Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Spongy liverworts

I can't find my Smith's Liverworts of Britain and Ireland and haven't looked at it since Jean Paton published her Liverwort Flora in 1999 - Jean's book seems to costs over £90 now, but it is worth every single penny.  I am pretty sure that early on in Smith's Riccia key the split is whether your specimen looks spongy or not - back in about 1994 I was sure the first Riccia I had come across in Carmarthenshire was R. sorocarpa, and to me it looked 'spongy' ....... I followed the key and think eventually ended up at R. cavernosa - this was clearly wrong and then it occurred to me that the reference to sponge probably meant natural sponge, which is probably unfamiliar to a lot of people today and was a bit of a rarity even when I was a kid in the 1960's (or perhaps it was expensive and we could only afford artificial sponge - actually we had a loofa which tended to take your skin off if you rubbed too hard!) - the only times I seem to see natural sponge these days is in art supply shops (usually as expensive tiny fragments). 

Anyway, whilst at Llangorse Lake last week I glanced down and saw what I first took to be a thick layer of algae amongst open vegetation in the inundation zone (the lake level at Llangorse tends to be a lot higher in winter than in the summer months).   On closer examination the 'algae' turned out to be the largest population I have ever seen of what looked to be  R. cavernosa.   I had it in the back of my mind that Sam had recorded cavernosa at Llangorse when he mapped the marginal vegetation several years ago, but on reading his report he in fact had found R. subbifurca and, if Sam accepts the voucher, cavernosa will be a new addition to the Brecks bryophyte flora.

Pics below are a bit poor, but the close-up shows the large perforations on the surface - a bit like an old fashioned sponge.

Saturday, 12 August 2017


Have eventually managed to get back into my Google account ...

Now that autumn has set in (i.e.the swifts have gone), my mind is turning again to bryos.

A recent trip with Jonathan Saville to some sloppy calcareous flushes in the Black Mountains just SE of the Grwyne Reservoir, which we first spotted last winter, proved quite rewarding for vascular plants, with a strong population of Eriophorum latifolium and small pops of Carex lepidocarpa and Carex dioica amongst other things.    One of my main reasons for revisiting was that I hoped to refind Amblyodon dealbatus, which was reported from this area during an NCC survey of the upland vegetation in the 1980s.  No joy with that moss, but a small area less than 0.5m  diameter with some tufa deposition caught my eye and sure enough a small amount of Moerckia flotoviana was present.   I have come across perhaps half a dozen sites for this liverwort scattered across the National Park all as very small populations in similar tufaceous habitat, usually present as a very restricted area in flushes dominated by the likes of Palustriella commutata and Scorpidium species.  Moerckia may prove to be relatively frequent in areas where there has been a lot of lime working, such as the Foel Fawr on Mynydd Du, but it seems amazing that it is able to find and colonise such rare habitat often hidden away in seas of Nardus and Molinia.     

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Pogonatum urnigerum in lowland Monmouthshire

The recent rainy 'summer' has turned my mind to bryophytes, and I have knocked off a few VC35 tetrads in lunch-breaks and evenings.  This evening I visited SO30T, south of Clytha in the heart of lowland Monmouthshire.  Most of the 60 or so bryophytes were mundane, although I have a few Orthotrichum to check.  However, I was astonished to find a large colony of Pogonatum urnigerum on a cobble-lined bank by a pasture.  This is an uncommon species in the county, although it is widely scattered in the west at ca. 300m altitude.  The only colony in the east is at Trellech Hill Quarry (280m altitude).  The Clytha colony is at just 145m altitude, and is thus in genuinely lowland Monmouthshire.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Something exciting in the Black Mountains

Something a little more exciting than Sphagnum quinqueferium caught my eye during today's Welsh Clearwing surveys in the Black Mountains. A luxuriant 50cm square patch of Antitrichia curtipendula atop a dry stone wall!

The location in SO2627 is about 300m inside VC35. The Atlas shows a pre-1950 dot for SO22. The known site in SO23 (VC42) is around 5km to the north-west of here.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Sphagnum quinquefarium in the Black Mountains

I have to confess I've scarcely looked at any bryophytes for a few months, but a pretty pink and green banded Sphagnum caught my eye earlier this week, while I was surveying for Welsh Clearwing moth in the Black Mountains. I hoped this might be Sphagnum russowii, but my samples have three spreading branches per fascicle - so I think this must be S. quinquefarium.
Sphagnum quinquefarium
There was an extensive patch of this moss growing in bilberry heath on a NE-facing slope above the Grwyne Fechan (SO217234). Perhaps not an unusual sight in the Brecon Beacons National Park, but it's the first time I've seen this moss away from woodland.
Sphagnum quinquefarium habitat

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Please look for Ulota

After several hints that Ulota taxonomy was about to change (is the information that Ulota crispa comprises three species a 'spoiler' or a cause for concern?!), British bryologists now have no excuse to bury their heads in the sand.  Tom Blockeel has published an excellent overview of Ulota in the last Field Bryology, complete with a key and photos of endostome and exostome teeth.  There are only a few Welsh Vice-counties listed for each segregate species, with Ulota intermedia in VC41 a bit of a surprise, so there's a lot to be found.  With this in mind I have collected a few Ulota this summer, including U. crispa and U. crispula on willows at 300m altitude near Llyn Ogwen in Snowdonia (U. crispa photo above; I photographed the dull species); U. crispa on willows near Capel Curig; U. crispa on a lowland Hawthorn at Llangua in Monmouthshire; U. crispula on Hazel at 150m altitude at Gwernogle in Carmarthenshire; and U. intermedia on Lundy. 

