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Meetings of the BBS - 1992

 

Spring Field Meeting 1992

Oswestry, 8 - 15 April

We were comfortably accommodated at Ellesmere College on the outskirts of Ellesmere where we had the 6th form girls' residential block to ourselves. This provided just enough bedrooms to give members a single room if they wanted one and had a good lounge with kitchen and bar leading off which contributed to the social success of the meeting. We enjoyed excellent food in the college dining hall with wine being provided on the final night and generous lunch packs. Forty members attended as residents and a further eight joined us in the field plus one or two representatives from local organisations. We were pleased to welcome Dr Massimo Mastrachi from Italy and Donal Synnott who somehow managed to motor over from Dublin.

The excursions were divided between North Shropshire (v.-c. 40) and Montgomeryshire (v.-c. 47). The area around Ellesmere is an extension of the Cheshire Plain, an area of glacial drift, now mostly farmland with few trees but interspersed with bogs and meres both being relics of the Ice Age. Rainfall is low and pollution is or was high so the trees are bare of epiphytes. By contrast the hills and varied geology of Wales coupled with high rainfall provide a much richer habitat for bryophytes although on occasions a less comfortable one for bryologists. In the account which follows, first county records are marked with an asterisk * and the figures at the end of each main habitat are the total numbers of mosses and liverworts recorded.

THURSDAY 9 APRIL.

The day of the general election depleted our numbers and only eight of us set off on a warm sunny day. En route to the main site we made a brief stop on the canal near Ellesmere (v.-c. 40) and found Barbula trifaria, Bryum ruderale and Orthotrichum cupulatum. 20 & 2.

Llanymynech Quarry (v.-c. 47).
We were joined by non-residents who doubled our number. This huge disused limestone quarry has high and quite dramatic cliffs facing in all directions of the compass and with grassed-over spoil-heaps, patches of scrubby woodland and a few damp areas. It has in recent years suffered erosion from rock climbing so the cliff face vegetation is sparse except for some refuge areas where danger notices exist and these could not be explored. Aloina aloides var. aloides was common. Nine Barbulas were found which included B. trifaria and both varieties of B. convoluta. There were also Encalypta vulgaris, Fissidens incurvus and F. viridulus, Campylium chrysophyllum, Rhynchostegiella tenella, Phascum cuspidatum and Zygodon viridissimus var. stirtonii. There were not many liverworts but a fair amount of Porella platyphylla in a shaded area. 61 & 5.

Gaer Fawr Woods (v.-c. 47).
A few more members joined us for the afternoon meeting. The woods are a Woodlands Trust Reserve on a hill rising to 220 metres and comprise mixed deciduous trees and open areas on a sandstone base. There are some less acid areas which yielded Brachythecium populeum and Ctenidium molluscum. Five species of Orthotrichum were found including O. stramineum and O. pulchellum, and there were also Zygodon conoideus, Bryum flaccidum, Ulota phyllantha and two varieties of U. crispa. Liverworts were well represented and included Frullania dilatata, Jungermannia gracillima and Metzgeria fruticulosa. 52 & 14.

FRIDAY 10 APRIL.

New Bridge over River Vyrnwy (v.-c. 47).
On another fine Spring day and with numbers up to thirty, the morning venue offered river and canal banks with locks and an aqueduct. It lay across two 10 km squares so the party divided with the main group keeping to the river bank and canal near the aqueduct. The river was disappointing owing to absence of trees and scouring of banks from flooding. Records included Bryum radiculosum, Fissidens osmundoides, Myrinia pulvinata, Tortula subulata var. subinermis, seven Orthotrichums including O. sprucei, Plagiothecium latebricola, Pottia intermedia*, Scleropodium cespitans and Tortula latifolia. 66 & 6.

The other group went to Carreghofa Locks and quickly found ten species of Barbula including B. trifaria, B. fallax and B. tophacea. There was also a good growth of Gyroweisia tenuis on the vertical walls of the lock, and Dichodontium pellucidum, Amblystegium tenax and Lophozia excisa. 36 & 3.

Whixall Moss (v.-c. 40).
This area of lowland bog has recently been acquired by English Nature and we were met by the warden, Joan Danials, who gave us an interesting introduction to its history and the objectives now that it has been rescued from peat-cutting. In spite of enrichment from adjoining farmland, Sphagnum magellanicum was found together with nine other Sphagni. Dicranella cerviculata was present on the peat cuttings and Dicranum undulatum, known from many years ago, was still present in a number of places. In a wet copse, fruiting Calliergon cordifolium was found. Aulacomnium palustre was fruiting abundantly. Among the liverworts were Calypogeia neesiana*, Cephaloziella rubella, C. divaricata, Gymnocolea inflata, Kurzia pauciflora and Odontoschisma denudatum. A bonus for many was a good quantity of Andromeda polifolia, flowering here and there. Bryum gemmiferum was found along the nearby canal. 31 & 10.

SATURDAY 11 APRIL.

Ironbridge Gorge (v.-c. 40).
The morning was spent in Bentall Edge Wood which is a steep north-facing ancient wood rising from the banks of the Severn. There are clay and silt at the base and pure Wenlock Limestone at the top with a number of old quarries. A disused railway runs along the bottom from Ironbridge to the Power Station, and near the base of a wall along this Leptobarbula berica* in fine condition occurred as well as Gyroweisia tenuis. This diverse range of habitats produced a large number of species, the rarest of which was Pottia caespitosa* which had not been recorded north of Hereford before. Other species included Barbula nicholsonii, Bryum flaccidum, Campylium calcareum, Dicranella staphylina, Entodon concinnus, Fissidens exilis, F. incurvus, Hennediella stanfordensis, Mnium stellare, Oxystegus sinuosus, Eurhynchium schleicheri, Plagiothecium laetum, and Scleropodium cespitans with liverworts Jungermannia atrovirens, Leiocolea badensis, L. turbinata, and Riccia sorocarpa. Rhynchostegium riparioides was found unusually on a wet bank of sticky clay. 86 & 17.

After lunch, members broke up into smaller groups. One went downstream to Coalport – an area of glacial drift and industrial waste. Records included Barbula nicholsonii, B. trifaria, Brachythecium salebrosum, Bryum radiculosum, Eucladium verticillatum, Eurhynchium schleicheri, Hennediella stanfordensis, Rhynchostegiella tenella and Tortula latifolia. 34 & 2.

Another group went to a small reclaimed mining area at Stoney Hill where a few years ago an artificial pond was formed with landscaping around with the object of forming a nature reserve. It was hoped that some interesting pioneering species might have colonised the bare ground but this has not happened. At a higher level adjoining the site there is a large back-filled rubbish tip and leachate is giving some plants an unhealthy look and pond life is dying. Of interest were Fissidens viridulus, Weissia microstoma, Hylocomium brevirostre and Fossombronia pusilla and just off the site on the edge of a roundabout, Funaria fascicularis. 32 & 6.

A few miles up river where the Tern joins the Severn, a search was made for previously recorded Platygyrium repens but the old trees on which it was growing had been felled. Myrinia pulvinata was found nearby and this is present along the river at Attingham and Buttington.

