Friday, 28 July 2017

Caerdeon (Merionethshire) 2017

Setting off to Caerdeon last week I received an email which mentioned the "dire" weather forecast for the weekend. I was meant to be meeting a few others at lunch-time and heading up the slopes of Cadair Idris, and my heart sunk at the thought of a weekend botanising in pouring rain.

True enough, as I arrived in Dolgellau I met Andy, who had just purchased a new umbrella, and along with Flora and Phill we headed up. It was indeed a wet afternoon and by tea-time I was soaked more or less to the skin, but we had collected nearly 100 records, in a new monad, although we hadn't reached the "interesting" part of the tetrad! We headed back to Caerdeon to meet the rest of the group, find a hot shower, dry clothes and a hot dinner, followed by an evening of botany with microscopes, ID books and computers.
The workroom at Caerdeon
However, for the remaining three days I remained dry (apart from dampness in the feet, from bogs) and explored several upland areas of Merionethshire. On the second day we were lucky enough to be offered a lift a mile up a track in a 4x4, saving us a walk in. Exploring the shores of Creiglyn Dyfi, we found mostly species-poor upland sheep-grazed vegetation. However, in the lake we found Isoetes lacustris, with its diagnostic non-spiky megaspores (viewed later under a microscope).
Aran Fawddwy and Creiglyn Dyfi
Ascending below the crags of Aran Fawddwy, we found a range of "nice" plants including Succisa pratensis (Devil's-bit Scabious), Campanula rotundifolia (Harebell), two carnivorous plants - Drosera rotundifolia (Round-leaved Sundew) and Pinguicula vulgaris (Common Butterwort) and three species of clubmoss - Huperzia selago, Selaginella selaginoides and Diphasiastrum alpinum (Fir, Lesser and Alpine Clubmosses).
Drosera rotundifolia (Round-leaved Sundew)
Pinguicula vulgaris (Common Butterwort)

Diphasiastrum alpinum (Alpine Clubmoss)

Campanula rotundifolia (Harebell)
The next day we headed onto the slopes of Y Garn, through the western fringes of Coed y Brenin, and had a very fruitful day where we stayed entirely within one monad. However, after beginning in relatively "nice" forestry (mature, well-thinned trees with an understorey and diverse flora along the roads) we emerged into a beautiful bog [see blog background - from July 2017], full of Rhynchospora alba (White Beak-sedge) with a small colony of Wahlenbergia hederacea (Ivy-leaved Bellflower) and many other species. We then explored the ruin of a disused gold mine, which provided some wall ferns including Asplenium ceterach (Rustyback) as well as closely grazed nutrient-enriched turf for some common weeds including Bellis perennis (Daisy) which my group did not record on any other day! Climbing up through a Pteridium aqulilinum (Bracken)-covered boulderfield to reach the small crags, we discovered Hymenophyllum wilsonii (Wilson's Filmy-fern) under boulders and in cracks.
Examining a specimen - with lots of bracken.
For the final day, a small group of us headed a long way up a forestry road by car (thanks to Sarah's preparation in obtaining permission) to explore the area around Rhobell Ganol. As we were at nearly 500m altitude before starting we did not record such a diversity of species, but we did find the fourth clubmoss of the week - Lycopodium clavatum (Stag's-horn Clubmoss) in profusion as well as a really good range of sedges. The forestry in this area was a monoculture of Picea sitchensis (Sitka Spruce) which did not make for easy walking on our way back (working hard to create a circular route and cover as much of the tetrad as possible)! But it was another enjoyable day in good botanical company.
Lycopodium clavatum (Stag's-horn Clubmoss)


Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Glynhir (Carmarthenshire) 2017

At the end of June (after spending two days in Montgomeryshire) I was able to join the regular recording residential at Glynhir for two days. The first day the whole group visited Talley Lakes, which provided a really good range of sedges, although the lake appeared disappointingly eutrophicated, with bright green algae, most likely due to the presence of excessive numbers of waterfowl. However, there were a few sedges to look at, and Comarum palustre (Marsh cinquefoil) was flowering, which is always a treat.
Carex aquatilis, Carex leporina, Carex vesicaria and Carex rostrata
(Water Sedge, Oval Sedge, Bladder-sedge and Bottle Sedge)

