Saturday, 20 January 2018

Stumped on the hard shoulder

Apologies for bringing this post to the top, but it's an intriguing taxon worth bringing attention to (additional text shown yellow). Using the key to North American Didymodon I was taken on a pretty unambiguous journey to australasiae, a taxon which appears to be recognised in other parts of Europe as well as North America. The last part of the key identifies the key characters separating this species from umbrosus, which even with my limited experience, really looks very different and distinctions are clear. Interestingly David Holyoak's comments on Cornish material indicates that both australasiae and umbrosus occur there, both even confirmed by DNA. Given all this information I'm confused as to why australasiae is not included on the British list.
For the record the following additional images show the extra characters referred to in the key i.e. the bistratose margin towards the leaf tip (NB the proximal 2/3 of the margin is unistratose), strongly papillose cells, quadrate adaxial cells (presenta long the full length of the costa).
As can be seen below, the habitat was very mundane, the species occurring as patches in the outermost zone of colonised dirt (arrowed white, although I think my specimen came from the area indicated by the yellow arrow SN53100107). Direct associates in my sample include Didymodon tophaceus, Barbula unguiculata and Bryum dichotomum. PS. Thanks for the earlier comments, which prompted further examination of my sample.
Maybe it's just because I've had a long day but this one has me stumped. It was growing in the gritty debris of a roadside near Dafen, Llanelli, the most frequent associates including Cochlearia danica, Barbula unguiculata, Plantago coronopus, etc. Help please!


Yesterday's lunchtime outing was pleasing because it turned out to be less mundane than I expected. My aim was to top up tetrad ST08R (east of Llantrisant) from the existing list of 20 species recorded by CCW in the 90s. I wasn't sure exactly where I'd end up but there was parking at Rhiwsaeson so I explored the area along the old railway line from ST070828 as far as the Nant Myddlyn at ST072828.
Epiphytes were plentiful on the young ash trees along the old railway and included 6 species of Orthotrichum (topped up to 8 species by O. diaphanum and O. anomalum on concrete fence posts). The highlight was found on hazel at the bottom of the railway embankment - a 10cm long patch of Pylaisia polyantha with the characteristic multiple generations of capsules present. I think this is the 5th Glamorgan tetrad, of which three are between Cardiff and Llantrisant.
The banks of the Nant Meddlyn were rather nice too, with abundant Homalia and a little Anomodon on stonework by the stream (photo below), Lejeunea lamacerina on alder and Neckera complanata and Sciuro-hypnum populeum on sycamore.
My list so far is 58 species though I have a few Ulota samples still to check. Most of the CCW species were different so the tetrad total should now exceed 70 - I think I'll call that 'job done' for this one (though it's tempting to have a look at the nearby hillfort sometime).

Friday, 19 January 2018

North and south - a county of contrasts

After last week's visit to the northernmost point of Monmouthshire (VC35) I have now recorded bryophytes at the southernmost point.  This is on the seawall near Lamby Pit (in modern day Cardiff), and supported 12 species on concrete and rock, with Tortula muralis, Grimmia pulvinata and Syntrichia intermedia being the southernmost mosses of all.

I didn't realise there's Coast Path parking almost next to this southernmost point, so I made an expedition of it - the 2.5 miles each way walk from Peterstone Wentloog past my birding haunts of old.  Moss diversity was pretty limited, and the only non-epiphytic liverwort was some Pellia endiviifolia on a ditch bank.  Useful notes were made on various habitats, with highlights on the seawall being an impressive abundance of Fissidens incurvus on the inland side of the seawall bank, Drepanocladus aduncus in seasonally flooded track areas, Microbryum davallianum on thin soil overlying rocks on the seaward side of the seawall, and some large colonies of Orthotrichum anomalum on the seawall rocks.

Although the saltmarsh is extensive here on Rumney Great Wharf, it is perhaps too low-lying and not quite open enough for bryophytes.  I eventually found a couple of tiny shoots of Hennediella heimii on a raised area >50m out from the seawall, whilst the other Gwent halophyte Tortula pallida was abundant on an area of stony saltmarsh disturbed in the past by pipeline excavation.

It was not a vintage day's bryology, but it was good to go somewhere I have never been before, and 4 tetrads have been ticked off on the 'to do' list (leaving 103 unvisited by me in VC35).