SUNDAY 12 APRIL.

Breidden Hill (v.-c. 47).
The weather forecast of strong winds and rain did not augur well for our trip to Breidden Hill but the rain held off. We approached it through some attractive mixed woodland and past a eutrophic pond. The hill is largely composed of dolerite, a basic rock thus allowing a good diversity of species to flourish, in contrast to the adjoining hills which are species-poor. The woods produced five Orthotrichums including O. pulchellum and O. stramineum, Archidium alternifolium on the ditch sides, Plagiothecium laetum and Cryphaea heteromalla, the pond Sphagnum auriculatum var. inundatum and Calliergon cordifolium. Most of the day was spent on the hill and records included Bartramia ithyphylla, Bryum flaccidum, Dicranum bonjeanii, Hedwigia ciliata, both varieties of Heterocladium heteropterum, Polytrichum alpinum, Philonotis arnellii, Pterogonium gracile, Rhabdoweisia fugax and Weissia microstoma. Liverworts were plentiful, among them Frullania fragilifolia, Lejeunea lamacerina, Lophozia excisa, L. incisa, Metzgeria fruticulosa, Radula complanata, Riccia glauca and R. subbifurca. 99 & 29.

Again there was a dispersal in the afternoon. The river bank at Llandrino yielded Cinclidotus fontinaloides and at Alberbury in v.-c. 40,Funaria muehlenbergii.

MONDAY 13 APRIL.

The Berwyns at Tre-rhiwarth (v.-c. 47).
The weather was awful when we headed for the Berwyns, cold wind, heavy rain and low cloud, but by the time we had reached our rendezvous the cloud had lifted and the rain stopped. We were there with the kind permission of Mr Jones of Tre-rhiwarth Farm where among the sheep pasture and acid heath was a site made for bryophytes – a steep north slope with a mountain stream tumbling over a waterfall and into a deep ravine. The following is a selection from a high species count: Bartramia ithyphylla, Brachydontium trichodes, Racomitrium aquaticum c.fr., Cynodontium bruntonii c.fr. in quantity, Coscinodon cribrosus, Diphyscium foliosum, Fissidens osmundoides, Grimmia donniana, Isopterygium pulchellum, Oxystegus tenuirostris, Plagiobryum zieri, Pohlia camptotrachela, and Ulota drummondii. Among the liverworts were Anastrepta orcadensis, Frullania fragilifolia, Jungermannia hyalina, J. paroica, Lejeunea lamacerina, Plagiochila spinulosa, Riccardia multifida and Tritomaria quinquedentata. 120 & 38.

In the afternoon we moved down to Llangynog village to a large disused slate quarry with signs of old lead mining. This is an area which would repay a more detailed inspection. Records included Brachythecium glareosum, Grimmia donniana, Philonotis caespitosa, Pohlia annotina, Tetraplodon mnioides, Tortella nitida and Barbilophozia barbata. 38 & 7.

TUESDAY 14 APRIL.

Tyn-y-coed near Trefonen (v.-c. 40).
This excursion led us to a conifer wood on sandy soil with old quarries and rocky exposures and the approach was across an open valley with a nice clear stream. Before we entered the wood we had a brief look at part of Offa's Dyke where part of the 1100 years' old earthworks are still exposed but nothing of interest was found. The wood and stream produced Barbula cylindrica, B. spadicea, Fissidens pusillus var. pusillus, Oxystegus sinuosus, Heterocladium heteropterum var. flaccidum, Orthotrichum stramineum, Zygodon viridissimus vars. viridissimus and stirtonii. Bryum flaccidum was found on a rock – a much rarer habitat in Britain than on the continent. Liverworts included Porella arboris-vitae, P. platyphylla and Tritomaria exsectiformis. 48 & 14.

By lunch time heavy rain had set in and this sent most members scampering for home so only three were left to explore the last venue of the meeting which was Colemere Country Park. This was probably as well because it was most disappointing and only an hour was spent there. Climacium dendroides flourished in the meadow. 15 & 1.

Two good finds were made by members ranging further afield. Octodiceras fontanum at Grindly Wood, v.-c. 40 and Hennediella stanfordensis on the river Dee in v.-c. 50.

RON SHOUBRIDGE & CLIFF TOWNSEND

 

Summer Field Meeting 1992 (First week)

Lochinver, 29 July - 5 August

Those attending:– Tom Blockeel, Daphne Coates, Alan Crundwell, Ian and Pat Evans, Mike Fletcher, Nick Hodgetts, Peter Martin, Roy Perry, Mark Pool, Ron Porley, Gordon Rothero (Local Secretary), Phil Stanley, Rod Stern and Harold Whitehouse.

This was a good turn-out for a Summer Meeting and all apart from Nick Hodgetts (a Friday arrival) gathered in the lounge of the Culag Hotel on the evening of the 29th to discuss the coming week in a convivial atmosphere. The various excursions are described below but some interesting records were made 'out of hours'; in Lochinver Tom Blockeel recorded Riccia sorocarpa* and Bryum radiculosum* and Mark Pool found Pohlia camptotrachela at Little Assynt near the outflow of Loch Assynt. (* = New Vice-county Record throughout)

Thursday 30 July. Inchnadamph (29/25-20-&21-)
The large exposure of Durness Limestone is a well-known botanical locality and the frequency of Dryas in the grassland is remarkable. The weather was a little threatening at first but, though the wind was cool from the north-west, the sun favoured us most of the day. Bryologising began up the Traligill Burn where interesting species included Seligeria donniana, Bryum mildeanum, Ulota calvescens and Ephemerum serratum var. minutissimum*. We had to go rather farther up the burn to cross than I had intended, the monsoons having turned a virtually dry river bed into a sizeable stream. Once across, most of us struck out for the main crags across rocky limestone grassland which was of rather patchy interest. Some limestone blocks had Schistidium apocarpum var. homodictyon whilst the unmistakable wefts of Orthothecium rufescens enlivened a few wetter crevices.

Lunch was taken on a fine bluff with wide views over Loch Assynt and Quinag and then a scrambling descent made to the base of the Stronechrubie cliffs. In general these were rather dry, the good early summer having reduced the usual seepage lines, leaving some rather sorry-looking bryophytes. Gymnostomum insigne was quite frequent but had scant resemblance to the normal bright, robust plant. Hygrohypnum luridum was abundant in wet places under overhangs and, in drier spots, there were neat cushions of Bryum elegans. In more sheltered areas, usually under large overhangs and where there was some drainage, the flora was more luxuriant, frequently with carpets of Brachythecium glareosum. In one such spot there were also large, pendent cushions of Tortula princeps.

