Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Kenfig slacks

The slacks at Kenfig are remarkably dry for the time of year, in fact chatting to Dave Carrington, he said he couldn't remember conditions being so dry during January in all his time at the reserve. I joined him while he checked a few dip-wells which showed the water level was still 50-60cm below the surface. Despite the low water levels, there has clearly been enough humidity in the slacks to allow the pleurocarps to flourish and there were some lovely patches of well-grown Pseudocalliergon lycopodioides (above, top 3 and below, top 2 photos) and Drepanocladus sendtneri  (above, 4th and below 3rd photo) amongst the sea of Calliergonella cuspidata.

Under the adjacent scrub I was surprised to find Mnium stellare was locally frequent on several steep dune banks.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Hornwort success!

On Friday I made a third visit to the Ty-du arable fields at Capel Llanilltern, but much to my frustration the Phaeoceros rosettes still hadn't produced any horns. There were plenty of horns on the scattered plants of Anthoceros agrestis, but the many Phaeoceros plants were either sterile or else had male organs only. However, there were some clear differences between the plants and I suspect both Phaeoceros species are present. There were some completely sterile rosettes (top left photo) and some with dense male organs (top right); I suspect these are female and male plants of the dioecious P. laevis. There were also plants with more scattered male organs (bottom left and right photos), like the ones I photographed on my previous visit and which Sam thought might be P. carolinianus. I've brought a few rosettes home to incubate in the hope of coaxing these slow developers into producing horns!

George - your bottom-left photo has at least one young archegonium, appearing as a small lump.  I have annotated it, as well as a couple of antheridial pits on the same thallus.  It is P. carolinianus, whilst the first two photos are indeed male and female P. laevis.

All this left me only 45 minutes to poke around in St David's Churchyard at Groes-faen (ST071808). The only species of note among the 37 taxa recorded was Gyroweisia tenuis, tiny plants of which were growing in crevices of the west-facing wall of the church. Photos below - I hope others agree with the diagnosis as it's not a species I'm familiar with. The leaf tips varied in their bluntness between plants, but were mostly quite rounded.

The visit boosted the tetrad total (ST08Q) from 56 to 69 taxa.

Swamp Cypress epiphytes in Gorseinon

Alfie's walk (in fact barely a shuffle these days) in the rain today was along a line of trees on Miller's Drive, which I think are Taxodium distichum (but could be Metasequoia glyptostroboides - I'll check one day). The trunks were exceptionally mossy for such a new and exposed location and included a few species you wouldn't normally expect to find on bark. I only checked a handful of trees, so I'll be back another day to see if I can add to this mildly intriguing list...
Bryum capillare
Ceratodon purpureus
Cololejeunea minutissima
Cryphaea heteromalla
Frullania dilatata
Hypnum andoi
Metzgeria furcata
Orthotrichum affine
Orthotrichum diaphanum
Orthotrichum pulchellum
Orthotrichum stramineum
Rhynchostegiella tenella
Syntrichia laevipila
Syntrichia cf. montana (bottom photo - unless laevipila can be this spiny? the rosettes looked different too, so throwing this one out for opinion really)
Syntrichia papillosa
Syntrichia ruralis var. ruralis (small and a bit odd looking, see middle pics below, so happy to be corrected)
Tortula muralis
Ulota phyllantha
Zygodon conoideus

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Colura in Caerphilly

A few miscellaneous records at today's failed Red-flanked Bluetail twitch included small tufts of Colura growing on this spindley willow in a gloomy Sitka plantation ride at Wernddu (ST17188570). Not terribly significant in a Glamorgan context, but new for ST18.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Homage in the Hepste

It's nearly 18 years since Graham and I visited Sgwd yr Eira to pay homage to the southernmost British population of Sphenolobopsis pearsonii - found by Martha Newton in 1994 and 'twitched' by us in 1999.  We were glad to see that this Nationally Scarce liverwort is still present on one rockface (we assume it's the same one where Martha found it, though we haven't yet checked), but were worried to see that most of the patch looks moribund.

