Monday, 30 November 2015

Riverside Anomodon

I usually associate Anomodon viticulosus with limestone, and it is certainly most abundant in VC35 on the Carboniferous Limestone of the lower Wye Valley and at lower altitudes around The Blorenge, but there are also plenty of colonies on riverside trees here.  I assume that this results from silt deposition, also favoured by Orthotrichum sprucei.

A riverside patch of Anomodon viticulosus, and the species' distribution in Monmouthshire, with riverine populations (ringed in yellow) on the Usk, Monnow and Trothy, and limestone populations (ringed in green) around the coalfield, in the Wye Valley and near Usk.

I saw a large patch of Anomodon on the base of a mature Sycamore by the River Usk just upstream of Newbridge-on-Usk on Saturday, during my first (very brief) bryo-recording walk of the season.  Orthotrichum sprucei was frequent, including on a Field Maple by the lane above the river (about 15m above the usual water level), and I also found a small population of O. rivulare (much rarer by the Usk than its relative).  Leskea and Syntrichia latifolia were abundant, but Plagiomnium rostratum was remarkably rare and I found no sign of Mnium marginatumM. stellare, Dialytrichia mucronata, Tortula subulata or Myrinia pulvinata (all present but rare alongside Monmouthshire's rivers).  I was also surprised not to spot any Hennediella stanfordensis.  It would be a very interesting project to compare south Wales' varied riverine bryophyte floras.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Onllwyn Coal Tips

 A few days ago, in dismal conditions, H and I spent an hour strolling around an area of reclaimed coal tip in Onllwyn (Dulais Valley). Coal tips often support ecological mosaics of calcifuge and calcicole plants and their physical and mineral characteristics are interesting. The Onllwyn bryophyte community was remarkable for its large proportion of base-loving species; e.g. Calliergonella lindbergii, Campyliadelphus chrysophyllus, Ctenidium molluscum, Didymodon ferrugineus, Ditrichum gracile, Encalypta streptocarpa, Fissidens adianthoides, Tortella tortuosa, Trichostomum crispulum. We also noted a nice patch of Climacium dendroides.

Calliergonella lindbergii

Campyliadelphus chrysophyllus
Climacium dendroides

We usually pick up Campyliadelphus chrysophyllus as scattered individuals along tracks (often associated with Didymodon ferrugineus), but here it was present in fairly dense patches. In fact, at first I wasn't sure whether it was Campyliadelphus or small Campylium protensum. The costa in Campyliadelphus leaves is really difficult (for me) to see in the field, but later microscopic observation confirmed it.
The steep, wooded side to the coal tip had a more eclectic, luxuriant pleurocarp mixture with Eurhynchium striatum, Hylocomium splendens, Loeskyobryum brevirostre, Pseudoscleropodium purum, Rhytiydiadelphus loreus and R. triquetrus, a fairly typical community for wood and scrub on reclaimed coal tips in NPT.
Coal tips are nitrogen deficient habitat. Their ecological remediation and reclamation often involves planting nitrogen-fixing  trees, shrubs and herbaceous species in order to enrich the soil with combined nitrogen, e.g. legumes such as clovers and Sainfoin and non-legumes like Alders and Sea Buckthorn. In the last few years research into the nitrogen input dynamics of northern boreal forests (also fairly nitrogen deficient ecosystems) has revealed fascinating associations between moss species such as Pleurozium schreberi and Hylocomium splendens and free-living cyanobacteria (e.g. Nostoc) in loose 'symbiotic' nitrogen-fixing relationships. In these relationships the N-fixing cyanobacteria do not appear to integrate themselves into the tissues of these mosses in the same way as they do in the cavities found in certain liverworts (e.g. Blasia pusilla) and hornworts (e.g. Anthoceros agrestis). The reason I mention this is because some of our moss collections from Onllwyn had significant amounts of free-living colonial cyanobacteria (probably Nostoc spp.) associated with them (see photo below of colony found intermingled with Ceratodon purpureus).

Filamentous cyanobacterial colony associated with Ceratodon purpureus

The colony in the photo contains lots of heterocysts, (the larger, colourless cells in the filaments), which is where N-fixation takes place in the colony. I'm sure that most of you have observed cyanobacterial colonies like this among your collections from time to time, so I thought that it might be of interest if we occasionally note species and habitats where such associations occur in South Wales. Other nitrogen deficient habitats where you might observe this are heathland (e.g among Pleurozium and Hylocomium), bogs (among Sphagnum spp.), tarmac, and perhaps epiphytic habitats.
To put this into perpesctive, the mineral nitrogen input from the moss-cyanobacteria associations into northern boreal ecosystems is at least equal to that which comes from the atmosphere -  it is a very significant contribution.  

Friday, 27 November 2015

Catching up with old friends

I did some riverbank recording alongside the Rhymney in eastern Cardiff (ST2282 and ST2281) last weekend. The tetrads in which these squares fall have hardly any Glamorgan records, but there might well be Monmouthshire records from the far bank.