Friday 31 July. Quinag from the north (29/17-32-)
From the north Quinag appears as two soaring Torridonian Sandstone buttresses with a large coire in between. Our target was the western buttress, Sail Gorm, and a line of crags and block scree where the underlying gneiss extends high up the hill. A short and simple stroll led to an area of blocks and flushes where some of the oceanic-montane hepatics occurred – Plagiochila carringtonii in abundance with Herbertus aduncus ssp. hutchinsiae, Pleurozia purpurea and Bazzania tricrenata. The flushes were quite basic, with a little Calliergon trifarium. The gneiss crags proved surprisingly base-rich and supported a fine tall-herb community as well as both Asplenium viride and Polystichum lonchitis in crevices. Grimmia torquata and G. funalis were common on the drier rocks, sometimes with Schistidium strictum. Wetter bedding planes provided sheltered sites for Anoectangium warburgii, Plagiobryum zieri and Leiocolea bantriensis. Ledge communities included Herbertus stramineus, Ditrichum flexicaule, Distichium capillaceum, Tortula subulata var. graeffii and Hypnum hamulosum. Tom Blockeel also recorded Ctenidium molluscum var. robustum* in this area.

The heathy scree below the crags was also interesting with good populations of Mastigophora woodsii, and a little of both Scapania ornithopodioides and Bazzania pearsonii. Prospecting further round to the east, Tom Blockeel recorded similar things but with the addition of Scapania nimbosa. Sheltered, steep faces near the base of the crags where there is intermittent irrigation, gave a few different species – Cololejeunea calcarea, Harpalejeunea ovata, Colura calyptrifolia and Radula aquilegia and rocks at the base where water drips were sometimes covered with the handsome, dark-green cushions of Dicranodontium uncinatum.

There are several lochans below the crags and rocks on the shore of these had both Antitrichia curtipendula and Orthotrichum rupestre. The weather closed in at the end of the day and as we straggled off the hill the rain swept in. A slight navigational error caused some consternation but as the search parties were being organised the missing party hove into view and all were damply reunited with their vehicles. Alan Crundwell had remained below, on the shore of Loch Airdbhair and recorded Archidium alternifolium, Campylium polygamum and Haplomitrium hookeri.

Saturday, 1 August. Achmelvich (29/05-24-) and Duart woodland, Nedd (29/13-32- & 33-)
After the splendid isolation of Quinag, the atmosphere of the Achmelvich dunes and crags, with their proximity to a busy camp-site, seemed positively cosmopolitan and the easy ground lent itself to a good deal of sociable pottering. The dunes are fairly typical of west coast shell sand, with good populations of Ditrichum flexicaule, Entodon concinnus and Homalothecium lutescens and more occasionally, Distichium inclinatum, Barbula reflexa and Thuidium philibertii. The gneiss rocks at the back of the sand are quite base-rich with Scapania aspera, Grimmia torquata and Neckera crispa with the more oceanic element represented by Frullania teneriffae and Lejeunea lamacerina. A Grimmia collected by Nick Hodgetts is still under review but is probably Grimmia montana*. A fen area on the margin of a lochan amongst the rocks produced Calliergon giganteum and Plagiomnium ellipticum.

After lunch the cavalcade moved off on the narrow road to Nedd, eventually parking in the drive to Ian and Pat Evans' house. The sole elder bush in the village received much attention as the party gathered, study rewarded by Metzgeria fruticulosa – an uncommon plant up here and, in my experience, restricted to elder bark. The coastal birch-hazel woodland at Duart is very pleasant with a great mass of common bryophytes on the rocky floor. The oceanic element is strongly represented, as one would expect, with records of Radula aquilegia, Lejeunea lamacerina, L. patens, Frullania microphylla, Plagiochila killarniensis, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Harpalejeunea ovata, Metzgeria leptoneura and Hylocomium umbratum. Some of the hazels had good cushions of Ulota drummondii; Kurzia sylvatica* occurs on peaty banks above the sea. At the end of the afternoon we adjourned to the Evans's house for copious tea, scones and cake. For most this was a very civilised end to the proceedings of the day but a handful of stalwarts went on to Craig an Spardain, near Unapool to re-find Glyphomitrium daviesii; Tom Blockeel also recorded Lejeunea ulicina*.

Sunday 2 August. Inverkirkaig (29/08-19-)
This should have been the 'big hill day' on Conival but the forecast was dire, threatening to flush all bryologists off the mountains, so the venue was switched. This was probably the sunniest day of the week. Inverkirkaig woodland extends out in a strip along the coast from the ravine of the Kirkaig river. The woodland is largely birch with some hazel and is very damp and humid and produced a prodigious list of some 193 taxa but without any real rarities. The woodland by the river has a series of low crags with rocky slopes in between, all with deep cushions of bryophytes including Sphagnum quinquefarium, Lepidozia cupressina and Hylocomium umbratum, the latter in lush domes over rocks and tree stumps.

The rocks in and by the river produced Hygrohypnum ochraceum, H. eugyrium and, where more base-rich, H. luridum as well as Cinclidotus fontinaloides, Schistidium alpicola var. rivulare and occasionally, Radula aquilegia. The steep faces of the crags had a range of the small Lejeuneaceae of which Aphanolejeunea microscopica was by far the most frequent but Cololejeunea calcarea, Harpalejeunea ovata and Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia all occur. Colura calyptrifolia seemed to be limited to the rocks in the more heathy western margin of the woodland along with Harpanthus scutatus. Frullania microphylla and Lophocolea fragrans favoured the coastal rocks in this area also.

Monday 3 August. Conival (29/30-20-)
This was the wettest day of the meeting but a depleted team decided that they were keen to go "if I was" which gave me little choice! The rain fell relentlessly and compass bearings were necessary to locate v.-c. 107 into which we were straying in search of large hepatics and snow-bed things. Once over the bealach into the upper reaches of Coire a'Mhadaidh (The Fox Coire – only the sensible foxes were giving it a wide berth today), bryologising began in the first set of block scree. Gradually a good list of the large oceanic-montane hepatics was built up – Scapania ornithopodioides, S. nimbosa, Mastigophora woodsii, Anastrophyllum donianum, A. joergensenii, Bazzania tricrenata, B. pearsonii and Plagiochila carringtonii. For some, this was a first acquaintance with this unique community and it was a pity that the conditions on which it presumably depends prevented real enjoyment!

After a dank lunch the plan was to move higher up the coire to a line of crags where the snow lies late. On the way, we passed some interesting flushes with Philonotis seriata*, P. tomentella* and Scapania uliginosa*. The upper scree slopes are quartzite and rather mobile and thus not very productive but the broken ground below the crags proved very interesting. Common snow-bed species like Kiaeria starkei, K. falcata and Pohlia ludwigii were frequent on the wet soil of ledges and crags. Mike Fletcher found Moerckia blyttii in a similar site and Lophozia opacifolia, Diplophyllum taxifolium and Marsupella sphacelata were also noted. One dripping crag had a large stand of Andreaea nivalis*, the most northerly British site for this rare moss. The fern Athyrium distentifolium is a common constituent of block scree communities where snow lies late and often has interesting bryophyte associates growing on the litter and this proved to be the case here with Brachythecium reflexum* in some abundance, again a new northerly outpost. Well satisfied with the limited but significant list, we headed back round the coire to the bealach and the long trudge back to the vehicles.

Those of the full party with a less perverse nature stuck to the lower ground, visiting the woodland at Achmelvich (29/075249) which proved rather poor and a mire on the margin of Loch na Claise (29/032207) which had Campylium polygamum and Splachnum ampullaceum.

