ISBuC (v7) 2012
Peat Plants

'The carnivore is over...'
Finally there are the unusual plants and those with special uses:

Sphagnum moss is well known for its absorbent, mildly antiseptic properties. The North American Indians used it both as a handy natural wound dressing and as a material for babies' nappies (diapers). As recently as World War I it was gathered and supplied to the front as dressing material for injured soldiers.

Bog myrtle, when rubbed onto the skin, keeps the dreaded midge at bay, although in truth the effect is marginal against dedicated, voracious swarms at the height of the season. A couple of years back harvesting trials were commenced with a view to distilling the active ingredients with a view to commercial marketing.

The berries of Empetrum nigrum and Vaccinium myrtillus are used in pies and jams and Myrica gale continues to be used as a component for pot-pourris.

Among the strangest plants associated with peatlands are carnivorous, insect-eating species. These are clear evidence of adaptation to nutrient-poor environments.

The Sundew, in the form of Drosera anglica and Drosera intermedia, is found in Sleat peninsula. Sundews lure insects with sticky sap droplets on the end of fine hairlike leaves which entangle and finally dissolve the edible parts of the insect into a suitable broth.

Compounds found in the Sundew are apparently useful in treating whooping-cough (having a peculiar action on the respiratory organs) and conditions including incipient phthisis, chronic bronchitis and asthma. The juice is said to be a treatment for corns and warts, and may be used to curdle milk. In America it has been advocated as a cure for old age; a vegetable extract is used together with colloidal silicates in cases of arteriosclerosis.

The undersides of the floating leaves of the Bladderwort (Utricularia) have tiny bladders, or vacuum traps, each closed by a flap. As an aquatic insect touches external trigger hairs the flap suddenly opens and sucks the creature in, whereupon digestive juices do their work.

A third variation on the insectivorous theme is the Butterwort, found on Skye in the form of Pinguicula vulgaris and Pinguicula lusitanica, which shoots out tiny, pretty flowers in long stalks. Around its base, close to the ground, are sticky leaves which act as fly-papers. Presumably it is partial to ground insects as well as those that fly.

Courtesy of Geoff Holman