It was the first river-side recording I've done this season, so it felt very much like catching up with old friends which I hadn't seen since last winter - Syntrichia latifolia, Homalia trichomanoides, Plagiomnium rostratum and Leskea polycarpa. I almost drew a blank on the latter species, but a single sycamore was completely plastered in it.

Although in character the habitats felt very much like those by the Taff, there were a couple of species missing which I encountered regularly there - Cinclidotus fontinaloides and Mnium marginatum (despite some silty bays which looked perfect for the latter species). In their place was plenty of Aneura pinguis, which I've not seen by the Taff. It will be interesting to see if this pattern is continued as I work further upstream on the Rhymney.

The field alongside the river had a grassy mound with some soil gaps - these held Phascum cuspidatum and Tortula modica.

Greater Pincushion

Widespread in upland areas of NPT where it occurs on exposed siliceous rock often with Racomitrium spp., e.g. R. fasciculare. My photos are also a bit ancient, but for what they're worth........

Ptychomitrium polyphyllum Glyncorrwg

Ptychomitrium polyphyllum, Abergwynfi

The short, pleated calyptras are a really neat feature. It is probably widespread above the enclosure line throughout the South Wales Coalfield, i.e. it should be as frequent in RCT as it is in NPT, but it may be absent or rare outside the Coalfield.  

Greater Pincushion in Glamorgan

I noticed some fine cushions of Ptychomitrium polyphyllum on a large boulder near where I parked the car at Rhos Common yesterday. Charles and Hilary have already recorded this species in the same monad, SN7907. It struck me that I've not seen this species on my (admittedly limited) upland surveys in NE Glamorgan, and the distribution map in my copy of MapMate seems to bear this out, with no dots in eastern RCT, Merthyr and Caerphilly, though there are plenty in upland NPT and Swansea.

Barry - any chance of a complete distribtion map for VC41 (I don't seem to have all the records in my system yet)? A photo would be nice too if you have one. It would also be interesting to see a VC35 map if you get chance Sam. Thanks.

My only photo of Ptychomitrium is a poor one of a tuft growing epiphytically on Poplar bark near the Ebbw Vale steelworks, about 15 years ago.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Rose-moss at Cwm Ivy Tor

When heading back after a bird count at Whiteford today I decided to take a quick look at the Rhodobryum roseum site at the base of Cwm Ivy Tor, where Veronica Shenston and myself first recorded it in 2011. Buoyed by the frequency of shoots in this area I thought I'd see how far up the tor the population extended. This small colony appeared to peter out fairly quickly as I headed up the slope, but just below the top of the tor it occurred abundantly on many of the grassy ledges shown in the photo above, even making up a significant part of the sward in places (photo below right is a close up of the area shown by the red penknife above SS4350594041). I was running late so I did not attempt an estimate, but there were possibly thousands of shoots along a 25m section of the ledge I walked.

North-west Gower is a bit of a hot spot for this species as Peter also found two sites at St Madoc's Christian Youth Camp in 2008 and 2009. All sites comprise well-drained, sandy soils around Limestone outcrops and are rabbit/sheep-grazed. The sites at Brandy Cove and Kenfig found by Sam now make it four post-2000 tetrads for Glamorgan.

Plenty of other interesting species and as always a few samples to check, but Porella platyphylla was very abundant on the outcrops with frequent Reboulia hemisphaerica on soil gaps.

Also on the walk back past the dune slack I saw a few good candidate Bryum warneum capsules and where the yellow dunes started there were some patches of Pleurochaete squarrosa growing amongst a carpet of Tortella flavovirens & Hypnum cupressiforme var. lacunosum. P. squarrosa is a good candidate for discovery in NPT Charles.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Bazzania trilobata near Taffs Well

An interesting discovery during a habitat survey on Monday was Bazzania trilobata near the Nant y Brynau stream, in old woodland between Cardiff and Caerphilly (ST140848). I've not seen this anywhere near Cardiff before so it seems like a good record. A good sized patch of it sprawling over mossy boulders for nearly 10m. Lots of other nice woodland bryophytes with it, Dicranum majus, Rhytidiadelphus loreus and a Lepidozia that seems much chunkier than the usual L.reptans, that I really ought to have another look at.
I've never posted anything on a blog before, so if anyone can read this then Barry's advice at the recorders forum was successful!

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Scapania subalpina query

Sam, I'm not sure if you saw the query in my previous post, so I've repeated it here:
I don't suppose you know who might have been working for Cresswell Associates in 2004, as I have a record of Scapania subalpina for this site [Tor Clawdd SN680052], which I came across when tallying the square? The list includes numerous lichens as well as other bryophytes requiring a good level of expertise. Oddly this was the only Scapania they recorded, neither compacta or nemorea (the two species I noted) appearing on their list.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Purple Pellia

This rather colourful Pellia epiphylla was growing along the sides of a upland gully at Tor Clawdd today. A common species but attractive nonetheless.