Tuesday 4 August. Allt na Uamh (29/26-16- & 17-)
A second visit to the Cambrian limestone, this time with a northerly aspect and the added interest of block scree and caves. The lower section of the burn was in spate so activity was confined to the north side where isolated limestone blocks attracted much attention. Both Leucodon sciuroides and Antitrichia curtipendula occur here with Barbula reflexa, Seligeria recurvata, and Bryum elegans. At one point a large tributary to the main burn gushes forth from the base of a crag but a dense covering of bryophytes here proved to be largely Rhynchostegium riparoides. The steep slopes in this area had some surface drainage also and the flushes, dominated by Cratoneuron commutatum var. falcatum, had cushions of Leiocolea bantriensis and a little Amblyodon dealbatus. Shortly above, the main burn also disappeared leaving a dry river bed which we crossed to ascend the bouldery slope to the crags. The limestone blocks below the first crags had scattered patches of Pseudoleskeella catenulata and also provided ideal perches for a protracted lunch. As we moved off again, Alan Crundwell immediately found Schistidium trichodon, "looking rather sat on"! The crags and ledges around the caves have an interesting flora. In the caves there are wefts of Amblystegium compactum and Platydictya jungermannioides, on steep faces close to the caves large mats of Pseudoleskeella catenulata and on boulders just below, Pseudoleskeella sibirica. In dripping, algae-covered corners, the distinctive shoots of Seligeria trifaria could be found if enough 'gunge' was examined. More open rocks had occasional cushions of Tortella densa and drier, sheltered crevices, Encalypta alpina. In the evening, the bulk of the party repaired to the Burnside Bistro in downtown Lochinver for an excellent meal, an occasion enlivened by Mike Fletcher's portable 'moss garden' and the photographic exploits of the indefatigable Harold Whitehouse.

GORDON ROTHERO

 

Summer Field Meeting 1992 (Second week)

The Uists & Benbecula, 5 - 12 August

On the evening of 5 August I waited for two hours in the bar of the Creagorry Hotel with a force 10 gale blowing outside. By 10 o'clock I was planning my return to Edinburgh for the following day, but at 10.15 four of the BBS arrived, variously sick, windswept and exhausted from the Uig ferry. The following morning there were eight of us, the wind had dropped and it was fine but cold. The weather continued to improve and we had a thoroughly interesting and enjoyable week.

We visited several 'machair' sites on the west coast of the Uists and Benbecula. Machair is the name for the sandy plain which runs more or less continuously north-south along the length of the islands, and east-west along the coast of North Uist and Berneray. Much of it is quite flat though, here and there, there are dune-systems with a more usual formation of dunes and slacks. The flat machair is, or has been extensively cultivated, but there are wetter, fenny areas where the machair joins the 'blackland' which are bryologically interesting. The dune slacks, where they are well developed, are very rich.

The mountains are Lewisian Gneiss, and are therefore hard and acidic. They are approached across blanket bog most of which is exceedingly dull, probably because it has been burned too frequently. Parts of the upper slopes are very heavily grazed and are similarly of little interest. But the steeper and less accessible parts have areas of tall heather and ledge communities that contain several of the more interesting Atlantic hepatics.

We also visited two of the smaller islands, Berneray and Pabbay.

MACHAIR SITES

1. Loch Hallan (735 225) 6 August
We spent several hours in the fen at the north end of Loch Hallan. Progress was slow because the water was deep and round much of the area there were tall reeds (Phragmites is dominant over an area of about 15 ha). There was also much discussion over the identity of Calliergon and Drepanocladus specimens. The following were recorded: Calliergon cordifolium, C. giganteum, Drepanocladus aduncus, D. lycopodioides, D. sendtneri, Campylium elodes, Plagiomnium elatum, P. ellipticum and Philonotis calcarea. There were large and spectacular patches of Marchantia polymorpha (the old and beautiful var. aquatica).

We returned to Askernish House by a drier route (we had by no means done a complete survey of the fen) and recorded Leptobryum pyriforme and Brachythecium mildeanum on the way. Harold Whitehouse collected specimens of several species of Bryum from fallow cultivated ground including B. dunense*, B. rubens and B. ruderale*.

2. Benbecula Aerodrome (790 570) 6 August
We drove across the runways of the airfield escorted by a rescue vehicle, we then bounced through several hundred yards of dunes and parked close to the site of the wheelhouse at An Tom. Most of this area of dunes is dry and bryologically dull (ragwort, marram grass and Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus). But there is one exceptionally rich slack. This is marked as standing water on the 1:50,000 O.S. and, as you approach it, looks very unprepossessing. It is littered with rusting scrap, old tyres and various other military rubbish; indeed it is difficult to tell whether the slack itself is natural, or whether it has been excavated. The lowest part is Carex nigra/Calliergon cuspidatum and unremarkable, but the slightly higher ground on the SE and SW sides is covered by tufts, patches and sheets of Distichium inclinatum, Catoscopium nigritum and Meesia uliginosa. We also saw Amblyodon dealbatus, Barbula reflexa, Moerckia hibernica and Riccardia incurvata* here. Amblyodon and Moerckia were much less abundant than I noted in 1983 ('frequent'), but Amblyodon was difficult to spot because its leaves had turned black rather earlier in the season than usual. Meesia and Catoscopium were both more abundant than I remember them.

By the bank at the NE end of the slack, growing on old crumbling tarmac were beautiful sheets of Encalypta rhaptocarpa. Martin Wigginton collected Barbula trifaria* here, a considerable extension beyond its previously known limits in Wigtown and Banff.

3. Baleshare (790 600) 9 August
Baleshare is a small island connected to N. Uist by a ½-mile causeway. The southern half is a dune system, with high dunes to the western edge, and lower dunes and flatter slack-like areas in their lee. The northern part of the machair has been enclosed by fences, and new areas have been cultivated in recent years. Among some of the older turf, and outside the fences at the head of the saltmarsh of the NE shore of Traigh Eachkamish we found Amblyodon dealbatus, Jungermannia atrovirens, J. exsertifolia ssp. cordifolia and, in the saltmarsh, Lejeunea patens and Frullania tamarisci. Further south towards the far end of the enclosed ground we found Moerckia hibernica, Meesia uliginosa (both locally abundant), Catoscopium nigritum and Distichium inclinatum. Beyond the fences a path continues through miniature dunes which open out into a wide flat expanse of slack-like vegetation. On very slightly raised patches of sand either side of the path Tortella inclinata grows. At first it does not stand out well from the Distichium capillaceum with which it grows but when it is dry the straight leaves and the bright, matt, pale green colour are distinctive.

In the lowest-lying area, which is apparently flooded by the sea several times every winter, bryophytes are prominent in the vegetation. Calliergon cuspidatum and Drepanocladus revolvens are, of course, common, but there are quite large areas dominated by Campylium elodes and Cratoneuron filicinum, growing in a close mixture and looking astonishingly alike. We also recorded Campylium polygamum.

