Saturday, 30 April 2016

A quick splash in the Honddu

A 20 minute window before collecting two visitors from a train in Abergavenny gave me a chance to visit the Honddu at Pandy, and to finish off tetrad SO32G which I started on the hills in the early 2000s.  Fissidens crassipes (photo), F. pusillusHygroamblystegium tenax and Rhynchostegiella teneriffae were on sandstone rocks, forming part of the typical riverine assemblage in SE Wales.  Several epiphytes, including Leskea, Orthotrichum striatum, O. tenellum, Syntrichia papillosa and Ulota crispa, bruchii and phyllantha were also new for the tetrad.

Rhynchostegiella teneriffae was also present in a stream just east of Abergavenny (SO31C), which I knocked off in my lunch hour, and the same valley also held fragments of tufa that supported Eucladium and Didymodon tophaceus.  Finally, a railway bridge had some Schistidium elegantulum alongside abundant S. crassipilum.

So, two more VC35 tetrads up to par.  Still over 1/3 remain unrecorded though.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Cwmnantlleucu Quarry

On my way up to SN70P yesterday evening I passed the quarry, which was quiet, so I parked in the entrance area and had a quick look at the easily accessible rock exposure. Despite everything being bone dry and caked in dust, making id challenging, species such as Amphidium mougeotii (green cushions on images below) and Racomitrium aciculare with Diplophyllum albicans (the extensive dark grey crud on the images below) could almost be described as growing luxuriantly. I still have a box of dirt-covered samples to go through over the weekend, but there appeared to be nothing particularly unusual or unexpected. One observation of interest on the dirt below the rock face was fruiting Pohlia wahlenbergii var. wahlenbergii, which is said to be rare (photo below).

The large oak on the right side of the top photo had an interesting looking pleurocarp growing on an accumulation of powdery dirt in the fork of the trunk. I was convinced this was going to be something I'd not seen before, but in the end all I could make it was odd-looking Brachythecium rutabulum [in fact Sciuro-hypnum plumosum - see comments]. Is there something I may have overlooked?

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Gwrhyd marshy grasslands

I've not done any square bashing for a little while and after a couple of days being office-bound I thought I'd take Alfie for a spin this evening and knock off SN70P, this being the only sub-60 tetrad left in the hectad. Sod's law, this happened as soon as I got there...
Eventually it did ease off and I recorded a selection of the usual stream, track and plantation species. A quick look at the marshy grasslands on the west side of the stream, turned out to provide the most interesting assemblage of species with several Sphagnum species dominating the vegetation along with frequent Carex spp., Carum verticillatum, Eriophorum angustifolium and occasional E. vaginatum, Pedicularis sylvatica, etc. The highlight was several tufts of fruiting Splachnum ampullaceum, sadly a little way off maturity but rather nice all the same. There are some interesting coal tips a little further north which I've not checked to see if Charles and Hilary have looked at, but the extensive marshy grasslands are definitely worth a more detailed look as I probably spent no more than 15 minutes in one little corner.
I also made a quick stop at Cwmnantlleucu Quarry as the rocks around the quarry entrance were accessible without trespassing and were very mossy, despite all the dust - a few samples to clean up and check, but more to follow.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Blaen Pig iron spring

Johnny and I went hunting for fossils today (as you do... he's only in Kindergarten four days a week, and Clare was working in Devon so I took the day off).  I wanted to try somewhere in VC35, so I could keep an eye out for bryophytes, and as my home patch is fossil-free Old Red Sandstone I headed west towards the Coal Measures at Blaen Pig (N of Gilwern Hill).  This is a vast area of spoil, some of which is very old whilst other areas are much more recent.  I have searched it 5 times over the last 16 years, but there are still many bits that haven't been checked bryologically.

I have seen small, dense Dichodontium on the coal tips a few times before, as well as on ledges on upland limestone in Carms & Brecs, and I think that Charles has reported similar plants from NPT.  It seems to match the old "var. fagimontanum", and looks much more distinctive than the ever-intergrading pellucidum and flavescens.  There were several patches on damp, slightly basic coal spoil near the foot of the tips.

After a while we came across a spring, where extremely iron-rich water bubbles out from below a tip (but perhaps associated with a natural break of slope).  This held Potamogeton polygonifolius, Eriophorum angustifolium and other common flush species (but no Pinguicula that I could see), plus Campylium stellatum var stellatum new for the tetrad (the mega-rich SO21K) and several common sphagna.  For a while, the highlight was potential Sphagnum teres, but I have reluctantly concluded it's just one of the peculiar brownish, scarcely squarrose forms of Sphagnum squarrosum that one occasionally encounters.