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Baglan slag

Aloina ambigua was found to be occasional in an area of lichen-bryophyte dominated vegetation on basic slag at Baglan. The main associates were Didymodon fallax, Barbula convoluta var. convoluta, Dicranella varia & Bryum dichotomum. Among the less frequent species were Bryoerythrophyllum ferruginascens, Cladonia pocillum, Galium parisiense, plus an unfamiliar lichen, which I'd be grateful if anyone can suggest a name, or even genus?

Little match sticks - not really in our patch

I have just been going through some old bryophyte pictures - deleting the rubbish ones and puzzling over some unlabelled ones.  I came across one of Aulacomnium androgynum (which I haven't seen in Wales for ages and possibly since I took this photo) which I took during the 2005 Ceredigion BBS meeting.  There were several tufts growing on an oak tree in Cwm Doethie - not too far from the Carmarthenshire border!

I notice it is still bracketed for VC46 (I think there is one older record) - wonder if Tom would accept this pic as a voucher?

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Surprising urban wall moss

My most surprising bryo find of the winter so far has been Ptychomitrium polyphyllum growing just a stone's throw from the Butterfly Conservation Wales office in Hafod, Swansea. I first noticed a cushion of this moss growing on the sandstone coping of a sloping wall back in November, but only remembered today to take my camera along to get a few photos. I must have walked past it countless times last year before I noticed it. The moss is in the foreground of the photos below. It is close to a busy road junction and must experience pretty high levels of nitrogen pollution.

I noticed today that as well as the large fruiting cushion there is a small non-fruiting cushion nearby (on the right-hand side in the photo below left).
The associates are all mundane species: mostly Grimmia pulvinata with some Bryum capillare and a tiny amount of Tortula muralis. The rest of the wall is almost devoid of moss apart from a few scraps of G. pulvinata here and there.
I've not seen this moss in an urban situation before, but perhaps it isn't so unusual. Sam's Pembrokeshire flora mentions its persistence on imported rocks at County Hall in Haverfordwest, shwoing it can survive some pollution.

Days in the Black Mountains 3 - Grwyne Fawr

Day 3 was a day for walking rather than mossing, thanks to a blanket of snow covering the Black Mountains.  As the Grwyne Fawr valley had been visited by the BBS in 1999, it seemed a good place for a walk and some poking around, without the need for complete listing.  I failed to relocate the majority of the BBS's best finds, such as Campylostelium saxicola and Scapania subalpina, but there were a few nice surprises.

Flushes above the track held abundant Philonotis calcarea and Palustriella, but plenty of searching failed to produce any Amblyodon (recorded once in the easternmost Blacks); likewise searching the flushed track and stream edges didn't reveal any Haplomitrium (again).  Pseudocrossidium hornschuchianum at 530m altitude was a surprise, as was some Orthotrichum stramineum on a concrete post.  A rock shelf in the river held Schistidium platyphyllum, and I was astonished to spot a colony of Riccia beyrichiana on adjacent thin soil (Tom Blockeel noted this scarce species further down the valley in 1999).

On the way back from the mountains I stopped to record in two fragmentary VC35 tetrads - getting >50 species in both SO22M and SO22R.  Porella arboris-vitae was the highlight in the former square, and Fissidens celticus was a surprise find on an anonymous bank in the latter.  I also stopped at Coed-dias Bridge to check on the Grimmia decipiens colony that was found there by the BBS in 1999.  Only a single cushion remains, at this sole VC35 locus, and copious algal gunk on the bridge parapet suggests that nutrient enrichment and/or increased shade may have caused a decline.

My final stop for the day was another site which has been 'done' regularly in the past: Coed-y-Cerrig NNR.  I actively avoided the NNR in the past, focussing my efforts on other parts of the tetrad, but it is now 20 years since Martha Newton's survey and 'Bosanquet's Rule' is that "well-recorded sites will always produce the most exciting new finds".  Sure enough, star find of the day came from a sandstone block ca. 60m from the carpark: three loose cushions of Grimmia hartmanii (new for VC35) growing alongside Plagiomnium cuspidatum.  The frequency of Porella arboris-vitae was nice too, although this species is well-known from Coed-y-Cerrig.