4. Balranald and Hougharry (705 705) 9 August
A few of us spent a short time in the fen which extends to the south and west of Loch nam Feithean. Its appearance in August is spectacular because grazing animals are excluded and the plants, in particular Pedicularis sylvatica which is very abundant, are allowed to flower. Drepanocladus sendtneri, D. uncinatus, Campylium elodes, Calliergon cordifolium, C. giganteum and Plagiomnium ellipticum were recorded. Harold Whitehouse looked at an oatfield at Hougharry and collected B. klinggraeffii, B. rubens and B. ruderale.

MOUNTAIN SITES

1. Beinn Mhor (809 311) and Allt Volagir (800 295) 8 August
The day of the main mountain excursion was gloriously fine. We climbed Beinn Mhor from Locheynort and the route turned out to be rather steeper than we had expected. We spent much of the morning however in and around the scrap of woodland on the Allt Volagir (800 294). This is the only native woodland in the Outer Hebrides. It consists of a handful of aspen, hazel, rowan and ash trees, clinging to the steep bank of the stream cutting. I am ashamed to admit that I had more or less dismissed its bryological interest on an earlier visit because of its pathetic size and its midge population. The Nick Hodgetts party was much more tenacious and found Frullania fragilifolia, F. microphylla, F. teneriffae, Aphanolejeunea microscopica, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Harpalejeunea ovata, Lejeunea lamacerina, Colura calyptrifolia, Ulota calvescens and Glyphomitrium daviesii. Harold Whitehouse and I found Campylopus brevipilus in an otherwise dull patch of bog to the north of Loch nam Faoileann.

The fragmented party reunited for lunch on the summit of Beinn Mhor, from where we could see all the watery mosaic of the Uists sparkling in the sun, St Kilda to the west and, north and south, the length of the Hebrides.

On the north and north-east slopes of the hill, which are quite different from the dull grassy south-facing slopes, we found a rich assortment of hepatics, growing on banks and ledges or among tall heather and boulders: Anastrepta orcadensis, Bazzania tricrenata, B. pearsonii, Herbertus aduncus, Mastigophora woodsii, Plagiochila carringtonii, Scapania ornithopodioides and S. nimbosa. Harold collected Campylopus schwarzii.

We returned to Loch Eynort by Bealach Crosgard, accompanied by two walkers, she young and silent, he about ten years older, talkative and inquisitive. We found Campylopus shawii near the bealach, (Martin Wigginton also found Pohlia muyldermansii* and Cephalozia macrostachya* during the course of the day) but arrived at the vehicles mentally and physically drained.

2. Hecla (825 345) 11 August
On the last day, after the rest of the party had departed, Harold and I climbed from the deserted village of Lochskipport into Choire na h-Eitich, below Ben Scalavat. We again found Anastrepta orcadensis, Herbertus aduncus, Mastigophora woodsii, Plagiochila carringtonii and Scapania ornithopodioides, growing in tall heather at about 250-300m. Harold took a lot of stereo photographs and we returned in cold, heavy rain.

SMALLER ISLANDS

1. Pabbay (890 880) 7 August
Pabbay lies in the Sound of Harris, at the Atlantic end, roughly mid-way between North Uist and Harris. A hundred years ago it had three hundred inhabitants, now it has none. There is one house that the owner uses occasionally, about a thousand sheep, and a small domesticated herd of red deer. It is botanically interesting because the whole of the south slope (more than half of the island) is covered by calcareous blown sand, forming a 'climbing' dune system. Much of this sand is damp from water percolating down the slope, and it supports a rich variety of calcicolous plants. We travelled to the island in the boat used to transport the sheep, which is also the reserve boat for the Berneray Ferry. It has a huge engine (reassuring) but no seats (uncomfortable) and cost us £10.00 per head (the equivalent cost for a sheep would be less than 50p).

Among the dunes, flushes, slacks and grassland of the south side of the island we found Amblyodon dealbatus, Barbula reflexa, Distichium inclinatum, Encalypta streptocarpa, Neckera complanata, Orthotrichum cupulatum*, O. rupestre, Leiocolea alpestris*, Meesia uliginosa, Riccardia incurvata, Riccia beyrichiana, Tortella fragilis, Philonotis calcarea and a long list of commoner bryophytes.

We had lunch below the summit of Beinn a Charnain (196m) where we found Archidium alternifolium and, just to the north of the summit, Salix herbacea (this must be one of its lowest sites in Britain). We spent most of the afternoon looking at the north and north-east slopes of the island, where we found Myurium hochstetteri, growing reasonably frequently on rock ledges, in turf and here and there on open peat. Radula aquilegia was also seen growing on wet, almost bare peat. On one exposed line of rock running down towards Brenish Point, we found Frullania fragilifolia, F. teneriffae, Harpalejeunea ovata, Saccogyna viticulosa, Odontoschisma elongatum* and Colura calyptrifolia. Nick Hodgetts found Sphagnum platyphyllum somewhere on the island, and one of us (not me) got lost in the sand dunes on the way back to the boat.

2. Berneray (910 820) 10 August
The ferry to Berneray is a much more sedate affair. Half the party arrived at the jetty after it had departed, but it came back for a second trip. Berneray has a massive dune and machair system, three miles long by a mile wide, more than half the area of the island. A large part of it has been cultivated for a long time (probably several thousand years), but we saw none of it under cultivation in 1992. The slacks and damp, low-lying areas are bryologically rich (it is one of the best machair sites), but it offered little that we had not already seen, so most of us decided to explore the north-east end of the island where, as on Pabbay, sand is blown over the slopes of a hill.

This ground is heavily grazed by sheep, and much of it has been cultivated in the past (the population of Berneray at its maximum was 2,000; now 200 or so). In the furrows of old ridge-and-furrow lines we found Scapania aequiloba, Leiocolea alpestris and abundant Moerckia hibernica. Rock protrudes through the sand around the west side of the foot of the hill. Here we found eight or nine species of Barbula, Orthotrichum rupestre, Gymnostomum recurvirostrum, Porella obtusata and Trichostomum crispulum. Further round the north side of the hill, on the lower slopes we found large quantities of Myurium hochstetteri, growing in beautiful shining tufts. We also looked at several flushes (Leiocolea bantriensis, Philonotis calcarea) and some damp rock outcrops. Some of the rock habitats were particularly interesting. We recorded Amblyodon dealbatus, Radula aquilegia, Leiocolea badensis, Harpalejeunea ovata, Lejeunea lamacerina, Frullania fragilifolia, F. teneriffae, Aphanolejunea microsopica and Platydictya jungermannioides*. Ron Porley visited the sand dunes and saw Catoscopium nigritum, Amblyodon dealbatus, Meesia uliginosa, Drepanocladus revolvens, etc., and walked much further than the rest of us.

I was helped greatly in planning the meeting and finding suitable accommodation by the local staff of Scottish Natural Heritage, Dr Mary Elliott and Miss Norah Macphee. Some of the new vice-county records (*) have still to be confirmed.

