear, Common Whitlowgrass and Ribwort
Plantain - another seemingly barren area with a lot of wasteground plants in it.
What to look out for and when
Opening buds on all trees.
Lesser Celandine under trees (dark green leaves with speckles of light green,
and starry yellow flowers)
Large, pink flower-spikes of Butterbur, before the huge, rounded leaves appear
and cover the ground.
Delicate white flowers and onion smell of Few-flowered Leek, also under trees.
Pink/brown stubby flowers on Wych Elm trees, before papery seeds, which all
appear before leaves.
Black flowers on Ash trees.
Dangly catkins of Oak.
Furry, silvery 'pussy-willows' of Goat Willow, which then break out into large
Caterpillars of moths and butterflies.
First brown spikes of Plantain
in flower, by metal fence beside Bingham Tunnel (smells of pineapple!)
White flowers of Elder along
path, behind fence
White/pink trumpet flowers of
Hedge Bindweed (Beside lamppost DIU31)
White Clover flowers
Pink, scented Himalayan Balsam, between
lampposts BIU 23 and BIU 25!
Small, pink flowers of Snowberry
Lots of white Mugwort and yellow
Yellow Common Ragwort flowers (like yellow daisies) by edge of path
Red Raspberries (Wild)
White Bramble flowers
Small, white Yarrow flowers
of pink/red Rosebay Willowherb
Peacock, Red Admiral and Small White Butterflies
and Bumble Bees
Look carefully in grass, by Goat
Willows, to see yellow flowers of Common Toadflax, with long, pointy spurs
Flowers of Tufted Vetch (purple), Meadow
Vetchling (yellow) and Common Vetch (pink) in long grass, with tiny,
pink flowers of Hairy Tare (and pea-like seed pods)
Yellow flowers of St
John’s Wort. Leaves
have tiny holes in and black spots round edge.
|On Elder bush here and along path - bunches of ripe, dark purple
Bright red Rose hips all along
Bent Beech tree over path with
Acorns from Oak trees covering
Brambles still fruiting (hard
and bitter now) Leaves red, with yellow veins
Red Holly berries
White Snowberries out!
Look along path and see
large trees next to golf course. These trees are Beech, Wych Elm, Ash and Oak.
Can see into
scrubland now - look out for rabbits!
Sticky baubles ( fruits) of Cleavers/Sticky Willie/ Goosegrass
Dark pink/red flowers of Hedge Woundwort by side of path
White, drooping seed-heads of Goldenrod
Fluffy seed-heads of Rosebay
Amongst Goat Willow and Birch, is
soft, bright green carpet of moss
stars (Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus)
Look out for camouflaged aphids on
Birch leaves - some yellow
with green flecks, others dark brown like buds on
Yellow flowers of Tansy – just
Exploding seed-heads of Himalayan Balsam in woods, by Braid Burn
winter buds of trees (e.g. Beech-long and pointy, Ash-black, Oak-light
brown, in clusters, Wych Elm- small and dark brown, Grey Alder-long and
bright red, Rowan-hairy, Birch-small and delicate, Willow- tight-pressed
Yellow Gorse flowers still out.
Bright green leaves and red
berries of Holly
Hear birds rustling in leaves for grubs /seeds
crispy leaves still on Oak trees
see through scrub vegetation now, to golf course and Arthur’s Seat
Snowberries really do look like snow caught in brown twigs of bushes.
Red Rose hips stand out
Straight stems of plants very noticeable, with occasional explosion
of old flower-heads at top.
Dangling catkins of Birch and Grey Alder; clumps of Ash keys.
In pockets of frost on ground, leaves/flowers can be covered in ice crystals, giving ice-flowers and
white edges to leaves. Can see different shapes and sizes of ice crystals.