Sunday, 30 October 2016

Sematophyllum substrumulosum season

I stopped to check a pile of decaying conifer logs in some very ordinary mixed woodland 2km west of Dingestow this afternoon and found some nice ripe Sematophyllum substrumulosum.  Try as I might I couldn't get the camera to focus properly on it.  Still, it's clearly the season to check local plantations for this increasing moss.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Glamorgan tetrad map update

It seems timely for a tetrad update as I have just received a sync file from Charles, plus it includes George's data up to a month or so back. I have now highlighted in blue the 30 boundary squares considered to have received an acceptable level of coverage, which when added the those with a minimum of 60 species, totals 333 'completed' tetrads. This equates to 54% of the 615 Glamorgan tetrads, so we're now over half way!

In addition to the updated map is the last map I posted in May, plus a map from one year ago, so the additions can be viewed more clearly when flicking between maps. You may notice some of the boundary squares have disappeared altogether - this was done after carefully checking the vc41 boundary overlay on the Grab a Grid Reference website (use the 'Toggle Vice-County' option below the left hand map to check any boundaries you're uncertain of).

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Lower Mellte Lower Hepste

Graham and I have agreed that we really must finalise our evaluation of the bryophytes of Coedydd Nedd a Mellte this winter, as we have been adding records for over 15 years now.  There are still several areas that we haven't searched, and so it was with high hopes that I set off upstream from the Craig y Ddinas carpark towards the Hepste confluence this morning.  The Mellte has been surveyed under contracts for the BBNPA by both Martha Newton and Nick Hodgetts, but there were no records of notable species from the east bank downstream of the Hepste for at least 1km.  The habitat looked pretty good, with bouldery reaches reminiscent of Eryri, and plenty of low cliffs, but a general paucity of waterfalls.

The only medium-sized falls below the confluence was edged with Anastrophyllum hellerianum oaks, but there were no Ash in its mist zone and no interesting Lejeuneaceae.  Rock shelves on a sharp bend in the river held Grimmia hartmanii and Scapania subalpina, and there were several logs with Cephalozia catenulata and Riccardia palmata.  An oak overhanging another low waterfall supported the only Jamesoniella autumnalis I saw during the day, and sphagna on the woodland slopes had me puzzling because none seemed to fit Sphangnum quinquefarium (just S. fimbriatum, S. subnitens and I hope S. russowii, but I have bits to check).

I turned into the Hepste relatively late in the day, so only had time to work upstream to the first pair of waterfalls.  These were pretty splendid, but again lacked small Lejeuneaceae.  The base of the waterfall cliff appeared to be Carboniferous Limestone, complete with a colony of Seligeria cf. donniana (fruiting, to be checked) and some Neckera crispa.  The ravine around the upper falls held a nice patch of Hymenophyllum tunbrigense, perhaps previously unknown, whilst a crevice near the lower falls had scattered patches of Killarney Fern gametophyte over a 20x20cm area.  The fungus Macrotyphula juncea was growing out of some damp leaves, and I also saw what I think is Cortinarius cinnabarinus among the Rhytidiadelphus loreus in steep woodland.  At the west end of the valley there was a log covered with liverworts, including abundant Lophozia incisa.


A long trudge back past Cilhepste revealed a tuft of Colura on birch on the edge of the woodland/plantation, as well as some lovely growths of various Usnea species.


Sometimes one builds a day up too much and ends up disappointed: this was a good day out by almost any standards, but the Nedd-fechan left me expecting excitements every time!

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Leucobryum juniperoideum in conifer forests - again

Scots Pine plantation, Ton Mawr

This is the 3rd record for L. juniperoideum in a conifer forest in almost as many weeks, this time in a Scots Pine plantation in Ton Mawr, and I'm getting the impression that it may be widely distributed in our plantations. It never seems to be plentiful and it is easy to miss among the huge amounts of Pseudotaxiphyllum elegans that it often grows with. Goodness knows how much of it we miss, but as is often the case, once you know something is possible it sharpens your eyes.

Leucobryum juniperoideum, Scots Pine plantation, Ton Mawr

Also of interest was a small amount of Crepidotus epibryus, which you might expect to be associated with bryophytes, but rarely is. It's fairly small (<1cm), white and very furry - virtually unmistakable.