PETER PITKIN

 

Annual General Meeting and Symposium Meeting 1992

Chelwood Gate, Sussex, 26-27 September


A complete change from our normal venues for autumn AGM weekend meetings was provided by the University of Sussex's pleasant field centre, the Isle of Thorns. Situated in the Ashdown Forest, also known as Winnie the Pooh country, fine weather enabled us to make the very best of the beautiful surroundings. The centre provided all that could be needed for the weekend (26-27 Septermber) including a friendly atmosphere. The standard of accommodation was high, and David Streeter's organisation proved faultless. Francis Rose provided two interesting local excursions on the Sunday. I am also grateful to the speakers who provided a satisfying mix of topics and presentations of excellent quality. The following short summaries have been provided by the authors.

PHILIP LIGHTOWLERS



Prof J.G.DUCKETT (Queen Mary College, London), Prof. R Ligrone (University of Naples) and Drs J.A. Goode and A.D. Stead (Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, London): 'How things fall off bryophytes.'

Loss of adhesion in the abscission regions of vascular plants, whether these be leaves, floral parts, seeds or vegetative propagules, results from hydrolysis of the middle lamellae coupled with expansion and rounding-off of the same cells. By contrast, the wide assortment of diaspores produced by bryophytes (Longton and Schuster, 1983) displays a range of abscission mechanisms paralleling those seen in the fungi and in the algae. Although used extensively in bryophyte taxonomy, until very recently (Bopp et al., 1991; Duckett & Ligrone, 1992) the development and liberation mechanisms of diaspores have been virtually ignored since Correns' (1899) encyclopedic treatise.

Apart from fragile leaves, and caducous leaves and perianths, which become detached by breakage through an intercalary region of thin-walled living cells, other abscission mechanisms in bryophytes involve uniaxial filaments. The rhizoidal gemmae of mosses are the only examples of diaspores where an abscission mechanism (other than rotting of the subjacent cells) is lacking, a situation almost certainly related to the fact that these propagules are produced underground.

Deciduous shootlets (e.g. Leucodon), axillary bulbils (e.g. Pohlia) and cauline gemmae (e.g. Tetraphis) are liberated by the random breakage of thin-walled stalk cells. Formation of new internal walls followed by rupture of the old external walls is a feature shared by the gemmae in the liverworts Riccardia and Metzgeria and the mosses Tortula latifolia and numerous Orthotricha. Breakage along the middle lamella characterises the liberation of catenate gemmae in the Jungermanniales.

The most specialised liberation mechanisms are those involving the formation of abscission or tmema cells. These are a constant feature of the foliar gemmae in Calymperes (Ligrone et al., 1992) and Dicranoweisia cirrata, the axillary gemmae in Zygodon and Bryum flaccidum and the protonemal gemmae in Funaria and many species of Bryum (Goode et al., 1993). In the last two genera a transverse array of microtubules characterises tmema cell development. Though reminiscent of a preprophase band otherwise unknown in moss protonemata, its function is more likely exclusion of chloroplasts from the tmema cell rather than positioning of the new cell plate. An equatorial band of microtubules and actin microfilaments found in the mature tmema cells of Bryum probably has a key role in wall breakdown leading to the fragmentation of the protonema.

In old cultures, or in the presence of abscissic acid, the cylindrical chloronemal cells of most mosses de-differentiate into spherical brood cells. These contain random arrays of microtubules recalling those seen in protoplasts and are frequently thick-walled and desiccation resistant. When transferred to new medium, brood cells rapidly regenerate new protonemata.

Although protonemal diaspores, and their liberation mechanisms, are most readily observed in axenic cultures, field observation reveal that they are also to be found in nature – often in great abundance (e.g. Orthodontium lineare). Thus protonemal diaspores probably have an important role in the natural reproductive biology of mosses.

References

Bopp, M., H. Quader, C. Thoni, T. Sawidis & E. Schnepf (1991). Filament disruption in Funaria protonema: formation and disintegration of tmema cells. J.Plant Physiol. 137: 273-284.
Correns, C. (1899). Untersuchungen en uber die Vermehrung der Laubmoose durch Brutorgane and Stecklinge. G. Fisher, Jena.
Duckett, J.G. & R. Ligrone (1992). A survey of diaspore liberation mechanisms and germination patterns in mosses. J.Bryol. 17: 1-20.
Goode, J.A., F. Alfano, A.D. Stead, & J.G. Duckett (1993). The formation of aplastidic abscission (tmema) cell and protonemal disruption in the moss Bryum tenuisetum Limpr. is associated with transverse arrays of microtubules and microfilaments. Protoplasma (in press).
Ligrone, R., J.G. Duckett & A. Egunyomi (1992). Foliar and protonemal gemmae in the tropical moss Calymperes (Calymperaceae): an ultrastructural study. Crypt.Bot 2: 317-329.
Longton, R.E. & R.M. Schuster (1983). Reproductive biology. In Schuster, R.M. (ed.), New Manual of Bryology. Vol. 1, pp 386-462. Hattori Botanical Laboratory, Nichinan.



Prof. M.C.F. PROCTOR (University of Exeter): 'Micro-environmental conditions and the growth of Grimmia pulvinata.'



Mr D. LONG (Royal Botanical Garden, Edinburgh): 'The hepatic genus Asterella in continental eastern Asia.'

Asterella P. Beauv. (syn. Fimbriaria Nees) is one of the largest genera of Marchantiales, in the family Aytoniaceae. From its close relatives Reboulia, Cryptomitrium and Mannia it is distinguished by the unique "pseudoperianth", a peristome-like structure enclosing the sporophyte. Asterella is of particular interest for its diversity of branching patterns and almost world-wide distribution.

In continental east Asia no fewer than 29 taxa have been described, many of these based on herbarium studies of very inadequate material. Recent field-based studies in the Himalaya and China, combined with a reassessment of character stability, and fruitful study of spore morphology using SEM, have shown that in the past rather plastic thallus characters have been over-utilised and have resulted in great taxonomic confusion and repeated description of some common species under many names. A notable exception has been Kashyap's work in the north-west Himalaya, based on field studies, with correct understanding of the common species. Kashyap, however, was not able to study types and applied the correct name to only one of his species.

The most useful characters have been branching patterns, sexual condition (paroicous, autoicous and dioicous), morphology of ventral scale appendages and spore colour and ornamentation. SEM studies of spores have been especially useful in placing scrappy type specimens. Eight species are now recognised in continental E. Asia: one dioicous, three paroicous and four autoicous species.

These autoicous species are of particular interest as each has a different arrangement of fertile branching patterns: (1) female terminal on main thallus, male on short ventral branches; (2) male terminal on main thallus, female on short ventral branches; (3) both male and female on short ventral branches and (4) female terminal on short terminal branch and male dorsal on opposite terminal branch which continues as a vegetative innovation.

This last condition is found in an undescribed species recently discovered in the east Himalaya, a feature of which appears to relate it most closely to two or three species in Mexico and California.

The eight species recognised show a diversity of ecology and distribution. Two species are restricted to strictly calcareous substrates, others are more calcifuge. The highest record is from 4,050m in East Nepal. Several species are opportunist and weedy in the Himalaya, especially favouring damp walls, religious buildings such as Buddhist "chortens", terrace walls and banks on cultivated hillsides. In the Himalaya two species show specialised adaptation to the strict alternation of a wet monsoon season and a dry winter/spring season when xeromorphic thallus branches are produced. Lack of understanding of such seasonal modifications has contributed to past taxonomic confusion.



