Friday, 27 February 2015

Beach springs and super tides

Firstly I should say hello, and make my apologies for being perhaps the only non-bryologist on this excellent blog. My interest in the mossy stuff is quite new and was a result of a contract (from Sam B – cheers !) looking at tufa forming springs across Wales. I was responsible for looking at geology, water flow and chemistry and Jon Graham was fully in charge of the bryophytes (Graham & Farr. Petrifying Springs in Wales. Field Bryology, 112).

After two weeks in the field, it was too late. I was captivated by the way changes in geology, microtopography, hydrology and chemistry influenced the presence or absence of many mosses.

So it wasn’t long before I had dreamed up a weekend project…so I thought ‘why not survey in the small tufa formations across the Vale of Glamorgan Coastline?’ Good excuse for a walk, and who knows maybe someone will find it useful ? Thus here is the first post on my initial couple of trips along the Penarth beach…soon to be followed by outings all the way to Ogmore and some exciting algae pictures from Chris Carter - but all in good time. 

The first site is an interesting coastal site on Penarth Beach (ST1864969805) where a groundwater spring emerges half way up the cliff face at the junction of a yellow sandstone where it is impeded by the darker shales below; part of the Triassic Blue Anchor Formation . This is far more than a ’seepage’ and just collecting a few samples I had given myself a good soaking. There was some tufa but it wasn’t extensive, it is unlikely that the water had been in contact with much limestone or any at all.  Noted were semi submerged Platyhypnidium riparioides (long beaked water feather moss), Didymodon tophaceus and some liverworts which I managed to let dry out until they were beyond recognition !

 Plathyhpnidium ripariodies below a fresh water spring on Penarth Beach ST1864969805
The flow of water was several litres per second the temperature 9.4oC and the electrical conductivity 300uscm indicative of a relatively short residence time of groundwater within the aquifer, and another reason there wasn’t much tufa.  Compare this to some of the patches of tufa along the Penarth cliff face and you see a marked difference. The tufa seepages have much lower flow...they are true ‘seepages’ (see picture) with higher electrical conductivities 600-1970uscm, reflective of more dissolved ions in the water, and they do not have Platyhypnidium riparioides, instead being dominated by Eucladium and Didymodon tophaceus.

 A small cliff face seepage with active tufa formation and Didymodon tophaceus at Peanrth Head  ST191337191
Interestingly at this beach spring Platyhypnidium riparioides occurs from several meters up the cascade to almost ground level and the lower part  must have been submerged during the ‘super tide’ on Saturday 21st Feb 2015.

After popping over to meet George this week, one thought that crossed my mind, after we devoured a Tunnocks ‘Snowball’,  was that if detailed elevation data (cm accuracy) were collected for these coastal species that occur at the base of cliffs, then it should be possible to compare to tidal data - and thus work out the duration of time they can withstand inundation by sea water..........but that’s a whole other weekend project !!!

Gareth Farr with help and encouragement from George Tordoff

Mini Brachythecium

I found a large patch of Brachythecium populeum on a Hazel branch at Carmel today on which all of the sporophytes were half the size of the usual ones on that species.  The leaves etc were relatively small too.  I did wonder whether it might be Rhynchostegiella litorea, but the unbeaked capsule indicates it isn't.  Very odd!

Cefn Bryn

Grimmia trichophylla low-right on rock
As it was a beautiful morning and the forecast is rubbish for the weekend, I took Alfie for a stroll over that part of Cefn Bryn within SS49V. The square already had 81 species logged, but I've always wanted to look in the small ORS quarry at SS49759012 along with the sparse scattering of rocks on the common in the hope of finding Hedwigia. During our perambulation I failed to find any Hedwigia, but did manage to take the square total to 99. The quarry had more Ptilidium ciliare above-left than I’ve seen anywhere else in Gower, but little else of note. Other species of interest on the open common included a single small colony of Grimmia trichophylla above-right (I’ll check my sample for lisae over the weekend), Pleuridium acuminatum below top-right, Microlejeuna ulicina growing though a small cushion of Cephaloziella divaricata below top-left on an ORS quartz conglomerate rock and Kurzia pauciflora bottom left & right (Bristly Fingerwort!) growing with Odontoschisma sphagni on Sphagnum papillosum. A brick bunker on the common added a good selection of wall calcicoles.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Sphagnum quinquefarium (Five-ranked Bog-moss)

Sphagnum quinquefarium in Mellte Valley (Brecs)

A fascinating Sphagnum that grows in Sessile Oak woodland with species like Dicranum majus, Plagiothecium undulatum and Rhytidiadelphus loreus. It likes well drained sites, so the steep woodland in the Mellte Valley is ideal and a good place to see it is on the eastern side of the river near the old gunpowder works.There's lots of S. fimbriatum there too, but side by side the differences between these two Acutifolia Sphagnums are striking. People with 'normal' colour vision will be able to see the raspberry-pink tints in S. quinquefarium. Also the fascicle structure with 3 spreading branches is more or less unique for British Acutifolia. Up close, the straight, angular (5-ranked) structure of the branches in the vicinity of the capitulum, is obvious.