Comarum palustre (Marsh Cinquefoil)
The next day I headed with a small group to an un-recorded tetrad, north of Llandovery, which included somewhat varied habitats, from a small section of the River Towy next to a bridge, to paths and tracks around farmland, including small wooded areas and hedges. I always enjoy the interest of visiting a completely unknown square and although we didn't find anything earth-shattering, we had some interesting finds like this Fumaria muralis (Common Ramping-fumitory).
Fumaria muralis (Common Ramping-fumitory)

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Montgomeryshire Intensive Recording Sessions

The botanical delights of west Montgomeryshire - a short report on Mont Flora Group's intensive recording sessions, 26-28 June 2017 (Guest post - contributed by Gill Foulkes, photos: Polly)

The weather forecast did not look promising; the intense heat of the previous week had abated and the barometer was dropping rapidly but in fact we escaped the anticipated deluge and over-trousers were mostly worn  to prevent a soaking from the wet vegetation.

On Day 1 we met at Cemmaes Road (some came from home, a couple were staying on a local caravan site and others in a local B & B) and split into three groups.  Kate Thorne, Glenys and Aubrey Evans recording locally and were treated to fine views of Cadair Idris as well as a good variety of plants and a bank of sand martins’ nests. The two other groups recorded further down the Dyfi, just to the west of Llanwrin in a secluded, wooded valley.  John Clayfield, Rachel Meade and Peter Foulkes found the Enchanter's Nightshade hybrid C. X intermedia.  Gill Foulkes, John Thorne and Sheila Turner were pleased to find Red Bartsia Odontites vernus in profusion along a farm track. The third group found Lesser Skullcap Scutellaria minor in a good bog.
Gill Foulkes with Dactylorhiza maculata (Heath Spotted Orchid)
The same groups (joined by Polly Spencer-Vellacott, BSBI Welsh Officer) all recorded in the Talbontdrain area on the second day. Intrepid as ever, John Clayfield, Rachel Meade and Peter Foulkes found Parsley fern Cryptogramma crispa and Brittle Bladder-fern Cystopteris fragilis on some old mine buildings. After a steep climb across thistly fields, Polly Spencer-Vellacott, John Thorne, and Gill Foulkes were rewarded with a small boggy area (someone's private nature reserve by the look of it) with a very large colony of Heath Spotted orchids Dactylorhiza maculata.  The third group found another good bog. 
Acaena novae-zelandiae (Pirri-pirri bur) - possibly a relatively new invasive in the area?
Two different groups in two different monads found Pirri-pirri bur Acaena novae-zelandiae; the second reported record for Montgomeryshire (the Montgomeryshire Field Society found it earlier this year near the Centre for Alterntaive Technology).  This plant can become especially invasive when it establishes in the wild.  Perhaps it should be listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act in England and Wales before it's too late???
The dramatic landscape of Pistill-y-llyn
 On the final day, the group recorded at Pistyll-y-llyn where the Afon Llyfnant marks the border between VC46 (Cardiganshire) and VC47 (Montgomeryshire).  Mark Lawley (county recorder for bryophytes) and his friend Ralph Martin joined us and recorded 105 bryophytes (24 liverworts and 81 mosses). However, it was Ralph who spotted Brittle Bladder-fern Cystopteris fragilis in an old mine wheel pit.  
Cystopteris fragilis (Brittle Bladder-fern)
Five colonies of Wilson's filmy fern Hymenophyllum wilsonii were found (and there were undoubtedly more) by John Clayfield in his relentless search amongst large boulders.  We had hoped to refind Mountain Male- fern Dryopteris oreades, but although a specimen was taken this has not been confirmed.  A steep, gravelly Calluna slope provided great habitat for a delightful small eyebright (possibly Euphrasia micrantha but still to be verified).  At the very end of the day and within sight of the cars, Kate Thorne found more hybrid Enchanter's nightshade C. X intermedia.

In total the three days produced over 1300 records and participants were introduced to the delights of west Montgomeryshire.  It is appropriate that the county flower, the delicate Ivy-leaved bellflower Wahlenbergia hederacea, was found in most monads visited. 
Wahlenbergia hederacea (Ivy-leaved Bellflower) 

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

BSBI Welsh AGM and ASM - part II

Last Wednesday evening at the Stamford Gate we were treated to a talk about Flintshire from the Emeritus Recorder, Dr Goronwy Wynne.
Dr Goronwy Wynne, the BSBI's
Emeritus Recorder for Flintshire
Goronwy has lived most of his life in Flintshire, and was recorder for over 40 years from 1963 to 2009. He spoke of the geology of the county and the altitude, and also talked of the way geology affects the vegetation on every scale from large to small. He also described some of the botanists that have worked in Flintshire, including anecdotes about Thomas Pennant. He finished off by telling us a few of the most common and rarest species in Flintshire. Goronwy was a colleague of my grandfather, who also contributed records to him for the Flora of Flintshire. He spoke without any PowerPoint or slides, but managed to hold the meeting's attention completely. 