Dr R.E. LONGTON (University of Reading) and YLI YONG MIN (Guizhou Agricultural College, People's Republic of China): 'Agrobryology in China'.

Chinese gallnuts are galls that form on the leaves of sumac trees (Rhus spp.) in response to attack by aphids in the Eriosomatinae. Various mosses from obligate winter hosts for the aphids and thus gallnuts develop only when appropriate species of moss and sumac tree occur in close proximity. The walls of the gallnuts may comprise over 70% tannins and yield compounds of considerable commercial value, notably tannic acid, and gallic acid which derives its name from its occurrence in galls. Gallnuts therefore command a high price, currently around £2.50 per kilogram to the producer, and gallnut production can have a major impact on the local economy in rural areas of China.

At least 14 types of gall have been described from Rhus spp. in China, each caused by a different species of aphid, although the classification of galls and aphids may require clarification. A wide range of mosses act as winter hosts. Of greatest importance commercially is the true-horned gallnut which forms on Rhus chinensis in response to attack by Schlechtendalia chinensis, an aphid that overwinters on members of the Mniaceae, particularly Plagiomnium acutum. There are six generations of S. chinensis in each annual cycle. Reproduction is principally viviparous and parthenogenetic, except for a single sexual generation produced after spring migrants fly from mosses to the sumac trees in April and early May.

True-horned gallnuts are traditionally harvested from semi-natural woodland on rocky hillsides. Approximately 1-2% cover of P. acutum is adequate to support high production of gallnuts provided that it is uniformly distributed, and favourable distribution and abundance of the moss is achieved by transplantation. Attempts are also being made to produce gallnuts by growing sumac trees in agricultural fields, but success is limited by the difficulty of establishing Plagiomnium species in the fields. One solution is to cultivate the moss on soil in plastic bowls which are kept for most of the year in sheds. Five thousand of such bowls are in use at the Tso Ling Zhai Gallnut Experimental Station in Guizhou Province. In October each year the bowls are placed outside under the sumac trees for several weeks and autumn-migrant aphids fly into the moss colonies. The bowls are kept in the sheds during the winter, the moss mat is stripped from the bowls and placed under the sumac trees in April, and spring-migrant aphids then leave the moss and fly to the trees. The moss regenerates in the bowls during summer. We are currently investigating the growth and reproduction of P. acutum as an approach towards increasing gallnut production.



Mr C.C. TOWNSEND (Twickenham): 'Temperate to tropical - taking the plunge.'

There is no reason why any reasonably competent bryologist cannot have a part in advancing the knowledge of tropical bryology; the BBS Tropical Bryology group will help as a vehicle for pooling knowledge and experience. There are four basic near-essentials to begin with:

  1. To have access to, or determination to travel to, a good representative herbarium for checking determinations.
  2. To be prepared to lay out cash for a basic library of books as they become necessary – some expensive (especially Brotherus' treatment of the mosses in Engler and Prantl's Die Natürlichen Planzenfamilien ed. 2) , others quite cheap
  3. Be prepared to travel or, often, to recruit those who do (holidaymakers, overseas representatives, missionaries, etc.).
  4. To be willing to seek (but not presume upon) advice of others more experienced.

At the beginning (and these remarks apply to other foreign parts as well as the tropics), set goals:

  1. Is this to be a relaxation alone, to an attempt to contribute to knowledge? A demanding job need not disqualify – Dixon was headmaster of a school for the deaf and dumb.
  2. Am I thinking of one region, or hoping to extend it to the world?
  3. If the world, choose mosses OR liverworts – you can't do both (though it may be possible for a restricted area)
  4. Shall I name material for expeditions or surveys (a fundamental need), or attempt revisionary work?

Such decisions as these are best made early to avoid gaining knowledge which will be lost later.

It is best to start in a small way, free of pressure of responsibility. Mosses used for packing or brought back by those with no interest in receiving names, or collected personally on a package holiday. Now is a good time to start – there is much more literature on tropical mosses than a few years ago, especially vital checklists; these are invaluable, and even a comparative beginner can produce one by a careful literature survey.

One of the first requirements is to shed preconceptions gained as a result of looking at British bryophytes, such as:

  1. Lots of liverworts have underleaves, but mosses do not (Hypopterygiaceae and Racopilaceae will soon teach otherwise).
  2. It is a waste of time to collect sterile Bryum (e.g. in West Indies much can be done in this state).
  3. Some "key" characters will need a new conception. "Basal cells abruptly demarcated from the upper" is much more extreme in the Calymperaceae than in any European mosses.
  4. Ranges of habitat are found over a comparatively short distance at times in the tropics, with corresponding diversity of bryophytes.
  5. Realising that knowledge of British (even more, European) bryophytes will be of more use than expected in the tropics, both to genera and family, especially in the Old World uplands.

As knowledge of the literature is gained, it will also be realised that many drawings of tropical mosses are excellent. Those of the Bryologia Javanica and Renauld and Cardot's "Mousses de Madagascar" are every bit as fine as Bryologia Europaea. There are many encouragements for those who will "go for it".



Mr D. SYNNOTT (National Botanical Gardens, Dublin): 'The BBS and Irish bryology.'

The new Regional Recorder Scheme for bryophytes highlights the continuing difficulty that Irish bryologists have in applying schemes in Ireland which were devised for application in Great Britain. Shortage of fieldworkers both native and imported militates against success of mapping schemes and other network research projects which are extended to Ireland from a base in Great Britain.

Recording of cryptogams in Ireland cannot keep pace with that in Great Britain unless British botanists are prepared to come to Ireland more often than they do at present, both as individuals and in organized groups. The "Troubles" in Northern Ireland have not helped in furthering this necessary process. There was only one member from Great Britain at the recent BBS meeting in Northern Ireland and some really good friends of Irish bryology who have done more than their share of the work in Ireland already were deterred from participating because of their unease with the situation.

Ireland and Great Britain have since the time of Hooker and Taylor been treated as a biogeographical unit for bryophyte recording. The outstanding success of the BBS mapping scheme is a clear indication of the benefits for Irish botany which result from the involvement of British-based botanists and societies.

There have never been more than a few active field bryologists in Ireland. Some of them have made a major contribution to their subject and several species are named for Irish bryologists of the last century, e.g. Templeton, Taylor and Hutchins. It is worth recalling that the forerunner of the BBS, the Moss Exchange Club, was formed following a letter to three journals in 1895, Science Gossip, the Journal of Botany and the Irish Naturalist by a Northern Irish clergyman, Rev. C.H. Waddell of Saintfield, Co. Down. Waddell managed the Exchange until it was on a sound footing and had acquired that momentum which continues to this day.

There may be some British bryologists working in areas already overcrowded with field workers or who would enjoy a change of scenery of habitats. If such a person were to adopt an Irish vice-couinty (there are still thirty-nine to choose from – Limerick has already been adopted) I can give two guarantees, bryological fulfilment and a hearty Cead Mile Failte from the Irish botanical community.