Capitula and branches of Sphagnum quinquefarium (Mellte Valley)

I think I'm right in saying that the only (well) known population of S. quinquefarium in Glamorgan is in the steep oak woodland on the Glamorgan side of the River Pyrddin, near Scwd Gwladys. There must be other suitable sites elsewhere in the county, so it's worth keeping an eye open for it.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Orthotrichum cupulatum (in North Wales)

A meeting in Bangor only left me with a few spare minutes to poke around for bryophytes, so I was pleased to encounter Orthotrichum cupulatum for the first time. It was growing on a wall top near the pier, alongside O. anomalum - and looking strikingly different from it with the much shorter setae. Shame I didn't have a camera as it would have made for a nice comparison of the two species.

I guess it's now time to start looking for this species down here, as well as those other Orthotrichum species which can only be confidently identified in the spring.

Orthotrichum cupulatum
Orthotrichum cupulatum capsule

A quarry at Stormy Down

A survey of one of the Limestone quarries at Stormy Down proved to be reasonably productive today. The Weissia-like acrocarp shown below has me puzzled though: The leaf margins are largely plane, though a few are slightly in-rolled towards the tips; the leaves become in-rolled and very crisped on drying; some patches produce abundant, long, reddish, slightly wavy setae with un-inflated capsules in early development; the leaf cells are papillose and the basal cells are larger and hyaline; the strong orangey-tinged costa ends just below the leaf tip; grows as somewhat loose, sometimes extensive patches, growing along with Leiocolea badensis, Dicranella varia and Didymodon fallax, all of which were locally abundant and characterised the damp, clayey, lime-rich soil on the quarry floor. Other frequent calcicoles noted included Aliona aloides, Aneura pinguis, Trichostomum crispulum and Gymnostomum viridulum, the latter being remarkably abundant on the soil slopes all around the lower edges of the quarry walls. A few patches of Preissia quadrata were also noted on the quarry floor.

Below left; Patches of  Leiocolea badensis frequent on the quarry floor. Below right; Gymnostomum viridulum frequent on slopes all around the edges of the quarry floor.

Below; Gymnostomum viridulum, Sedum sexangulare (doing well!) and Preissia quadrata.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Didymodon insulanus fruiting

I found another rare fruiter, D. insulanus, with young sporophytes on the Taff riverbank last week. It was growing on a small area of red sandstone below Llandaff Weir with D. luridus, D. sinuosus, Barbula unguiculata and Bryum dichotomum.

It looks spot on for insulanus microscopically but if anyone thinks it's something else please let me know!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Loch Sunart

During our trip to Scotland last week I was only able to squeeze in a little bit of bryologising. An hour and half in one of the famous ravines at Loch Sunart was quite a special experience even though it was pouring down, as it was most of our trip. I have a modest selection of unrecognised samples to go through, but it was good to see at least one instantly recognisable species - Herbertus aduncus (Juniper Prongwort).

Also scattered shoots of Anastrepta orcadensis (Orkney Notchwort) were found growing amongst the clumps of Herbertus aduncus.

Lots of Mylia taylorii (Taylor's Flapwort), most frequent on trees bases.

Odontoschisma denudatum (Matchstick Flapwort), locally frequent on decorticated logs.

Encalypta streptocarpa fruiting

I have only seen Encalypta streptocarpa fruiting once before - on a wall in the western Valleys of Glamorgan a couple of years ago.  Today I found this patch, with old setae, in the quarry in Carmel NNR.  As far as I'm aware this is the first time this common species has been seen fruiting in Carms.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Coscinodon cribrosus (in Cornwall)

Walking along a coastal cliff top in north Cornwall at the weekend, the photo of Coscinodon in Sam's Pembs flora suddenly popped into my head. The loose slaty rocks looked just right for it. Sure enough, a few minutes further along the coast, there were numerous cushions of Coscinodon in a small area covering a few square metres. I didn't see any more after that, but I'm sure it would have been present further down the slumping cliffs.

Coscinodon cribrosus cushions
Coscinodon cribrosus with rather short hair points
David Holyoak's Cornish bryophyte atlas shows only 6 tetrads for this species,but the known distribution includes SX1395 where I happened to be walking. A nice new species for me anyway.