Now is the perfect time to look for U. crispula and U. intermedia, because both seem to have old/post-ripe capsules, whereas U. crispa is still unripe/ripe with calyptrae.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Industrial interest

I've not seen Tortella bambergeri before, however a specimen I collected from a bank of limestone chippings (location shown above - site n.w. of Merthyr) seems to fit the bill nicely and if confirmed will be an addition to the county list. I've still yet to check it out under the microscope, but it matches photos in the field guide and a few I've found on line, with narrow, broken-tipped leaves with nerves that are matt below (though there is a little bit of shine in some angles, so any opinions welcome).

The habitat is a bit different to the species' described haunts, as was the community it was found in - although Herb-Robert can be seen to be abundant on the bank, the only verge constants were Small Toadflax, Field Forget-me-not and Schistidium crassipilum. Associates included Heath Groundsel and Wall Lettuce, the latter locally abundant in places across the site.

As I wasn't quite sure what the putative Tortella was when I found it (in fact I suspected it was odd-looking Didymodon sinuosus) I didn't take any reference shots, nor recorded how much there was. However, I do recall there being several scattered patches at the location shown, plus I'm pretty sure I saw it again at a different part of the site. In any case I'll be back, so will see what I can find...

Some images of my voucher, in drying and wetted states:

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Bog Earwort in Glamorgan

Two days ago I recorded small quantities of the Nationally Scarce Scapania paludicola at the same site I first noted it at in 2014 (top photo, one of several monitoring plots on Tair Carreg Moor), the land sitting in the shadow of the huge overburden mound on Merthyr Common. The vegetation in the area where it occurs is a mosaic of rather ordinary M24a and M6d, perhaps suggesting the species could be more widespread in the county than records currently indicate. Photographic sequences of the monitoring plot show the vegetation has become more rank in recent years due to reduced grazing, but despite this, low density bryos can still be found by carefully searching in the gaps between the tussocks of Molinia. Direct associates in this niche were all at very low abundance and included Calypogeia fissa, Hypnum jutlandicum, Scapania irrigua and Sphagnum denticulatum. The above photo shows the specimen collected in 2014, those below being from 2017, these perhaps better illustrating the strongly arched keel which gives the species its characteristic appearance.

Clare Mockridge has provided the bulk of Glamorgan records, with six entries from 1994 to 1998, a period of extensive Phase II NVC work in the county; though most records are from Llantrisant Common. The only other county record was provided by Peter (Sturgess) & Roy (Perry) at the Fochriw Reclamation Scheme Site in 2010. Wider searches will hopefully reveal more about this seemingly localised species.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Pohlia lutescens

We found some patches of Pohlia lutescens on peaty soil in a ditch in marshy grassland in the Upper Dulais Valley, near Seven Sisters yesterday (SN80D). There are few records of it in VC41, but it may be overlooked. The photo below shows it growing with Pseudephemerum nitidum (moss with capsules in the bottom right corner), which gives a good indication of how small it is. It has very distinctive, knobbly, rhizoidal gemmae (bottom photo).

Pohlia lutescens and Pseudephemerum nitidum, Seven Sisters

Pohlia lutescens

Rhizoidal gemmae of Pohlia lutescens

Other things of interest in the vicinty included Scorpidium cossinii and Plagiomnium elatum in a very nice base-flushed meadow near Seven Sisters Rugby Club. 

Monday, 5 June 2017

Swamp Feather-moss near Merthyr

At 340m asl, a population of Amblystegium radicale to the north-west of Merthyr was found to be well established at more than twice the maximum elevation given in the new bryophyte atlas. Whether or not the species is extending it's range eastwards, upwards, or just that it is now better understood is debatable. Direct associates around the margins of this very small reservoir included Drepanocladus aduncus and Marchantia polymorpha subsp. polymorpha. 

104 taxa were recorded at this rural industrial site with a good mix of calcicoles and calcifuges represented taking the totals for SN90Y and SO00D onto 156 and 65 respectively. Other species of interest noted, which give a flavour of the site, included Aneura pinguis, Aulacomnium palustre, Campyliadelphus chrysophyllus, Campylium protensum, Carex arenaria, C. divulsa d., C. hostiana, C. pilulifera, C. pulicaris, Climacium dendroides, Didymodon ferrugineus, Ditrichum gracile, Homalothecium lutescens, Loeskeobryum brevirostre (photos 1 & 2 below), Pyrola rotundifolia (photo below), Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus, Sanionia uncinata, Scapania irrigua, Syntrichia ruralis var. ruraliformis, Tortella tortuosa & Weissia controversa var. densifolia.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Spring tide inundation of the endangered moss Bryum marratti

Recently I've had the pleasure of working with Dr Des Callaghan, on a PlantLifeCymru funded project. Part of the project aims to characterise the setting of Bryum marratti in respect to sea water and fresh water in the upper salt marsh areas at Whiteford and Pembrey.

