Obviously only the three BPS visits to the Island set out to record the Island's ferns all the other fern recordings were gathered as part of botanical or vegetational surveys.
The first record of a fern on Skye is in the Rev. John Lightfoot’s Flora Scotia published in 1777. In 1772 Lightfoot and Thomas Pennant made a five-month tour of Scotland, including a voyage around the Hebridean islands, to gather material for the proposed work and in Bowden (1989) there is an itinerary of their journey so it is possible to pinpoint the exact date of his records. He states:
“We observed Osmunda crispa upon the top of Ben-na-Caillich, in the parish of Christ-Church, in the isle of Skye.” This record for Cryptogramma crispa was on Saturday 18 July, 1772.
“We saw Osmunda lunaria (Botrychium lunaria) on a brae between Great and Little Breeze-hill, a mile from Talisker, in the isle of Skye.” This would have been on either Monday 20 or Tuesday 21 July, 1772.
Mrs Murray informed me that Great Breeze-hill is Preshal More and Little Breeze-hill is Preshal Beag.
He says about Isoetes lacustris: “It grows under the water at the bottom of the highland lakes, but not very common. We observe it in some small lochs near the foot of the paps of Jura, and in others above Great Breeze-hill, near Talisker, in the isle of Skye.”
Thomas Moore’s “A Popular History of the British Ferns” published in 1859 mentions the above records and also states that Asplenium marinum and Asplenium scolopendrium (as Scolopendrium vulgare) are found on the Island.
Early records from BSBI publications are:
Watsonia Volume 2, Part 1 (1951) – Dryopteris oreades (as D. abbreviata) Coir a Mhadaidh, Cuillins, E. F. Warburg (1948 record).
Proceedings of BSBI Volume 1, Part 1 (1954) – Hymenophyllum tunbrigense on sheltered overhanging rocks, along side the stream in Allt à Coire Bhuidhe, St. Andrews University Biological society communicated by J. A. Macdonald (1952 record).
Proceedings of BSBI Volume 1, Part 3 (1955) – Asplenium scolopendrium in fine condition in grikes of limestone pavement on lower slopes of Ben Suardal, Broadford, A. A. Slack and A. M. Stirling (1954 record).
In the Proceedings of BSBI Volume 3, Part 4 (1960) there is a report of a BSBI Field Meeting to North-Western Skye on July 5th to 12th 1958 led by Miss C. W. Muirhead. At Coral Bay Botrychium lunaria was in short turf by the sea with Euphrasia brevipila, E. scotica and E. micrantha. In cliffs above the sea Allium ursinum grew with Cochlearia scotica, Armeria maritima, Salix repens and Asplenium marinum. At Greshornish House Asplenium scolopendrium was seen on the walls round the garden and at Edinbane there was Galium boreale and Cystopteris fragilis growing on the bridge over the river.
Proceedings of BSBI Volume 4, Part 4 (1962) – Osmunda regalis on cliff by waterfall near seashore, Allt Mor, Aird of Sleat and Botrychium lunaria on hill pasture at Aird of Sleat, H. Milne-Redhead (1960 records).
A visit by the BPS in July 1971 is recorded in the BPS Newsletter No. 9 when after a week on Ben Alder they travelled west to the Island. It states that they had a good day in the south of Skye, round Loch Slapin and down the Strathaird peninsula to Elgol, which proved good fern country, giving them 18 species of ferns and allies. Unfortunately none are named in the article.
In 1973 H. J. B. Birks' Past and Present Vegetation of the Isle of Skye was published by Cambridge University Press. This is undoubtably the most comprensive book written on the Islands vegetation.
In 1974 the first edition of The Botanist in Skye, A Checklist of the Plants of the Islands of Skye and Raasay, written by Catriona Murray, was published by Portree High School, this gave a list of all the vascular plants that had been recorded on the Island and the 10 kilometre squares that they had been recorded in.
In 1978 the Atlas of Ferns was produced as a joint publication between the BPS and the BSBI, this gave the known distribution of all pteridophytes in the British Isles using a 10 kilometre square (hectad) grid. Subsequently from 1979 until 1981 in the BPS Bulletin and then from 1983 until 1987 in the Fern Gazette new records were given on an annual basis as “British Pteridophyte Records”.
In 1980 a second edition of The Botanist in Skye written by Catriona Murray and H J B Birks as well as a contribution on climate and geology by R M Murray was published by the Botanical Society of the British Isles.
A longer visit by the BPS was reported by Clive Jermy and Anthony Pigott in the 1991 BPS Bulletin when as part of the BPS Centenary field meeting in Scotland in August 1991 they spent a week on the Island. During the visit they recorded all three subspecies of Dryopteris affinis and added the gametophyte stage of Trichomanes speciosum to the list of ferns recorded on the Island.
Starting in 1995 several botanical and vegetation surveys, using the National Vegetation Classification (NVC), have carried out by Ben and Alison Averis mainly for the John Muir Trust for their estates at Torrin, Strathaird and Sconser, they also carried out surveys of the Trotternish Ridge and Strath Suardal woodlands for Scottish Natural Heritage. Ben Averis and Philip James also carried out a botanical assessment of the Kinloch Hills for the Forestry Commission.
In 2002 “The New Atlas of British and Irish Flora” was published by the BSBI this used a 10 kilometre square (hectad) grid, however unfortunately a decision was made not to record the subspecies of Dryopteris affinis.
In September 2004 the Scottish Section of the BPS spent a weekend on the Island during which Carl Farmer showed us the Asplenium ceterach and Polystichum lonchitis he had found on Ben Suardal both of which appeared to have increased in numbers since his last visit in July 2003. There was also the experience of entering single file into a very narrow cave to look at the gametophyte stage of Trichomanes speciosum which had been discovered by James Merryweather when carrying out a survey of otter Holts. The final afternoon was spent looking at the fern collection at Attadale Gardens at Strathcarron, Wester Ross.
In 2005 the third edition of The Botanist in Skye written by Catriona Murray and H J B Birks was privately published by the two authors. This edition also includes records from Rona, Rum, Eigg, Muck, Canna, Scalpay and Soay.