Saturday, 24 February 2018


Actually more like ton-down: I have fewer than 100 tetrads left unsurveyed for bryophytes in Monmouthshire (VC35)!  Bea had a birthday party just across the border yesterday, so I had nearly 4 hours to record 1.5 tetrads in the White Castle area.  Both were good examples of typical NE Monmouthshire - lovely rolling landscape with deep-cut streams and lane banks exposing neutral Old Red Sandstone.  Highlights among the 77 species recorded in SO31Y (Upper Cwm lanes) were (+indicates photo): +Eurhynchium schleicheri (abundant on one lane bank), +Plagiothecium curvifolium (fruiting on a large tree-stump), +Pylaisia polyantha (one large patch on a fallen canopy Ash branch), Platygyrium repens (a few patches on roadside Clematis), Rhynchostegiella teneriffae (frequent on ORS rocks in a stream gully) and Mnium stellare (large patches on stream bank), as well as the full suite of regular epiphytic Orthotrichum and some wall, track and tarmac 'grots'. 

I made a start on SO31Z in 2007 (Bont), so topped up that lanes list with a visit to a locality where a footpath crossed a deep-cut stream (Red Castle cwm), taking the tetrad total up to 79 spp.  Yesterday's highlights included +Plagiochila porelloides & +Scleropodium cespitans sharing sandstone outcrops, Rhynchostegiella teneriffae in the stream, and Mnium stellare on the stream bank.  It's really good to know what the background bryophyte flora of this part of the county is like.

Aphanolejeunea in Brechfa Forest

On Friday I spent a few hours revisiting the lichen hotspot in the valley of the Afon Marlais, a few miles upstream of Brechfa, to record some previously unexplored sections of the site.  The lichens were excellent, with 3 spp of Sticta (including really large S. fuliginosa sl), some beautiful patches of Pannaria conoplea (only 4 sites in S Wales), and a few new lichens for the site such as Thelotrema lepadinum and Megalaria pulverea.  I didn't look at bryophytes too much, but couldn't help noticing that many of the riverside Ash trees were plastered with Aphanolejeunea microscopica as well as Colura.

The only previous Carmarthenshire record of Aphanolejeunea came from the Mynydd Mallaen area nearly 15 years ago, and the abundance of Aphanolejeunea along the Afon Marlais was reminiscent of its abundance in the Waterfalls area of the Nedd/Mellte valleys of VC42.  I couldn't find any Drepanolejeunea on Friday, but did see it by a waterfall in a tributary of the Afon Marlais a few years ago.  Earlier last week I revisited Cwm Marydd, where Tritomaria exsecta is still doing well.


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.