Johnny enjoyed the iron spring, and also a few small fern fossils

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Seligeria campylopoda etc

I had 15 minutes to spare as I headed towards a meeting, so grabbed the opportunity to look at an area of limestone woodland below the Wye Valley road adjacent to Black Cliff.  Within a minute I found 10 limestone pebbles covered with Seligeria campylopoda, embedded in the woodland floor below a Yew.  This really is an easily twitchable colony if anyone is in the Chepstow area: park (carefully) at the entrance to the Livox Quarry road, walk up the A466 for about 10 metres, then cross a low fence next to a yellow "garden open" sign and look for the small limestone pebbles.  Please don't collect any of the Seligeria because it's extremely rare, but enjoy its curved setae.  There are another 20 or so localities in the VC35 section of the Wye Valley, but this is the easiest to relocate.

view of the roadside fence from the colony - a poor iPod pic

Slightly further down the slope I found a single pebble sporting Seligeria donniana, which is only the 4th locality for this species in the lower Wye Valley.

Another brief stop on my way back from the meeting produced fruiting Campylophyllum calcareum on a limestone outcrop in Cockshoot Wood, just NW of Chepstow.  This is just the 4th location for this uncommon moss in VC35.  It was mixed with Rhynchostegiella tenella and would have been impossible to spot if it hadn't been fruiting.

Of all the days to leave my camera at home...

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Bonfire Bryum

note depauperate specimens on burnet log
also a little Funaria hygrometrica in foreground
This, as yet, unidentified species (possibly pallescens) was found last week fruiting super-abundantly on a small bonfire site in the dunes at Whiteford. The main reason for the post is to ask for advice so I can keep the sample alive until the capsules mature - my track record with this genus isn't very good! Currently I have it in the pot as shown on the kitchen window-sill and I'm planning to keep it moist by maintaining ~1cm of water in the base of the pot.

Bryum algovicum on wasteground

Bright yellow-green patches of B. algovicum
The species was found to be locally frequent and fruiting freely around the margins of winter-flooded ground alongside Phoenix Wharf within Port Talbot Docks last week. Although the capsules weren't fully ripe, cutting the capsules lengthways then squashing them under the cover slip seems to work well at exposing the distinctive zig-zag peristome. The main associates were Barbula convoluta var. convoluta, Ceratodon purpureus, Dicranella varia, Didymodon tophaceus and Drepanocladus aduncus.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Hennediella to look for

When visiting urban parks in south Wales it's worth keeping an eye out for yellow-green patches of Hennediella on trampled ground.  I have only found Hennediella stanfordensis so far in Wales: a couple of times on footpaths near Caldicot and quite frequently on the Wye, Usk and their tributaries.  However, in Chichester (where I am today) there's a lot of H. macrophylla in the parks.  It is similar to a large Barbula unguiculata but the leaf shape is more oval (rather than parallel-sided) and a lens reveals a few teeth near the leaf apex.  Hennediella look more opaque than, for example, Tortula truncata or T. acaulon.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Lovely! Splachnum

Last December as I stumbled about in low cloud and gale force winds trying to find some dip-wells at Waun Fach in the Black Mountains, I came across several scattered bits of sheep dung sitting on bare peat, which had a few small patches of infertile Splachnum sphaericum.  As I have never seen this species with sporophytes I brought a sample home and left it in the greenhouse over winter (wife not too pleased!) to see if I could grow it on - four months later and I have a turd almost completely covered in moss with lots of nice sporophytes - I am at Waun Fach next week so will take it back home.   This appears to be first (or at least first modern) record for the Black Mountains.  I think this species is still bracketed for Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, but hopefully it might turn up there soon with Waun Fach being only a few kms from the boundaries of both these counties.  

I think the only other places I have seen Splachnum sphaericum in south Wales is at Mynydd Llangatwg (several times, although seems much less frequent there now than it was 15 years ago) and near Ystradfellte.  

Recently I was sorting through some photos of archaeological sites and came across one I took last year of a cairn on the common above Cwm Cadlan (in RCT, but the old V-c 42).  Although situated in a very exposed and dry spot, in the hollow of the cairn is a small patch of Tetraplodon mnioides.  Presumably a bird coughed up a pellet onto the small mat of moss, which holds just enough moisture to allow the Tetraplodon to grow - probably always worth having a search around these bird perching areas on the moors. 

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Leptobryum pyriforme

Leptobryum pyriforme, Jersey Marine

I've only ever seen Leptobryum pyriforme in a flower pot before today so I was pleased this afternoon when we found large amounts of it on a weedy bank on the Amazon site in Jersey Marine. It appears to be uncommon in Glamorgan and Wales in general, yet it has a globally widespread distribution in temperate and boreal ecosystems. Non-fruiting material might go unnoticed in ruderal communities among lookalikes such as Trichodon cylindricus and Dicranella schreberiana (also on the Amazon site). In fruit, with those Bryum-like, pear-shaped capsules, it is unmistakable

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Puzzle Wood - things grabbed in passing

I took Bea and Johnny to Puzzle Wood in the Forest of Dean today.  It's an absolutely marvellous place - straight out of the movie sets (literally) - with deep 'scowles' left by ancient iron ore mining in limestone rocks.  I have been several times over the years, and I guess it's the first place I was ever aware of noticing moss (stringing some kind into Filmy Fern when I was about 10).  This was Bea's third visit, and I jotted down a list of 35 species when we last came to the wood in 1999.  These included the calcicoles Cololejeunea rossettiana (photo), Fissidens gracilifoliusJungermannia atrovirens (photo), Leiocolea turbinata, Neckera crispa (photo) and Taxiphyllum wissgrillii, all of which I saw today as well.

