Sunday, 17 July 2016

Hard as Flint(shire)

Two days mapping calcicolous grasslands in NE Wales gave me a brief opportunity to record in Flintshire, Wales' most bryologically unknown Vice-county.  My calcicolous survey site was just across the boundary in Denbighshire, and it produced a good range of scarcities including Riccia subbifurca (new for VC50), Encalypta vulgaris, Ditrichum flexicaule, Orthothecium intricatum, a non-fruiting limestone Seligeria, and a Tortella that keys to T. densa but is perhaps just a form of T. tortuosa.

This Tortella has an almost epapillose adaxial side of the nerve and scarcely undulate leaves,
but the spiralling leaf arrangement doesn't fit the continental interpretation of Tortella densa
The same thing is found at scattered sites in NW Britain, eg on Rhum.

Two conifer plantations seemed to offer the best chance of new county records for Flintshire, as the county lacked any record of such common species as Marsupella emarginata, Racomitrium heterostichum and Ulota phyllantha.  It still lacks the first two, but I succeeded on the epiphyte front with U. phyllantha at Nercwys Mountain, and then U. phyllantha, Orthotrichum striatum, Metzgeria consanguinea and Pylaisia polyantha (all new for VC51) at Gwernto Plantation.  Nercwys Mountain also produced the first Flintshire records of Lophozia incisa on a path and Sphagnum girgensohnii on an anonymous peaty bank.

This is where Sphagnum girgensohnii grew - thoroughly unremarkable!

Highlight of the trip was rather unexpected.  I collected an abundantly fruiting Bryum from the tennis court at my accommodation (Soughton Hall had a half-price offer; I wouldn't normally stay somewhere so posh!), and microscope checking showed it to be Bryum creberrimum: a Nationally Scarce (if under-recorded) moss that was new for Flintshire and also for me!

Two photos of the endostome of Bryum creberrimum: one showing wide holes in the endostome teeth
and the other showing apendiculate cilia 
Flintshire didn't produce the bonanza of new county records I had hoped.  There's more to be added, but it's going to be hard (as flint).

Friday, 8 July 2016

Maen Llia Leucodon

I was surveying near Ystradfellte on Wednesday and couldn't resist a quick visit to the famous Leucodon sciuroides colony which grows on the Maen Llia standing stone. I was impressed by the quantity of Leucodon on both sides of the stone, growing with a range of calcicoles (I didn't have a lens or take any samples - but I assume the assemblage has been well recorded by Graham and Sam in any case).

The most striking thing is that this scarce moss survives in one of the bleakest, most 'sheepwrecked' parts of the Beacons - apart from the odd hawthorn there was barely a tree in site.

I only had my cheapo work camera so the photos aren't the best - I'm sure some of you have better ones! The Leucodon stands out as the dark patches among the paler green of Homalothecium sericeum. It would be fascinating to accurately map the distribution of the mosses on the stone to see how they change over time (maybe old photos of the stone would help with this?).
East face
West face

Monday, 4 July 2016

Tremadog rocks

An evening walk after bog surveying near Porthmadog finally gave me the chance to explore the amazing cliffs and hanging woodlands above Tremadog.  I only scratched the surface of this extensive area, and I'm sure there's plenty more to be found.  Most of the time I was up on the open, sunny clifftop rocks, where Campylopus pilifer and Hedwigia integrifolia were surprisingly common.  The former grows in dense cushions in rock crevices and its thick shoots are reassuringly different to the common C. introflexus, whilst the latter sprawls on sunny rocks and its lack of hairpoints is immediately different to H. stellata.

One area held extensive patches of a sprawling Racomitrium with very short hairpoints.  This was growing close to typical, hoary R. heterostichum and looked incredibly different, yet they are treated as a single species in the Census Catalogue!  Also nearby was muticous (pointless) R. obtusum, which is again treated as part of R. heterostichum in Britain.  The short-pointed, narrow-leaved plant is Racomitrium obtusifolium f. trichophorum, which I discussed in The Mosses and Liverworts of Pembrokeshire.  I have now found it in several places on coastal tors in Wales, from Pembrokeshire to Harlech and Tremadog, but never inland.  There seems to be a pattern developing in records of this distinctive-looking moss...

A scramble down into the upper part of the woodland above the Hospital revealed abundant Frullania fragilifolia and Plagiochila bifaria as well as some Marchesinia mackaii.  A large lichen on a boulder may well be the uncommon Cetrelia olivetorum, which may well be new for the site (already known to hold a good example of The Lobarion).  There are still vast explored and potentially bryophyte-rich habitat in the Tremadog area, as well as past generations' rarities to be rediscovered (some localities were kept secret and subsequently slipped out of bryologists' knowledge).  Oh to return!

Encalypta vs Tortula

I see your excurrent green Tortula nerve, George, and raise one of my own.  This is from an Encalypta 'vulgaris' on the limestone of Creigiau Eglwyseg in Denbighshire from a couple of weeks ago.  However, the Floras say that E. vulgaris has the nerve ending in the leaf tip and Tom Blockeel recently published the occurrence of the excurrent-nerved E. pilifera in Britain (including a collection of mine from the NE Wales limestone).  The costa of E. pilifera is usually much longer than this, but the lingulate leaf shape also points to that species.  I am puzzled!

Kew Gardens

We had a family outing to Kew Gardens on 26th June. I managed to resist the temptation to take any samples from the luxuriant bryophytes growing in the glass houses, reasoning that I'd have little chance of identifying any of them. I did make a small concession to bryology by taking a sample of a small acrocarp from damp stonework in the gardens, scraping it off using my fingernail.

Under the microcope the sample proved to be a mix of two species: young plants of Tortula marginata and T. muralis. The difference between the short, greenish hairpoint of marginata and the long, colourless hairpoint of muralis was quite striking, but otherwise the two looked similar - apart from the elongate, incrassate marginal cells of marginata, visible under high power (photos below).

The Atlas map suggests marginata is a widespread species in south-eastern England, but the only South Wales records away from the borders seem to be two from southern Pembrokeshire and one from Kenfig Castle - two of these records being made by Sam. One for me to look out for in Cardiff I suppose...Llandaff Cathedral might be a good bet.

Phaeoceros laevis revisited

The garden hornwort reported HERE over a month back from Cwmdulais was fully mature and liberating its spores nicely last week, the contrasting dark light part of the 'horns' being particularly conspicuous, so worth keeping an eye open in any suitable locations.