Crepidotus epibryus (upside down) on Bramble, Ton Mawr

And a nice group of Inocybe fuscidula var. fuscidula, a very common Fibre Cap which is rarely recorded - the cafe-au-lait coloured cap is a good clue.

Inocybe fuscidula var. fuscidula, Ton Mawr

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Bryum query

Update to the post below: The plants look to be synoicous to me (I presume the larger maggot-shaped structures are empty antheridia, which are intermixed with archegonia among the paraphyses). The process perforations and spore size (avge. size ~ 14μm) point to creberrimum. Unfortunately there was only a single mature capsule in my sample, which was discarded after dissecting, though there are a good few young sporophytes available. As it would be a new VCR if confirmed, any advice on what to do with my sample (i.e. grow it on or package it, etc.?) would be welcome.

The pseudo-slacks on Margam Tip continue to develop and last week I collected a sample I've struggled to identify. If anyone can offer opinion/assistance I'd be very grateful. Clues as follows:


Field appearance of shoots, young and matures sporophytes...

Microscope details (smallest tick marks = 25μm, 10μm & 2.5μm)...

Also of interest were lots of Ophrydium versatile colonies in the ponds. I'd be interested if others see these very often as it's a species not on the NBN?

Colura in SE Wales

Once upon a time... not so long ago... I got very excited about Colura.  Back in 2001 there were just two records of this species from south Wales: one made by the BBS in Hensol Forest in the late 20th century and one by Martha Newton in the Nedd-fechan valley in ca. 2000.  Graham and I paid homage to Martha's colony in summer 2001, and we were really impressed that such a tiny, rare, beautiful thing could really be in south Wales (and that someone could actually find it).  Then in August 2001, to my amazement, I spotted some tufts of Colura on 2 Ash trunks in the Yew Tree Wood near Dingestow.  I phoned Graham, incoherent with excitement, astonished that such a rare liverwort could be here.

Fast forward to 2016, and the situation has changed completely.  In 2002/03 I started bryo recording in Brechfa Forest, discovering vast colonies of Colura on willows in the conifer plantations there.  It proved to be widespread, and more or less ubiquitous in the upland-edge plantations of Wales, as Charles and Hilary are ably demonstrating in Neath - Port Talbot.  However, it remains pretty scarce in Monmouthshire, and I have only seen it in VC35 on three occasions since that exciting day in 2001: twice in the west and once in the east.  Graham asked me a couple of days ago whether it's still in the Yew Tree Wood, and I didn't know.  Sure enough, it is - I revisited the site yesterday lunchtime and found Colura on several Ash trunks in the original area, alongside loads of Cololejeunea minutissima, Radula complanata and Metzgeria spp., plus a patch of Lejeunea cavifolia.

This rambling tale is a way of letting relative newcomers to bryology know how much things have changed, even during my bryological career!

Steel works spoil

Last week I took a quick look at a zinc spoil tip in the Port Talbot works (SS768872). Unfortunately I wasn’t permitted to go onto the tip itself, so was restricted to searching around just one small area alongside the road. There was no sign of the hoped for Scopelophila, nor any other metallophytes, and the list of species recorded (see below) was fairly mundane and indiacted the section I looked at [made up of powdery black dust] was not contaminated. There are plenty other tips of various types scattered throughout the works, so it seems feasible that a Scopelophila colony could still be awaiting discovery. Search opportunities are likely to be limited, but I’ll keep on trying whenever a chance presents itself.

Spoil tip edge species in decreasing level of abundance:
Ceratodon purpureus
Barbula convoluta var. convoluta
Barbula convoluta var. sardoa
Pseudocrossidium hornschuchianum
Didymodon fallax
Tortula muralis
Drepanocladus aduncus
Brachythecium albicans
Didymodon tophaceus
Amblystegium serpens var. serpens
Cratoneuron filicinum
Syntrichia ruralis var. ruraliformis
Funaria hygrometrica

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Nedd-fechan - the Atlantic valley that just keeps giving!