On Thursday I joined the BSBI President John Faulkner, and Gillian Faulkner, and Oxfordshire VCR David Morris (see David's blog). We were allocated a square and delighted to find Maes Hiraddug SSSI (a Wildlife Trust Reserve). This grassland was lovely to see with many orchids: Dactylorhiza fuchsii (Common Spotted Orchid) and Neottia ovata (Common Twayblade). Then, as a special treat, we found a few fronds of Ophioglossum vulgatum (Adder's-tongue) and then a few more. 
Ophioglossum vulgatum (Adder's-tongue)
Having explored these meadows thoroughly we went on up a cycle track, into an old quarry, and down some lanes finding Fumaria capreolata (White Ramping-fumitory) in a hedge, we then eventually found access onto Moel Hiraddug, a limestone outcrop where we saw Helianthemum oelandicum (Hoary Rock-rose) over large areas near the summit. By this time the weather was threatening again, although we only had a few showers, and I failed to take any more photographs. 

I was unable to go out botanising on the final Friday, but it was wonderful to see so many botanists enjoying Flintshire, and to spend a few days in the field in good botanical company. I know Flintshire will be grateful for the extra records, which must be several thousands! 
David Morris and John Faulkner with Adder's-tongue

Friday, 9 June 2017

BSBI Welsh AGM and ASM - part I

This week has been a busy week although I for one did not have to stay away from home in order to join the BSBI Welsh AGM and Annual Summer Meeting, as both events (rolled into one) took place in Flintshire this year.

Monday afternoon was wet and I had no childcare available so I remained at the Stamford Gate hotel to meet new arrivals, watch Jonathan Shanklin's fascinating talk and then even with my young proto-botanists in tow joined Lynne Farrell for dinner.
The most junior attendees!
Tuesday was notable for gale-force winds, but we boarded a coach and spread the day between Gronant Dunes and Graig Fawr. There was very little rain but the wind made reaching the summit a struggle. However, after making our way over the summit where non-flowering plants of Veronica spicata (Spiked Speedwell) were spotted by the most intrepid, we returned along the bottom of the crag, where various special plants including Silene nutans (Nottingham Catchfly) were easily seen.
Photographing Geranium sanguinum (Bloody Cranesbill)
Tuesday evening was occupied by the Committee for Wales meeting (before dinner) and the Welsh AGM (after dinner). However, a most pleasurable moment was provided by John Faulkner presenting the Presidents' Award to Tom Humphrey for his work in developing and maintaining the BSBI's Distribution Database. This was warmly applauded by the audience which included many vice-county recorders who have benefited from this powerful and informative database.
Tom Humphrey being presented with the Presidents' Award by John Faulkner
On Wednesday I joined Laura and Graham to record a tetrad along the coast near Mostyn, where we spent a significant amount of time keying out various species (and improving our knowledge) while adding to the species list. There were 136 taxa listed for the square since 2000; hopefully (subject to analysis) we will have improved this significantly. It was a lovely sunny day although still windy enough to keep our coats on.
Keying out a tricky specimen with Graham - photo Laura Gravestock

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Rare Plant Register coverage update

For anyone who was hoping to watch the item on Heno (S4C), it was actually shown a day later than I was originally told. An iPlayer link is here. A transcript (with translation at your own risk - apologies for any errors) is available here.

Friday, 7 April 2017

More Rare Plant Registers/ Rhestrau Planhigion Prin

It's been great to see the response to the Rare Plant Register launch.

Following the event in Aberystwyth and the interview with Good Evening Wales, I went to the BBC's Wrexham studio to record an interview with Rachel Garside for Country Focus - the link is available here (until 3rd May 2017, you can start about 7 minutes), and a transcript can now be seen here.

This week I met Gerallt Pennant at Loggerheads Country Park, to show him the Rare Plant Registers (also to be known as Rhestrau Planhigion Prin).  After some discussion I recorded a few soundbites (in Welsh) to be included in an item on Heno on S4C. We expect it to be broadcast on Tuesday 11th April 2017 at 1900, and after that it should be available on iPlayer. English subtitles are available for those who need them.

You can read more about it over on the BSBI News and Views blog.
Rare Plant Registers for 13 counties of Wales