Dulais Valley

Barry's excellent record of Jubula hutchinsiae in the lower Dulais Valley a few weeks ago reaffirmed for me the potential importance of this largely unknown area of NPT. Unfortunately, much of this long valley is flanked by private land and difficult to access. Even where access is possible, navigation is tricky. One stretch of the river at Cefn Coed (near Crynant) provides opportunities for a small amount of exploration. A riverside oak tree here has an interesting assemblage of epiphytes which includes Lejeunea lamacerina and Heterocladium heteropterum. Scattered among the Lejeunea there is a larger liverwort which looks like Jamesoniella autumnalis to me (photos below). Although J. autumnalis is often associated with decaying logs, it does grow on standing oaks in humid valleys (e.g. Nedd Fechan Valley, Brecs). For absolute confirmation I would have liked to have seen some perianths, which I couldn't find. Unfortunately, vegetative J. autumnalis is a bit nondescript and resembles some other liverworts, particularly Jungermannia (or even Saccogyna). The habitat probably rules out Jungermannia and the alternating leaf arrangements looks wrong for Saccogyna (and there are no underleaves). But I might be missing something obvious. Comments appreciated.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Lophocolea bispinosa in RCT

Lophocolea bispinosa, forestry road verge RCT

Lophocolea bispinosa (as above)

Quite a bit of this along a forestry track (SS 9226/9739) in RCT, where there is still significant snow in places. Not new for VC41 (earlier records by Sam and Barry), but new for RCT and a new hectad record (SS99) - I think! Well known to most of you no doubt, but it's a new species for me. In the vicinity, a small colony of Lycopodium clavatum was also spotted by 'my companion'. Willows along the road had the usual common epiphytes, including Colura. Yesterday's recording brings the tetrad (SS99I) to approx. 50 bryophyte spp., but there's more to find I'm sure  Also recorded in this tetrad (but not by us) - Cryptogramma cispa, Dryopteris oreades and Hymenophyllum wilsonii, so it's got some nice stuff.
Today in the Afan Valley Loeskeobryum brevirostre (4th record for NPT) and Didymodon sinuosus were added to the Country Park (Afan Argoed) species list. 

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Another Ditrichum gracile population in a forestry road verge

 Ditrichum gracile  in calcareous gravel of forestry road verge

After Barry's description of the calcicole community on the west side of Mynydd Aberdare, I commented on the occurrence of Ditrichum gracile as a 'nice record for a forestry road verge'. Well, here it is again in a gravelly verge in a very similar community in Japanese Larch plantation near Banwen.

Ditrichum gracile (Banwen) with long silky leaves

The community also included Didymodon ferrugineus, D. fallax, Ctenidium molluscum and Trichostomum crispulum. Other calcicoles that occur in similar verges elsewhere in NPT include Campyliadelphus chrysophyllus, Distichium inclinatum, Encalypta streptocarpa and Jungermannia atrovirens.
The Ditrichum here forms dense turfs in places, so I looked at it closely, particularly in view of recent postings. The occurrence of an obvious tomentum (relatively dense on some shoots) encouraged me to take some specimens back for closer inspection.

 Rhizoids on lower part of D. gracile stem

However, leaf length and general morphology clearly point to gracile, as does the absence of short-leaved, deciduous branches (see Sam's post on 30/1/15). Also, when dry, the long leaves become distinctly flexuose and twist around each other at the tip. This may be a much more reliable character for gracile than the density of the tomentum, which looks like a  more plastic, phenotypic character.

Dry, flexuose and twisted leaves of D. gracile

But this also lends weight to Sam's comments regarding the occurrence of intermediate forms and safety of the split between gracile and flexicaule

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Glamorgan Tetrad update

I received George's records today, so thought an updated tetrad map might be of interest/help. Note that Sam's 2013 and 2014 data have still yet to be added; Dave Slade informs me that he is hoping to do this next week, so I'm sure there will be nice a selection of high scoring additions to come.
The winter has seen slow but steady progress since the last update in October, but there's still bags of virgin territory to explore and enjoy, especially so in the east. I can see the darker shades have spread in and around Cardiff as George has cast his net further afield and the NPT block solidifies and darkens further with the continuance of Charles and Hilary's monumental efforts. It's also worth mentioning the addition of Peter's (Sturgess) records, which have erased many of the 0 squares in the south-east of the county and welcome him to the blog. I'm still trying to plug away at SN60, which is now half done and I've filled in some of the gaps around Swansea's urban fringe and on the peninsula. Finally you may notice that a lot of squares have lost one or two taxa; this is mainly the a result of a database tidy up which has removed many of the duplicate bi/trinomial discrepancies.

Llandaff Didymodon umbrosus

For ref., here are some of the images that I have of my spec., hopefully of some use in your search George. They were collected about 1m from the ground on the north-facing wall of the cathedral ST15587812. As I had no idea what it was when I collected it I never took any site shots.