Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Graig Fawr, RCT

Graig Fawr

Yesterday afternoon, H and I did our weekly square-bashing trip to RCT. We decided to have a look at Graig Fawr, an imposing cirque that overlooks Treorchy in Rhondda Cynon Taff. Old vascular plant records, which list Beech Fern, Oak Fern, Parsley Fern and Wilson's Filmy-fern, suggest that, like Craig y Llyn, it is a refuge for Boreal-montane species. Setting out from a very convenient lay-by on the A4061, we took a track that runs below Graig Fach. A large clump of Neckera crispa draped over a concrete culvert was a good start.

Neckera crispa on concrete culvert below Graig Fach

Access to ledges on Graig Fach and Graig Fawr is difficult and it will take quite an effort to survey this site properly. On the day we took some easier options, firstly checking the lower scree and then climbing into an inviting gully. Below the gully, scree was covered in the usual Racomitriums (aquaticum, ericoides, fasciculare, heterostichum, lanuginosum) and Andrea rothii ssp. falcata, but the gully itself looked more promising.

Gully bisecting the southern edge of Graig Fawr

We noticed a small amount of Hymenophyllum wilsonii on the north-facing wall of the gully and a large population of Huperzia selago, with some individuals as big as dinner plates. These must be of significant age (many decades) and the fact that H. selago is not listed in old records suggests that this gully may not have been visited by many botanists for a long time.

Huperzia selago in gully

This was also suggested by some of the relatively common bryophytes we recorded there which were not in the MM database for this tetrad (SS99H); e.g. Amphidium mougeotiiBatramia pomiformis, Campylopus atrovirensHookeria lucens, Hyocomium armoricumMarsupella emarginata var. aquatica, Palustriella commutata, Plagiothecium denticulatum, Riccardia multifida.

 Marsupella emarginata var. aquatica in gully stream

It was very cold in the gully and persistent hailstones didn't help to maintain our enthusiasm. But towards the top of the gully in the vicinity of SS92709562, in a dim, humid overhang, we found a Rhabdoweisia sp.

 Rhabdoweisia crenulata in humid overhang, Graig Fawr (RCT)

It's good to have Barry's recent photos of R. crispata (Tan-y-Graig) for comparison. The Graig Fawr Rhabdoweisia differs from the Tan-y-Graig plants in a number of ways. Firstly they have larger leaf cells (16-24 microns). Secondly, the mature leaves are relatively broad (usually > 10 cells wide either side of the costa). Thirdly the upper leaf margin has noticeable, large, protruding (often multicellular) teeth.

 Wide leaf tip of Graig Fawr Rhabdoweisia crenulata showing prominent teeth

Multicellular teeth of Graig Fawr Rhabdoweisia crenulata

This looks like Rabdoweisia crenulata (Greater Streak-moss) to me, which was recoded once before in VC41 by Tony Smith (Craig y Llyn in 1961). As always, comments and corrections will be appreciated.
Exploring RCT is time consuming and requires a fair amount of effort, but the rewards are obvious. There's lots of crags and cirques and a substantial amount of conifer forest. Goodness only knows what is lurking on some of those ledges! Our records yesterday bring the total for SS99H up to 75.


  1. Not checked in the book Charles, but from what I can remember, your ID looks spot on. What a terrific record and lovely photos to too. Knackered after a long day so will enjoy rereading your post again tomorrow.

  2. The split between Rh crispata and Rh crenulata isn't quite as clear-cut as Smith's Flora suggests and I think we (Graham and I) slightly over-recorded it at one stage in the Brecon Beacons. Having said that, yours looks spot-on!

    I have had a "to do" arrow pointing to that gully on my OS map of Rhondda for nearly 10 years now, but have never actually done it. Well done and thanks for taking the initiative.

  3. That looks a fantastic area - well done Charles.