Dr F. ROSE (Petersfield) and Mr R.C. STERN (Chichester): 'Bryophyte distribution in Sussex - the new Sussex atlas.'

Sussex (vice-counties 13 and 14) has a bryophyte flora that is remarkably rich for a lowland county in south-east England. Five hundred and fifty one taxa have been recorded, of which 53 have not been seen for many years, and may be extinct; a few others, known until recently, have not been refound in their old localities and may also have gone, but could be found elsewhere.

The richness of Sussex in bryophytes is clearly a result of its varied geology and habitats. The massive sand rocks that outcrop on the sides of several valleys on the Hastings sandstones of the High Weald in East Sussex provide habitats for a number of hepatics and a few mosses that are otherwise absent (or else extremely rare) in England east of Exmoor and south of the central Pennines. The extensive chalk grasslands of the South Downs, particularly on north or east slopes, provide continuing locations for a large number of more exacting calcicole species. The deep gills of the High Weald, with their rocky beds and small waterfalls, have often a bryophyte flora more reminiscent of Wales or the valleys around Dartmoor than of any other areas in lowland England. Finally, there are still considerable areas of wet and dry heath, with occasional valley bogs, on both the Lower Greensand in the west of the county, and on the sands of Ashdown Forest in the east, that provide habitats still present in some other southern counties, but which have largely disappeared from most of midland and eastern England.

A number of slides were shown of maps (mainly tetrad maps from Rose, Stern, Matcham and Coppins, 1991) illustrating the various types of distribution shown by the more local bryophytes of Sussex. In many cases slides were also shown of photographs of the species themselves. These species included a number of the very local Sussex sandrock species (e.g. Harpanthus scutatus, Scapania gracilis, Bazzania trilobata, Dicranum scottianum, Tetrodontium brownianum and Orthodontium gracile) which are still persisting in a number of places. Also included were species of rocky streamsides or flushes in wooded Wealden gills (e.g. Hyocomium armoricum, Hookeria lucens and Trichocolea tomentella) which are still remarkably frequent over wide areas of the High Weald of Sussex and in some cases extend to the wet alder carrs of the Lower Greensand. Local species of humid heaths (e.g. Dicranum spurium) or valley bogs (e.g. Sphagnum papillosum) which still persist in many places on Lower Greensand or in Ashdown Forest; and finally a number of the species of steep, open chalk grassland which are still widespread along the downs, particularly on humid north slopes (e.g. Neckera crispa, Scapania aspera, Frullania tamarisci and Tortella tortuosa), dry south facing slopes (e.g. Pleurochaete squarrosa) or on chalk stones in woodland (e.g. Tortella inflexa). Frullania tamarisci also occurs as an epiphyte on old trees (mostly oaks) in ancient woodland; the question arises, are there distinct ecotypes of this species?

Reference

Rose, F., R.C. Stern, H.W. Matcham & B.J. Coppins (1991). Atlas of Sussex Mosses, Liverworts and Lichens. Brighton, Booth Museum of Natural History.

 

Field Excursion to Ashdown Forest, 27 September 1992

The morning was spent in the Duddleswell Valley, high up in the Ashdown Forest. Over 30 members were led by Francis Rose accompanied by the local ranger, Chris Marrabel. An area of wet heath and bog was examined first; 10 Sphagna were seen including S. molle, a rare species in S. England, and confined in Sussex to a few places in the Ashdown Forest. Nardia compressa was seen in reasonable quantity in the stream above the main ravine; in lowland Britain, this liverwort is confined to this site and one further north in the Ashdown Forest. Mark Hill collected Sphagnum auriculatum var.inundatum as well as S. recurvum var. tenue (= S. angustifolium), which was new to Sussex, in boggy parts of the valley, where Jean Paton found Cephaloziella rubella (first recent record for E. Sussex) and C. elachista. In the main ravine, the abundance of Hyocomium armoricum c.fr. was admired, but Diphyscium foliosum could not be refound. To round off a successful morning, David Long found Cryptothallus mirabilis, only the third record for Sussex, and new to the Ashdown Forest.

The sandrocks at Wakehurst Place were the location for the afternoon excursion. A steadily reducing party saw some of the sandrock liverworts such as Scapania gracilis, Bazzania trilobata and Kurzia sylvatica on the way to Tilgate Wood. The main rocks in the wood were somewhat elusive, mainly as a result of the recent erection of a deer fence, and in searching for these we found the devastation caused by the Great Storm of 16 October, 1987 was still much in evidence. Eventually the rocks were found and a limited number of the party were available to admire Harpanthus scutatus on them.

ROD STERN

 

Bryophyte Workshop 1992

University of East London 31 October - 1 November

Thirteen members attended the taxonomic workshop over the weekend of 31 October - 1 November at the University of East London. We were very fortunate in having the expert guidance of the distinguished Dutch bryologist, Dr Ida Bruggeman-Nannenga, who has spent many years studying the European Fissidens taxa and has built up an encyclopedic knowledge of their variation in the field. Using stained permanent slides of every European taxon, she demonstrated their essential diagnostic features with a video projection microscope, and afterwards members were able to study the slides for themselves. It was a great relief to have confirmed that members of the F. bryoides group are not always clearly defined, and would probably be better given the rank of "expression" rather than full specific or varietal status, as the morphology of several taxa tend to converge under certain habitat conditions. It was also illuminating to see how the various taxa behave in the wider context of the continent.

Dr Harold Whitehouse brought along a selection of his superb stereo-photographs of Fissidens and Tortula species, complementing Ida's microscope slides with an indication of disposition of some of the taxa in the third dimension.

Having had such a feast on Fissidens, the 'afters' on Tortula brought everyone literally down to earth by concentrating on just two species and their look-alikes. The update on Hennediella macrophylla (= T. brevis) pointed out the rather sordid fact that it was apparently being spread along the banks of very mucky London streams and rivers, and on bare soil under trees in London parks, by none other than the brown rat. So far its look-alike H. standfordensis has not yet extended its range sufficiently to overlap. It was suggested that members might like to look out for evidence of it also being spread by rats, and to contemplate just how well the two might be recorded when eventually they expand their ranges and end up in mixed populations.

The other Tortula members were alerted to was T. virescens, which is turning up all over eastern England on tarmac paths, on damp brickwork, and on tombs in churchyards, and seems to be relatively uncommon on trees. On the Sunday Tim Pyner took us to Hatfield Broad Oak churchyard where it was growing in small tufts on brick tombs together with its look-alike T. intermedia. In the same churchyard a fine example of another plant that has been overlooked on stone in eastern England, Leucodon sciuroides, in two large patches on the limestone capping stones of buttresses on either side of the south door of the church. It has also been found recently on stone/brick elsewhere in Essex and in Cambridgeshire, and from the large patches present has clearly been overlooked in this habitat.

Unfortunately we were unable to visit the chalk pits in the Grays area as planned, due to problems with access. Members instead spent a pleasant sunny morning in Epping Forest looking at luxuriant patches of Zygodon forsteri, and both species of Leucobryum with capsules, as a substitute.

KENNETH J. ADAMS

 

 
 
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