I returned to the Nedd-fechan on 20th October, a month and a half after my previous visit when Aphanolejeunea and Kurzia trichoclados were discovered new for Breconshire.  This time I was joined by Graham Motley, as we were meeting John Douglass to discuss his lichen survey of the Coedydd Nedd a Mellte SAC.  We gathered at the confluence of the Nedd-fechan and Pyrddin, and started our day by searching the north (VC42) bank of the Pyrddin as far as Sgwd Gwladus.  Actually this wasn't quite the start of recording, as I had spotted Aphanolejeunea on an oak in the middle of the path (the 2nd record for VC41) and Graham had pointed out Plagiochila bifaria on the same tree.  This reminded us of our previous visit to the Pyrddin, when we found Aphanolejeunea new for Glamorgan and South Wales in the mist zone of Sgwd Gwladus.  Little did we know what was to follow...
Having met up with John, we proceeded upstream along the Pyrddin.  Pretty soon we reached the first, low waterfall, where Graham found a few patches of Aphanolejeunea on a Sycamore.  As we approached the big waterfall there was more and more of this Hyperoceanic liverwort - 10 to 20 patches on most of the Ash trunks overhanging the river - whilst a few more acid trunks held Anastrophyllum hellerianum.  The Pyrddin is clearly now ideal for Aphanolejeunea, despite this being the southernmost locality for the species in Britain.  There is no way of telling whether it has increased recently because there is no indication that anybody has searched those riverside trees in detail before.  The valley below Sgwd Gwladus is deep, and the algae, liverworts and lichens on the tree trunks looked pretty well hydrated.

Aphanolejeunea microscopica forming a bright yellow-green patch
alongside larger Lejeunea and Lophocolea

There was more to come.  After lunch, we headed up the Nedd-fechan towards Nant-y-llechau: on the opposite bank to where I found last month's Aphanolejeunea and Plagiochila exigua.  We descended just upstream of the first waterfall, finding an Oak with Plagiochila bifaria on the way down.  Again the riverside Ash trees were covered with algae, lichens and Lejeunea, and pretty soon I spotted the species we had been discussing all day: Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia new for Breconshire.  There was a good lot of it - at least 20 small patches with perianths and male bracts, on the twin trunks of a young ash on the riverbank.  While I was admiring this colony, Graham wandered downstream a few yards and found Aphanolejeunea and Plagiochila exigua on another slender Ash.  Along with last month's finds, this is clearly a major hotspot for oceanic bryophytes.

Microscope pic of Drepanolejeunea (sorry, I forgot my camera in the field), and the adjacent 'lejeunea trees

Coedydd Nedd a Mellte SAC keeps producing new oceanic liverworts 15 years after Graham and I first visited, and I am sure there is more to find because several sections have never been searched.  It really is an astonishingly special place.  Our next trip will be to the central Mellte, upstream from the area where several bryologists searched in the spring; and then there's the Hepste near Sgwd yr Eira, last visited by us in 2001; and the Sgwd Clun-gwyn area, which has been visited several times but never with mist zones in mind; and Sgwd y Pannwr, and Pont Rhyd-y-cnau, and doubtless other places.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Watch House Point Cliff revisited

Southbya tophacea is now well documented on this blog, thanks largely to Gareth and Hannah's efforts. However, as we were at East Aberthaw on the weekend, homage was paid to the tufa cliff first shown to me by Julian Woodman five years ago. On my previous visit no associates were recorded, so after a little photography I noted the following direct associates, listed in decreasing levels of abundance: Eucladium verticillatum, Didymodon tophaceus, Leiocolea turbinata, Cratoneuron filicinum, Trichostomum crispulum Gyroweisia tenuis. No doubt other species are present, but perhaps the most noteworthy species was the Gyroweisia, which I was fairly confident with in the field despite being lime-encrusted. However, a small sample was collected for checking and photos below show shoots in situ, then before and after clearing with vinegar).

male Leiocolea turbinata
Adiantum capillus-veneris looking good too

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Sunset bryologising

Yesterday evening, whilst photographing the sunset from the artificial promontory of Salthouse Point slipway (SS52349582), I came across a colony of what appears to be Syntrichia montana. var. calva. Scattered tufts were locally frequent amongst patchy, moss-rich vegetation growing on Limestone gravel and I estimated the colony extended over an area approximately 10m x 10m, though no other areas were looked at. From what I could make out in the gloom, S. ruralis var. ruraliformis was more abundant (or possibly just more conspicuous) in the community and there looked to be a little S. r. var. ruralis for good measure. Confusingly, there were also a few shoots of intermediate types, so I'm not quite sure exactly what is going on out there! I'll try and get out in better light at some point to try and sort out the Syntrichia taxa at this interesting little site.

There is one other record of Syntrichia montana. var. calva in Wales, a short account of which can be viewed HERE