There were a few additions: Dicranum montanum (photo) and Nowellia curvifolia on logs, Pseudotaxiphyllum elegans on sandstone and Plagiomnium rostratum on limestone.  I am sure that there's more to be found if one didn't have to keep rushing on at the pace of a 7 year old!
Probably the most notable thing, however, was the absence of Sematophyllum substrumulosum.  I looked at many, many conifer logs, Yew bases and fences made of Yew branches and couldn't find any at all.  Conditions seem perfect and it's less than 5km away in NE Monmouthshire.  I suspect that a return visit in 10 or 20 years time will show a different picture, as I'm sure that substrum will be well established by then.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

RCT Diary

Forestry road south of Cwmparc RCT

A fairly steep and impressively engineered forestry road took us from the A4061 south of Cwmparc up to Mynydd Maendy allowing us to add some new species to the list for SS99M.  On the way up we recorded some typical forestry road species and noted a small amount of Didymodon luridus on the stonework of the drainage channel that runs the length of the road. Above this the landscape gives way to upland grazing pasture which didn't look very promising, but we headed for a small sandstone outcrop in the Nant Ian valley above Ton Pentre. The flora on the outcrop was not particularly interesting but included some Pohlia elongata in a wet shaded crevice in the crumbling rock face. However, below the outcrop in wet, stony peat there was an interesting liverwort flora which consisted of Diplophyllum albicans, Gymnocolea inflata, Marsupella emarginata and a brownish-green Lophozia which didn't look like ventricosa

Lophozia sudetica in Nant Ian valley

Although we couldn't find any gemmae, several features indicate Lophozia sudetica. Firstly, the  colour and secondly, the leaves have very shallow notches - compare with L. ventricosa in photograph below. Thirdly the mean leaf cell size (18.75 x 23.75 microns), and the range of sizes recorded (22 measurements), are well within the range reported for L. sudetica and smaller than those reported for L. ventricosa.

Lophozia ventricosa

This brings the tally for SS99M to a respectable 80.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Sausages and Thyme

Jamie Bevan spotted some String-of-sausage lichen (Usnea articulata) in the Jersey Marine Alder-Willow Carr this morning, near the Tennant Canal tow path. It's a great record for NPT, although all the indications suggest that this rare, pollution sensitive species is now expanding its range in south west Britain. It was a good excuse for a leisurely afternoon stroll.

Usnea articulata, Jersey Marine (SS71109382)

The Alder-Willow Carr here also has a very significant population of Plagiomnium elatum (Tall Thyme-moss), which for some reason had not been recorded in the MM data base. This rather attractive moss is locally abundant on the wet woodland floor near the tow path and it is looking particularly fine at the moment. It appears to be rather scarce in Glamorgan overall, but there is a robust population in Jersey Marine.

Plagiomnium elatum, Jersey Marine

Plagiomnium elatum, Jersey Marine

Oxyrhynchium speciosum is also quite common in the wood and there is a small amount of Colura

Parc le Breos

Conocephalum salebrosum - Pellia endiviifolia mat
I was passing Parkmill yesterday so I stopped to look at the Parc le Breos roadside cutting identified by Graham a week or two back. It was a bit drier than I expected and there was in fact very little in the way of tufa formation, but along with locally frequent Encalypta streptocarpa, Eucladium verticillatum, Pellia endiviifolia, Leiocolea turbinata and occasional Jungermannia atrovirens  and Tortella tortuosa were a few additional species of local interest, notably a few good patches of Conocephalum salebrosum and Didymodon spadiceus, both previously with just single records for Gower made during Sam’s Bishopston survey.
quite distinctive large shoots of Didymodon spadiceus,
when wetted produced straight, loosely patent leaves (>4mm long)
fortunately a few capsules were present
showing the diagnostic short peristome
Also growing there was this little puzzler, with scattered plants of what looked good for Pohlia lutescens. The presence of tubers and decurrent leaves seemed to limit the number of possibilities, however the cell measurements were a little larger than those given in Smith, the leaves not as toothy as shown and the habitat seemed atypical, growing on powdery (humid but not wet) soil in deep shade below an overhang growing with L. turbinata. So, I’m suspecting I may be on the wrong tracks with this one, but not sure what other options there are? Help!