Friday, 26 March 2021

Campylophyllum calcareum at Tongwynlais

 After a visit to the Chalk Carpet moth site at South View, Tongwynlais, to look at some potential management work, I had time to grab a few bryophyte samples before heading home. There are some nice limestone outcrops here, both sunny and shaded, and a good diversity of calcicoles are present, including Campyliadelphus chrysophyllus and Gymnostomum viridulum (the latter recorded here for the firsr time on the recent visit, though it is known from elsewhere in the tetrad). 

The last of my samples, taken from a large limestone block shaded by beech trees, looked a good match for Campylophyllum calcareum, with low-growing, densely branched patches and widely-spreading, often recurved leaves only around 0.5mm long. The denticulate margins of the lower part of the leaf, lack of a nerve, and general habit gave me confidence that I'd got the ID right, but I was grateful when Sam confirmed it from some images I sent him.

This nationally scarce species is known in Glamorgan from the Garth Wood / Coed-y-bedw area, just a mile or so west of the current location, where it was recorded most recently in 1985. It's good to know it is still a Glamorgan species - and perhaps there are more locations waiting to be found in the North Cardiff beechwoods.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Squirrel-tail mosses in Llandaff North

Last week proved to be rather an eventful one for finding scarce epiphytic mosses in urban Cardiff.

It started with a trip to my local Post Office on Gabalfa Avenue on Wednesday lunchtime. This falls within a different tetrad to my house and there were a few common species still missing from it, so I had a poke around after Post Office duties were complete. I was feeling pleased about adding Calliergonella cuspidata and Metzgeria violacea to the tetrad list, along with a few other things including Syntrichia virescens on a street lime tree (confirmed by nerve section checking). But I really wasn't expecting to find Habrodon perpusillus. A young-ish Ash tree (perhaps 25-30 years old) in amenity grassland near some houses had a swathe of Habrodon from ground level up to at least 2.5m, in a band about 10cm wide on the east side of the trunk. There were several other ashes nearby but I couldn't find any Habrodon on them.

I went back the following day and found a second tree with Habrodon around 150m away - a single patch on the west side of a lime tree growing between two of the Lydstep tower blocks and facing the rear wall of a line of garages. A more mundane location for a rare bryophyte would be hard to imagine.

 The day after I went back with the kids to look for more Habrodon trees. None were forthcoming, but I was almost as pleased to find a healthy tuft of Leucodon sciuroides on a Norway Maple street tree nearby.

On the way home we re-found a scruffier patch of Leucodon on a street lime tree. I first found this colony last summer but had been unable to relocate it until last week.
 As if this wasn't enough fun for one week, another outing with the kids at the weekend revealed another Habrodon patch - this one in a nicer setting on an Ash on the Taff riverbank.

I took small samples from each of these Habrodon trees to make sure I'd got the ID right. Most of them had abundant brown-green gemmae on the stems and leaves.

All five of these trees are within 1km of my house in suburban north Cardiff. I'd scarcely have believed Habrodon would be in such a humdrum place, but given that Sam found it near the castle in the heart of Caerphilly last year perhaps I should have been less surprised. Both of these squirrel-tail mosses remain scarce, but it is encouraging that they seem to be starting to regain some lost ground, like many other epiphytes.

Sam recently sent me details of the Habrodon colonies which Chris Forster Brown's found in 2013, at Fonmon and near Merthyr Mawr. This makes seven sites in Glamorgan with recent records, which must surely be as many as any county in the UK.

Friday, 5 February 2021

Abietinella at Pendine

My first visit to Pendine Burrows since 2014 was an official NRW meeting to advise on Petalophyllum hydrology, informed by some excellent mapping (leaving obvious marked pegs) by Matt Sutton last autumn. I was particularly pleased to spot Abietinella abietina in three places alongside petalwort as I had only seen it in two localities in the Burrows during my 2014 survey. It appears to favour areas of short-mown turf that has developed on a mix of limestone chippings and blown sand. This is the only remaining site for this rare species in Carmarthenshire and one of very few in Wales.

I should really be posting this on the new West Wales Bryophytes, but despite Matt sending me an invitation to Blog there I can't find a New Post option. Matt (Pembs) and Tom (Ceredigion) are currently very active bryologically in their counties, in contrast to us in south-east Wales, so it's well worth a regular look.

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Caerau Road Cutting ST135748

Every time I head into Cardiff on the western access road I tell myself, one day I must stop and look at the road cutting flora. The sparse vascular plant cover and abundant bryophytes on the eroding banks always looks promising. Yesterday I was nearby with a spare couple of hours, so I parked in Caerau and climbed over the fence.

For ref the BGS website shows the geology to be a combination of Blue Anchor Formation and Mercia Mudstone Group, these Triassic deposits exposed by the A4232 cutting. The lack of any top dressing has allowed an interesting assemblage of 26+ terricolous species to colonise. Hypnum cupressiforme var. lacunosum, Ctenidium molluscum (only on the S.E. side of the road) Fissidens adianthoides and Trichostomum crispulum were all abundant, with other frequent species noted including Aloina aloides, Dicranella varia, Didymodon acutus, Didymodon ferrugineus and Homalothecium lutescens.

