Latin name: Pinguicula vulgaris
Scottish names: Earning-girse (curdling plant); Ostin gorse (cheese plant)
Where: Moist, open upland areas eg Glen Ogle, Glen Dochart, Glen Falloch
When: Flowers from May to July
Boggy moors and mountains are the butterwort’s favourite home. It has found a way of living here where few other plants can survive – by becoming a carnivore! The innocent-looking yellowy-green rosette of leaves is really a death trap for small invertebrates. The leaves are covered with sticky hairs that catch unwary insects. Once it has trapped its prey its leaves curl in, while enzymes slowly digest the animal, extracting the essential nutrients lacking from the poor soil where it grows.
From May to July look out for its surprisingly pretty flowers, which give it its Gaelic name of ‘mothan’, meaning ‘bog violet’. The simple, rich purple blooms are held on wire thin stalks, hardly seeming part of the same plant.
Butterwort’s English and Scots names come from its ability to help milk curdle. In the past it was used to make cheese and butter, the enzymes in its slimy leaves doing the same job as rennet.