West Highland Flora
Botanical Literature about the Isle of Skye
by John Birks
Despite its great botanical richness and interest, surprisingly little has been published about the flora or vegetation of Skye. The available recent literature falls into four main categories.
1. Flora of flowering plants and ferns and fern allies
Butterfield, J. & Bell. S.L. 1996. Freshwater macrophyte survey of Skye and Lochalsh 1989. Scottish Natural Heritage Research, Survey and Monitoring Report 54, 27 pp plus 8 appendices. (Aquatic plants are notoriously difficult to find and record, and this describes the results of a detailed and extensive survey of the flora of Skye lochs.)
Jepson, P. 2004. Skyes the limit – An Arabis Saga. BSBI News 97; 31-34. (An account of the finding of a second locality for Arabis alpina on Skye.)
Murray, C.W. 1974. The Botanist in Skye. A Guide to Flowering Plants and Ferns. Portree High School. (The first very rare edition of the Skye check-list.)
Murray, C.W. & Birks, H.J.B. 1980. The Botanist in Skye. A Guide to the Flowering Plants and Ferns. Botanical Society of the British Isles. (The second edition of the check-list of the Skye flora.)
Murray, C.W. & Birks, H.J.B. 2005. The Botanist in Skye and Adjacent Islands. Privately published, available from John Birks (e-mail: ). (The third edition of the check-list of the Skye flora plus plants records from Raasay, Rona, Soay, Scalpay, Rum, Canna, Eigg, and Muck.)
Raven, J. & Walker, S.M. 1956. Mountain Flowers. Collins, London. (One of the New Naturalist series describing mountain plants in Britain and Ireland. There is a chapter about the Volcanic hills of Western Scotland with an account of the discovery of Koenigia islandica on Skye and of the habitat of Arabis alpina in one of its two known localities in Britain.)
2. Flora of mosses, liverworts, and fungi
Birks, H.J.B. & Birks, H.H. 1974. Studies on the bryophyte flora and vegetation of the Isle of Skye: I. flora. Journal of Bryology 8; 19-64, 197-254. (A check-list of all 560 species of moss and liverworts known on Skye by 1973. This number has been increased by about 50 species.)
Dennis, N. 1960. Records of non-vascular cryptograms on Skye. Transactions of the Botanical Society of Edinburgh 40; 204-231.
Watling R. 1983. Fungi of Skye. Glasgow Naturalist 20(4); 269-311.
Watling, R. 1987. Skye Fungi – Additions. Glasgow Naturalist 21(31); 249-269.
3. Modern vegetation
Averis, A.M., Averis, A.B.G., Birks, H.J.B., Horsfield, D., Thompson, D.B.A. & Yeo, M.J.M. 2004. An Illustrated Guide to British Upland Vegetation. Joint Nature Conservancy Committee, Peterborough. (This is the first comprehensive guide to the vegetation of the British uplands.)
Birks, H.J.B. 1973. Past and present vegetation of the Isle of Skye – A palaeoecological study. Cambridge University Press, London. (This out-of-print book contains an account of the 80+ modern vegetation types or plant communities that occur on Skye.)
Currie, A. & Murray, C.W. 1983. Flora and vegetation of the Inner Hebrides. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 83B; 293-318.
4. Late-glacial and post-glacial (= Holocene) vegetation history
Benn, D.I., Lowe, J.J. & Walker, M.J.C. 1992. Glacier response to climatic change during the Loch Lomond Stadial and early Flandrian: geomorphological and palynological evidence from the Isle of Skye, Scotland. Journal of Quaternary Science 7; 125-144.
Birks, H.J.B. 1973. Past and present vegetation of the Isle of Skye – A palaeoecological study. Cambridge University Press, London. (This out-of-print book discusses the late-glacial (about 11500-13500 years ago) flora, vegetation, and landscape of Skye.)
Birks, H.J.B. & Williams, W. 1983. The late-Quaternary vegetational history of the Inner Hebrides. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 83B; 269-292. (A summary of what was known about the late- and post-glacial vegetational history of Skye in 1982.)
Lowe, J.J. & Walker, M.J.C. 1991. Vegetational history of the Isle of Skye II. The Flandrian. In: The Quaternary of the Isle of Skye (eds. C.K. Ballantyne et al.). Quaternary Research Association, Cambridge, pp. 119-142.
Selby, K.A. 2004. Late-glacial and Holocene vegetation change on the Isle of Skye: new data from three coastal locations. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany 13; 233-247.
Vasari, Y. & Vasari, A. 1968. Late and post-glacial macrophytic vegetation in the lochs of Northern Scotland. Acta Botanica Fennica 80; 1-120.
Walker, M.J.C. & Lowe, J.J. 1990. Reconstructing the environmental history of the last glacial–interglacial transition: evidence from the Isle of Skye. Quaternary Science Reviews 9; 15-49.
Walker, M.J.C. & Lowe, J.J. 1991. Vegetational history of the Isle of Skye I. The Late Devensian Late-glacial Period. In: The Quaternary of the Isle of Skye (eds. C.K. Ballantyne et al.). Quaternary Research Association, Cambridge, pp. 98-118.
Wiliams, W. 1977. The Flandrian Vegetational History of the Isle of Skye and the Morar Peninsula. Ph.D. thesis, University of Cambridge.