Didymodon acutus

Didymodon ferrugineus
Didymodon ferrugineus

The central reservation and verge 'dirt zone' held locally abundant Didymodon australasiae and occasional Weissia controversa var. densifolia was noted under the crash barriers.

Didymodon australasiae

Friday, 20 November 2020

Lovely Jubbly

This season I'm hoping to focus on the Glamorgan part of Caerphilly county, much of which has received little attention in the past (though it looks promising). Today I had a drizzly outing to the woods west of Llanbradach. After a couple of hours I'd seen most of the usual woodland suspects and generally had an enjoyable time despite the drizzle, but had seen nothing out of the ordinary and was on the point of turning back with the school run looming. So imagine my surprise when I came across a small stream in a not especially humid east-facing location which had several good sized patches of Jubula hutchinsiae. It was growing on rocks over a reasonable length of streamside habitat at ST145898.

This is the 7th Glamorgan tetrad and the most easterly to date, and only 500m from the VC35 border. I remember Sam saying in the past that there were no VC35 records from the west of the county - is that still the case?

After finding the Jubula, I scrambled up and down the stream for a little while and found some Heterocladium heteropterum var. heteropterum and a couple of nice patches of Hookeria lucens.

Monday, 17 August 2020

Sphagnum Medium - A first for VC41

In July of 2020 I was fortunate enough to stumble (quite literally!) onto a hummock of Sphagnum medium within the Eastern area of the Pen-y-Cymoedd wind farm on Mynydd Ystradffernol. The area in which it was found is far from what anyone would be able to describe as optimal for bog vegetation. It exists on an area in between extensive spruce coupes and Molinia dominated wet modified bog with large amounts of associated drainage, although the hummock I found sits along the edge of a more natural looking erosion feature with a higher Calluna presence. The peat itself is around 0.6m in depth around the location, which is less that I originally expected, grading into over 2m deep within 100m.

General habitat surrounding Sphagnum hummock

A return visit on the 31st to search for any further species of interest didn’t yield any more results for Sphagnum medium but there are some impressive hummocks containing a variety of species (including but I’m sure not limited to capillifolium var. capillifolium, palustre, papilosum, subnitens and fimbriatum)  within 50 or so metres, although broadly speaking these are all restricted to the lower areas within the ridge/furrow microtopography.

A fairly majestic hummock to the south west

I’ve been searching for some of the former Sphagnum magellanicum species (medium and divinum) for the better part of 8 months (fuelled by jealousy over what I’d seen on Cors Fochno last summer).  However, before this, efforts had been fruitless, despite having now walked over extensive areas of the Afan and Rhondda Fawr Uplands. What it is about this particular location versus the others in the uplands of NPT and RCT that I’ve been to that makes it more suitable for the species I’m not sure, but after sending off a voucher to the BBS and receiving confirmation of the species and it being the first record for VC41 I will be returning to scope out the wider area and see what else is hiding there.

Sphagnum medium on Ystradffernol

The story of the finding of this species often seems to be more enjoyable for people I tell than the actual finding. For those of you with glasses like myself, you’ll understand the dilemma presented by consistent heavy rain, it is a choice between not seeing because of the water on the lens or not seeing because you have to take your glasses off. Cue the heavy rain as soon as I get to the area, after pushing through sitka and finally reaching some clearer air I took my glasses off, made it about 10 steps before tripping and falling over. Three inches from the end of my nose was what I’d been searching for 8 months, no doubt without the fall I wouldn’t have found it as it was off my route.

So there we have it, an 8 month goal realised and a lovely record for VC41. Thank you for the invitation to write here and may all your stumbles be so fortunate.

An extreme close up of Sphagnum medium voucher courtesy of Barry Stewart 

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Before the lockdown - some nice surprises in my home hectad

The relatively care-free days of social distancing (but no lockdown) seem a long while ago already, but as I write it's only been 10 days. On Sunday 22nd March, sensing what might be coming, I took a trip to Cwm Cydfin near Leckwith - a tricky to access wooded stream valley that runs down into the River Ely. This short valley straddles three different tetrads so the GPS needed to be regularly checked to be sure which square I was in at any particular point.

After a bit of scrambling over fallen trees I came to a nice soft cliff section. The whole valley is calcareous so it was no surprise to find Fissidens incurvus, Eucladium verticillatum and Riccardia chamaedryfolia here, in fact the latter species was surprisingly frequent down the entire length of the stream. More of a surprise was Rhynchostegiella teneriffae, new for my home hectad ST17.

A little further downstream, a very rotten oak log that bridged the stream supported plenty of Tetraphis pellucica and a few patches of Nowellia curvifolia - also new for ST17.

The five south-easternmost records on the map above were all made by me in the last four years, suggesting this species is spreading into the less humid areas of the county.

To round off a fun couple of hours, a Scarce Fungus Weevil Platyrhinus resinosus was found on an ash log with numerous Daldinia fruit bodies on it.
This little valley proved a lot more productive than I expected, and added 38 new tetrad records for ST17L, S and R.