Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Syntrichia virescens?

A small Syntrichia growing on the trunk of a street lime caught my eye as I was walking to the woodland south of Llanishen Reservoir for a quick square bash. It looks reasonably convincing for S. virescens, with toothed hairpoints and notched leaf apices, though the length of the basal cells (30-62 microns, averaging 37-45 microns) straddles the ranges given in Smith for differentiating S. virescens and S. montana. It was certainly smaller than typical montana, but as virescens would be new for VC41 I'm being cautious and seeking the opinion of others - thoughts welcome.

Monday, 19 February 2018

A Grave subject

Churchyards provide habitat for a number of bryophytes that are rare or absent from the typical farmed landscape of lowland Monmouthshire, including rock-dwellers like Racomitrium aciculare (which is quite frequent on flat sandstone gravestones), woodland species like Cirriphyllum piliferum and Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus, unimproved grassland mosses such as Pseudoscleropodium purum, and acidophiles including Dicranum scoparium.  The last of these can be abundant on graves surfaced with acid gravel, as was the case at Llanddewi Rhydderch where I took the photo above.

Tetrad recording in the Llanddewi Rhydderch square (SO30L) produced just over 50 rather mundane species.  Highlights away from the churchyard included a few epiphytes in a lane, with a single tuft of Orthotrichum anomalum (sadly with all but one of its capsules slugged, so I can't be 100% certain it wasn't O. consimile) being the most unusual record.  Anyway, this is another tetrad ticked off the list, leaving 101 which I haven't yet visited.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Treasure in the bracken

I visited Craig y Castell and part Craig y Cilau near Llangattock last week – I didn’t intend to look at bryophytes, but it is difficult to switch off completely at such a rich site. 

With the bracken now died back and partly broken up by grazing animals, I was surprised just how many scattered rocks/boulders are present in some areas, with all but the largest tending to be completely hidden by the bracken in summer.  

 Most of the big blocks are limestone with a lot of the smaller ones acidic grits and sandstones.   As I wandered around I noticed each acid rock seemed to have a slightly different bryophyte flora to its neighbours.  One of the largest had a nice colony of the lichen Sphaerophorus globosus, whilst others had big patches of things like Racomitrium lanuginosum, Lophozia ventricosa, Tritomaria quinquedentata, Barbilophozia attenuata and Campylopus fragilis was present on a few.    About half a dozen rocks also supported colonies of Tritomaria exsectiformis /exsecta (reddish-brown and green patches in the photo). 
A few years ago Sam and I recorded T. exsecta from nearby woodland, so I checked one of these colonies and sure enough the rounded gemma showed this too to be exsecta.  

Perhaps all the colonies I spotted were exsecta?.   

The limestone blocks and more lime-rich sandstone blocks also have some interesting things, mostly lichens, but there are often large patches of Neckera crispa and Scapania aspera and I also spotted things like Leucodon sciuroides (probably new to the site), fruiting Tortella tortuosa, a form of tortuosa with very fragile leaves and a large block sported five tufts of fruiting Entosthodon muhlenbergii.

Away from the boulders and bracken other things of interest, included a sheep’s skull with a small tuft of Orthotrichum pulchellum, some broken branches of a hawthorn below Craig y Castell had what I presume is Agyrium rufum, 

which has been recorded from the nearby NNR in the past.  Ledges in a quarried area had a  few tufts of Encalypta vulgaris and a dark scum on a damp quarry face on closer inspection was found to be Seligeria patula (presumed).  A few patches of the scarce lichen Solorina spongiosa  
were also growing on an eroding bank by a path.   Now that days are getting longer, some vascular plants were starting to show, with endemic hawkweeds beginning to put out new leaves, rue-leaved saxifrage flowering and I also spotted a single plant of Hutchinsia
and some sort of cabbage has found its way onto the cliffs

In future I will pay more attention to boulders that are hidden by bracken in summer. 

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Bryophilus fungus

I'm aware of Epibryon plagiochilae on Plagiochila, but don't recall seeing this one. Any help appreciated.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Colura update

Colura calyptrifolia on Gorse (Ulex europaeus), Dulais Valley

Seeing lots of Colura on Gorse near Nant y Cafn in the Dulais valley a few days ago prompted me to check the current, known distribution of this fabulous little liverwort in VC41.

Distribution of Colura calyptrifolia in Glamorgan (VC41) from current MapMate records (1km squares)

While the crux of its distribution is clearly centred in the upland conifer plantations of NPT,  it has now built up huge propagule potential in South Wales which has enabled it to colonise suitable sites elsewhere in the county. Hence the scattered occurrences outside the core, which illustrate a classic range expansion pattern. Willows (particularly Salix cinerea) are the most common hosts, but it also grows on a wide variety of coniferous and hardwood trees and it is always worth looking for it on Heather, Gorse and Buddleja. It is neither confined to conifer plantations nor to lowland sites.   

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Didymodon cf. australasiae update

Didymodon cf. australasiae 'dirt zone' habitat
I've been back to Dafen and noted the putative Didymodon australasiae was locally frequent in the 'dirt zone' of the road verge, the population appearing in patches (some very extensive) for over 1 km of the A4138. Yesterday I pulled into the lay-by of the Loughor bypass section of the A484 (Glamorgan) and walked back to a suitable looking dirty verge at SS56359793. Sure enough there was a good scattering of the same taxon. To assist potential searches the following pointers and photos should help build a search image:
  • Forms mid-dark green patches, darker than frequently associated Barbula spp. and lacks brownish tones of D. tophaceus and orange tones of D. fallax.
  • Grows both as mono-specific turf and as occasional shoots mixed with other spp.
  • Leaves spreading-patent, tapering, the tip sometimes appearing pinched towards to a moderately cuculate tip.
  • Some plants have broader leaves and the pinched leaf tip is more evident, these may be younger plants?
  • The strong nerve is very evident on the upper surface of the leaf in certain light.
  • Contrary to my earlier comments the species does crisp up a bit when dry as shown below.
It seems reasonable to suspect this species might be frequent in and around the Swansea-Llanelli area and possibly further afield, so if folks can take the opportunity to check the dirt zone of our major roads it will be interesting to find out how widespread the taxon really is - hopefully further clarification of its identification will come in good time.
Image above showing a couple of shoots mixed in with D. tophaeceus, B. convoluta and P. hornschuchianum.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Mellte Valley Photo-trip

 I didn't have a good photograph of Solenostoma sphaerocarpum, so yesterday afternoon H and I went to see the nice little colony that Barry found in the Mellte Valley a few days ago.

 Solenostoma sphaerocarpa, Mellte Valley

 The winged perianth with a short beak, and the circular leaves, are distinctive.
Further up the valley we caught up with the Dicranum montanum that I remember from the Mellte trip led by Sam a few years ago. I didn't get a chance to photograph it then, so it was nice to get it again on a few trees near the trail.

Dicranum montanum, Mellte Valley

Some of you will also remember the remarkable riverside site nearby with both Tunbridge and Wilson's Filmy-fern growing within feet of each other.

Hymenophyllum tunbrigense, Mellte Valley

Hymenophyllum wilsonii, Mellte Valley