Arthur Jones 1

Getting to know your upland plants

‘Getting to know your Upland Plants’ with Arthur Jones of Trossachs Treks was a really excellent workshop. It took place in the Mentieth Hills, north of Glasgow in a mixture of woodland and moorland terrain. The small group was evenly split between prospective MLs, looking to increase their environmental awareness for assessment, and practicing MLs supplementing their knowledge for the benefit of clients. The workshop would be equally recommendable to anyone with an interest in upland flora outside a mountain training framework.

Arthur was knowledgeable and entertaining. He told us “If I don’t have a story, I don’t talk about the plant”. He had medical uses for the tannin in Herb Robert, the salicylic acid of Willow bark, the alkaline Scaly Male Fern, and the leaves of Bugle, Primrose and Daisy. There were less successful medical tales such as the doctrine of signatories by which Lesser Celandine roots apparently resemble piles. We had the tale of Dr Withering and Mrs Hutton, of whom the latter found Digitalis, the cure for ‘dropsy’, and the former took the plaudits. Ladies Mantle could apparently put cosmetic surgeons out of business.

Wood sorrell There were non-medical uses for Horsetail, Bracken, Rush, Butterwort (other than eating midges), Hazel and Elder. Arthur had interesting ecological observations about Wood Anemone, Great Wood Rush and Rose Bay Willow Herb. We were nibbling leaves of Wood Sorrel, Golden Saxifrage, Common Sorrel, Dandelion and young Nettle. Perhaps fortunately we were too early for ripe berries, but identified Blae-, Crow-, Cow-, Bramble and Juniper. I can now distinguish my conifers: Larch, Noble Fir, Scots Pine, Sitka and Norwegian Spruce.

All this was told with enthusiasm and gentle humour. Arthur strenuously avoids Latin, but he did tell us the derivation of the Latin name of Bog Asphodel and the wrongful accusation of GBH to cattle. The group took part eagerly and we went beyond plants to Drinker Moth caterpillars, geomorphology and Puddingstone, with a little navigation thrown in, to make a complete ML training day.

This was an excellent short day and superb value for the small fee. We were so interested that Arthur’s estimated 4 hours became 5 and a half. I’m sure that those approaching ML Assessment will be better equipped and those of us currently practicing have a fund of stories ready to unleash as if they were our own.

Andy Heald
Andy is a freelance ML & Winter ML based in Glasgow

Arthur is running another workshop on Saturday 18th July, for more detail and to book click here