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Local Meetings of the BBS

Borders Group

 

Account of Meetings in 2006

Mark Lawley

12A Castleview Terrace, Ludlow , SY8 2NG ; e-mail: mrbryology@gmail.com

In February, Sam Bosanquet led us to Cwm Nant Du (SO 2719), on the north side of The Sugar Loaf in Monmouthshire. Sam soon found Pohlia lutescens growing on shallow soil over a stone by the path. This little moss is most inconspicuous, and may therefore be overlooked and commoner than records indicate.

Having gained the cwm itself, we soon found ourselves confronted by the newly critical genus of Conocephalum , with C. salebrosum growing cheek by jowl with C. conicum . C. conicum has a shinier thallus with wider lobes, whereas C. salebrosum ’s thalli are a dull green and rather more spindly. Unfortunately, though, a range of intermediate forms was also in evidence, and befogged our determination to follow the latest fashion in hepaticology.

Further upstream, Marchantia polymorpha ssp. montivagans on a wet stone was the cause of further caustic imprecations regarding criteria for recognising intraspecific as opposed to specific taxa. M. polymorpha ssp. montivagans grows in wet places, and has dark lines between but not along the middle of each lobe of the thallus, whereas M. polymorpha ssp. polymorpha has a continuous dark median line, and the median line of ssp. ruderalis may be indistinct, interrupted, or absent. Much more clear-cut in terms of identification, Lorna Fraser and Paul Hudson found beautifully delicate, pale patches of Trichocolea tomentella growing on wet soil beneath trees.

The underlying Old Red Sandstone of north Monmouthshire is quite base-rich, and flushes further up the northern slope of the Sugar Loaf hold Drepanocladus cossonii and Plagiomnium elatum , along with Marchantia polymorpha ssp. polymorpha . Sam also pointed out Dicranum fuscescens hiding between boulders near the summit.

A heavy fall of snow cancelled our March meeting with Ray Woods in Radnorshire - the first time the elements had deterred Border Bryologists from entering the field. But one weekend of snow did not prevent plenty of extra-curricular winter-time activity on the English side of the border, relentlessly redefining the frontiers of Salopian field-science. Cololejeunea minutissima entered the vicecomital list near the River Severn at Coalport (SJ 7001), and Fossombronia incurva turned up in a disused sand quarry near Cound (SJ 5505). Conocephalum salebrosum seems to be reasonably frequent in Shropshire , although perhaps not quite so common as C. conicum . Of mosses, an array of uncommon species turned up on or near outcrops of calcareous sandstone at Loton Park , Alberbury (SJ 3513/3613) – with Didymodon acutus, Protobryum bryoides, Pterygoneurum ovatum and Tortula lanceola on shallow, well-drained soil overtopping an outcrop of rock in an old quarry. Fine cushions of Grimmia orbicularis were on the exposed rock itself, and Drepanocladus polygamus on wet soil nearby. A couple of miles up the road at Wollaston (SJ 3212), a field of wheat-stubble held impressive quantities of Weissia rostellata 56 Field Bryology number 91 and W. squarrosa , and other man-made habitats yielded Schistidium elegantulum ssp. elegantulum (on a concrete post at the side of a lane at Llawnt (SJ 2431), Syntrichia virescens on a tarmac path at Lilleshall (SJ 7215), and Grimmia laevigata on sandstone roof-tiles at Stoke St. Milborough (SO 5682) and Ashford Carbonnell (SO 5270), as well as Lyonshall (SO 3356) and Brampton Abbots (SO 6026) in Herefordshire. In more natural surroundings, the aquatic Fissidens rivularis grows in Beech Dingle (SJ 3513) and F. rufulus in Wyre Forest (SO 7479), with Rhynchostegiella curviseta (from Danford, near Claverley, SO 8093) re-entering Shropshire ’s list for the first time since J.B. Duncan found it in the county almost a century ago.

Our autumn programme got underway in the yard at Munslow Church (SO 5277) in Corvedale, Shropshire , at the invitation of villagers who were keen to have records for the “Caring for God’s Acre” project. One chap even provided a ladder so that we might investigate the bryoflora of the church roof, which unexpectedly proved to be home for substantial quantities of Racomitrium affine . Apart from that, the yard held few surprises. Tortula modica grew on the gravel path, with Bryum moravicum aka B. laevifilum aka B. subelegans aka B. flaccidum nearby. And it’s surprising how often one can find Cirriphyllum piliferum, Eurhynchium crassinervium and Rhynchostegiella tenella in churchyards on the Welsh border. Attention also wandered to a fine colony of Baeomyces rufus on a tombstone; this lichen thinks it’s a tiny toadstool, with its white stalk and redbrown cap. Fungi present included the waxcaps Hygrocybe chlorophana and H. virginea , a pretty little bonnet-cap Mycena pterigena , and the earthtongue Geoglossum cookeianum . However, some very determined rain started to fall at lunchtime, and we called it a day.