Tor Clawdd crags

A thin crust of soil on an acid sandstone craggy ledge was not where I would have expected to find Aulacomnium androgynum. The direct associates seemed a bit of an odd mix too, with Bryum capillare (with very rufifolium-like leaves) and Cynodontium bruntonii. This is the 7th Glamorgan tetrad but only the second of the new millennium, the majority of records being made in the period of 1950's - 1970's.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

The distinctive capsules of Pohlia elongata collected from a recess in the grassy slopes below the crags at Cwm Clydach (the Swansea one SN681051) yesterday. Now recorded from 5 tetrads in Glamorgan
The Glamorgan records make the sole Monmouthshire site - in the far west of VC35 - make good sense.


It was good to finally meet Charles - and to catch up with Barry, Mark and other folk I've not seen for a while - at the SEWBReC forum in Cardiff today. The talk on Glamorgan bryophytes seemed to go down well. The most surprising thing was the number of people who chatted to me afterwards and admitted to having tried to get into bryos in the past, but had found them tricky and hadn't looked at them for years. Several people even had an archive of samples from the past which they'd got stuck with. There are certainly people out there who are enthusiastic about bryo recording, if only they can be helped over those initial hurdles which mostly stem from lack of familiarity with the common species.

Afterwards I called in briefly at Cyncoed, a small urban woodland which gives its name to this district of Cardiff, and in fading light found some Diplophyllum albicans on a soil bank. This abundant acidophile seems to be largely absent from the capital; indeed, this is the first Cardiff record in my copy of MapMate.

George fyi (Barry)

Friday, 20 November 2015

Rivers Tawe & Clydach

Some pit-stop recording today helped fill in a few gaps and provided a few records of interest. Finding some real Mnium marginatum (photos above) on the silty banks of the Tawe has finally put me on the right track with this species. But just as one puzzle is solved another pops up ... this time some locally abundant Hygrohypnum growing on silty boulders in the River Clydach. I've been unable to find any trace of hyaline auricles, only pigmented incrassate alar cells which appear to have granular material within them. Given the habitat I was expecting it to be ochraceum, not luridum (any comments welcome on this, some ropey shots of sample leaves below). A final brief stop at a sandstone crag at Tor Clawdd produced some beautiful Pohlia elongata and Scapania compacta growing amongst Marsupella marginata var. marginata on a sunken boulder.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Mumbles car park revisited - and a lesson learned

Mnium stellare centre-slightly left showing up as a
pale greyish patch with twiggy bits sticking out
Just before getting back in the car after a welcome tea break at the Seaside Cafe by Mumbles Pier, I noticed a nice patch of what I thought was Mnium marginatum and I collected a small sample to double check at home. The main associate was M. stellare and what looked like scattered shoots of Amblystegium serpens, though under the microscope I was struck by the prominent dentate margins on many leaves and I was excited to read that Smith states dentate margins at the widest part of the leaf is the best way to separate Conardia compacta from A. serpens! Unfortunately there were no gemmae on the scrappy material in my small sample and the only rhizoids were arising from just below the leaf insertion point (none found on leaf backs, a Conardia feature). I'm suspecting this is probably just toothy A.s. rather than C.c. but any opinions welcome. I'll take a closer look next time we call in for a cuppa...

What I initially thought was Mnium marginatum, when later examined under the microscope, proved to be just the older shoots of M. stellare. The reddish shoots with elongate leaves and apparent borders (in fact just stained marginal cells) contrasted with the fresh pale green egg-shaped leaves of the new growth - lesson learned.
old M. stellare leaves with darkened marginal cells

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Scapania undulata

Although it's our commonest Scapania, I'm always amazed at how variable the appearance of undulata can be, as exemplified by these two plants from Coynant. The green gemmiferous form was as extreme as any material I've personally encountered and despite having strongly arched keels and a rather lax appearance I couldn't make it anything more exciting. This material was collected from one of Sphagnum squarrosum-dominated  flushes described in the previous post; the dark red material was growing abundantly nearby on a clay bank below a dripping overhang alongside the river.
The current Glamorgan distribution suggests the species is absent from the predominantly basic habitats of the Vale and South Gower. The list of species from the Coynant site suggests there was some mild basic influence, so it will be interesting to discover in time if it really is totally absent from the coastal zone.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Dulais Valley at Coynant

A rain-soaked walk through flushed pasture at SN650069 yesterday returned a modest selection of species of local interest including Aneura pinguis, Aulacomnium palustre, Brachythecium rivulare, Bryum pseudotriquetrum, Philonotis fontana, Riccardia chamedryfolia, Sarmentypnum exannulatum, Scapania irrigua, S. undulata, Sphagnum denticulatum, inundatum, squarrosum, subnitens (photo below) Straminergon stramineum.
Deep mounds of Nardia compressa (photo above) were abundant in the adjacent river and species of interest along the banks included Dichodontium palustre (photo above), Dicranella rufescens, Ditrichum heteromallum (photo above) & Entosthodon obtusus (photos below).
Note the bordered leaf margins, which rules out all other Entosthodon species with erect capsules.