On our way to the Sphenolobopsis we searched the ravine downstream - where Plagiochila bifaria was present in a classic mist-zone location - and some south-facing cliffs where putative Ctenidium molluscum var robustum (or perhaps var condensatum) grew close to var molluscum and looked convincingly different (if un-nameable).  Nearby there was some Dicranum montanum on a log.

Then we reached Sgwd yr Eira, with its classic walk-behind waterfall and extensive mist zone.  Most Ash trunks were plastered with algae - too humid for anything else perhaps - but eventually we found some Plagiochila exigua at the base of an Ash.  Unlike the small Lejeuneaceae this species lacks propagules, so it's a sure-fire indicator of long-term Atlantic bryophyte richness in the valley.

The first stretch upstream of Sgwd yr Eira was a bit dull, but frequent Anastrophyllum hellerianum on logs and a few patches of Filmy Ferns kept us going until we reached a set of low cascades.  At long last there was some Aphanolejeunea - 30+ patches on a Willow and 1 on a massive boulder - the first record for the Hepste-Mellte catchment.  Careful scrutiny revealed a single shoot of Drepanolejeunea growing alongside one Aphanolejeunea patch, but we couldn't find any more.

Happy with our lot we continued upstream in the fading light, where a yapa (Bolivian word for an added bonus) came in the form of Hygrobiella laxifolia on a riverside rock shelf.  The godfather of south Wales bryology HH Knight found this species in "Hepste Glen" in the early 20th century, but nobody had seen it since.  This was a fitting end to an outstanding final day of our Coedydd Nedd a Mellte survey!

Didymodon sinuosus oddities

I'm pretty familiar with Didymodon sinuosus now, and probably see it in the majority of tetrads I visit in SE Glamorgan, but have recently come across a couple of odd examples of what I think can only be this species.

The first was on limestone rubble in secondary woodland near Wenvoe garden centre on 22nd January. The plants were dry and shrivelled so I took a sample home to confirm the ID, and on moistening it became obvious that a couple of the older leaves had clusters of filamentous gemmae along the costa. I'm afraid the photos are not the best, see below.

I can't find any mention of gemmae in this species, except for a fairly recent reference to protonemal gemmae in Rare and Interesting No. 11. This reference also mentions that "Correns (1899) had reported gemmae from a Sussex plant in the late 1880s", but doesn't say whether these were protonemal or not. Has anyone else seen similar plants?

The following day, I collected a very shiny-leaved sample from Llanilid Churchyard. I didn't even suspect this was D. sinuosus, which is usually much more opaque-looking, but having checked it microscopically I think it must be. The leaf cells are not at all papillose, even near the leaf tips, but otherwise they look spot on for D. sinuosus with their wavy, notched margins. Smith mentions that the cells are papillose in this species, which fits with the opaque plants I'm faimilar with. I guess this is just natural variation; many of the Didymodon species seem to vary in the degree of 'papillosity' of their cells.

Any comments welcome, thanks.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

more odd moss on spoil

Today's lunchtime outing with Alfie was to another spoil site just up the road at Grovesend (SN597007). There were no odd-looking Fissidens, but the odd-looking Didymodon I reported last November (see here), growing on concrete bases not far from this site, was again locally abundant. The 'scope pic shows it alongside fallax and note the adaxial costal cells are predominantly square. The substrate this time was seasonally inundated, fine black spoil - other species present where it occurred would suggest mildly basic conditions. I think previously we cautiously concluded rigidulus provided the best fit, though the outcome was not completely satisfactory. I'll send a sample to Sam to see if can pin it down, but opinions are always welcome. The only other oddities were Homalothecium lutescens growing as an epiphyte on a Hawthorn trunk and what looked like a sterile, flat-leaved Weissia with the same habit as controversa var. densifolia? Other general interest was provided by male plants of Didymodon fallax (photo below) and some nice fruiting patches of Cephaloziella divaricata (bottom photo).