We are writing up our results of this stage of the project now, however we have a little taster video from last weeks high tide, which provides evidence that at least some of the colonies are directly inundated by sea water during high tides.

Best not too say too much more before I crunch the numbers, but here is a video for you all to enjoy until we have something more substantial.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Coal spoil at Penygroes

A total of 60 bryos were recorded growing directly on coal spoil at this development site in Penygroes, vc44. Most interest was focused on the mildly basic 'Cratoneuron filicinum-Bryum pseudotriquetrum' seepages found around the margins of the site, with noteworthy species including Bryoerythrophyllum ferruginascens and Palustriella falcata. Both were rare on site and it's the first time that I have encountered the latter on spoil, the location of the only patch I saw shown below. 

The central plateau was much less interesting, being dominated by Campylopus introflexus and Lotus corniculatus, which together with locally frequent Cladonia spp. formed a distinctive coal spoil community.

Friday, 19 May 2017

Upper reaches of the Afon Tywi

The rocky upper reaches of Afon Tywi, north of Lynn Brianne, couldn't be more different from the lowland, meandering section of the river with which I'm familiar from winter Brown Hairstreak egg surveys.
A couple of weekends ago we stayed a night at Dolgoch Hostel in Ceredigion, just a field away from the Tywi (which here forms the boundary between VC46 and VC42). Sam had provided me with a list of rare bryos to look out for, and though I failed to find any of these there was still plenty of interest - for me at least. Most notable, perhaps, was the abundance of Atrichum crispum, here growing on the thin soil layer on top of large river boulders.
I was also impressed by the quantity of Andraea rothii ssp falcata on the in-channel rocks, sometimes growing not far above the water level. A small patch of the lichen Lasallia pustulata (please correct my ID if wrong!) was growing in the same habitat.
The river itself was full of great wefts of Fontinalis squamosa, and Oligotrichum hercynicum was frequent on steep gravelly banks.
I'm a little puzzled by this falcate Campylopus, which had the nerve filling about a third of the leaf base. It might just be C. flexuosus, but is almost lacking in tomentum and doesn't have any obvious coloured cells in the basal angles of the leaf.

Sam tells me this part of the Tywi has been little studied bryologically. It surely warrants a proper look.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Sea Frillwort on Skomer

During our annual pilgrimage to Skomer last Saturday, I didn't do any bryophyte recording, or much else for that matter, as it was nice just to relax enjoy the island ambience. However, I did get on my knees to have a quick scan of the Fossombronia in the farmhouse courtyard in the hope of finding capsules in the extreme drought conditions - as expected, this proved to be 'fruitless' exercise. But I did have success elsewhere, in fact, not too far from the farmhouse, along the edge of the path that heads out towards the Wick, where it passes over one of the Mugearite outcrops, there was a nice Fossombronia colony with plenty of dried up, but seemingly intact capsules. Examination of spore and stem anatomy last night provided confirmation of F. maritima as a Skomer species.
barren courtyard Foss.
fertile footpath Foss. with Archidium

I never photographed the location, but as I didn't get
on my knees too often I'm pretty sure this was the spot.
In any case my ref for the colony was SM7268409272
The main direct associates here included Archidium alternifolium, Campylopus introflexus, Erodium maritimum, Lophocolea semiteres, Plantago coronopus and Sagina subulata.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

check up on Southbya in Lydstep

On the way back from St Davids (long weekend camping) I decided to pop to Lydstep to check out Sams Southbya tophacea colony he had recorded back in 2012?  I am slowly visiting all the Welsh populations, just Barafundle Bay left. I had a quick scrabble up the cliff and after about 40 minutes I had identified a few very shrivelled up colonies. To say a few I mean three at best, none more than 10 cm in area and all on loose open ground of which there wasn't much (see general site photo). So good to confirm it is still there (SS 09150 97747).

Interesting that it was growing in the unconsolidated and quite loose 'scree' made up of fragments of limestone from the host bedrock (Carboniferous Pembroke Limestone Group) mixed together with clay and soil, rather than directly on more permanent tufa forming seepages (like the VOG populations). I could only find it on more open areas of ground, which were very limited.

The weather was gloriously dry, so I would hope to find more  if everything wasn't so shrivelled up, mind you, not sure id fancy climbing that cliff in the wet.

As usual I was armed with a totally underwhelming iphone4 for photos, so do 'enjoy'.

location on cliff
general view of site, with lots of Contoneaster and other ground cover..including Hannah busy getting a closer look. 

close up, Southbya on the unconsolidated material rather than direct on the bedrock. 

Colony of shrivelled up Sothbya tophacea  (I know another terrible photo, was checked with x10 hand lense)