On our final meeting of the year, Jonathan Sleath led us over Cefn Hill (SO 2739/2738) in southwest Herefordshire. Falcate pleurocarps in flushes and on wet soil tested our abilities to distinguish species (and genera) in the field, with Drepanocladus cossonii and D. revolvens, Sanionia uncinata, Warnstorfia exannulata and W. fluitans all present, as well as Palustriella commutata and P. falcata. Calliergon giganteum also proved frequent in some of the wetter places. Patches of bare soil, poached by ponies, held Archidium alternifolium, Ditrichum heteromallum and Ephemerum serratum s.s .

Small outcrops of calcareous sandstone on Cefn Hill support Tortella bambergeri (a compact version of T. tortuosa which has fragile leaf-tips and papillae on the abaxial surface of the nerve near the tip), as do outcrops of similar rock in the Olchon valley, a mile or so west of Cefn Hill. The base-rich rock on Cefn Hill also holds Schistidium apocarpum s.s.

Conocephalum conicum and C. salebrosum came before us on different parts of the hill. Both these species seem frequent on the Welsh border, with C. conicum perhaps the commoner of the two. And Jonathan found Riccia subbifurca on shallow soil overlying an outcrop of sandstone, as well as a rosette of R. glauca growing over R. sorocarpa , which particularly interested those of us who had hitherto experienced difficulty in distinguishing these species, and reinforced how valuable the BBS Field-guide will be in enabling us to compare close-up photographs showing the distinguishing features of similar species.

 

 

Account of Meetings in 2004

Mark Lawley

12A Castleview Terrace, Ludlow , SY8 2NG ; e-mail: mrbryology@gmail.com

Our year’s meetings began in usual fashion with an indoor meeting in January. However, for the first time this was held in the new Museum and Resource Centre at Ludlow , where a light and spacious Education Room on the top floor offers wonderful panoramic views over the roofs of the town to Shropshire ’s hills beyond. A dozen bryological beginners made full and free use of the Centre’s pristine dissecting microscopes during the morning, and after lunch a bank of computers connected to the internet enabled us to spend a pleasant afternoon surfing the British Bryological Society’s website and links therefrom.

February’s meeting passed at Roundton Hill (SO2994 and SO2995) in south-east Montgomeryshire. Roundton is made of a basic igneous rock that supports a creditable range of calcicoles, while the day’s warm sunshine equally favoured the bryologists. Didymodon nicholsonii on soil on the track by the car park was new to v.-c. 47, and this gathering subsequently passed through the pearly gates into BBSUK. But greatest bryological interest lay in the flora of the rocks and shallow soil up the slopes where we came upon Aloina aloides , Ditrichum gracile, Pterogonium gracile, Rhodobryum roseum, Scleropodium tourettii, Tortula lanceola and T. modica. Admittedly, all occurred in small quantities. Less base-rich rock carried Hedwigia stellata and Orthotrichum rupestre, while Porella cordaeana grew by the stream.

Luck with the weather deserted us for our meeting in March at The Ring (SO1283) in Radnorshire’s upper Teme valley. Even the local ravens were flying sideways in the driving wind and heavy rain. Steep, flushed soil draining over Wenlock Limestone suited Jungermannia atrovirens, Leiocolea turbinata (a rare liverwort in Radnorshire), Didymodon spadiceus , D. tophaceus and Gymnostomum aeruginosum.

A hummock of soil sprouted small quantities of Acaulon muticum , which is rare or under-recorded in the county. This moss is doubtless much overlooked because of its diminutive size, but subsequently turned up on several occasions along the Welsh border during the winter of 2004/05, which followed a much wetter autumn than that of 2003, causing one to wonder if Acaulon might be one of those species whose frequencies vary from year to year according to variations in rainfall. The annual Pottia davalliana (Microbryum davallianum) also appeared in several places along the Welsh border during the 2004/05 winter, your correspondent having failed to notice it for some considerable time before that. Similarly, the rare Pottiopsis caespitosa was present in impressive quantities at two sites near Ironbridge in Shropshire .

But the weather on our day in Radnorshire did not encourage us to dally while speculating about the climatic proclivities of these little weeds. The wind and an urgent need for shelter drove us into a small gorge, where Neckera complanata and N. crispa found conditions conducive on ledges of rock, alongside the liverworts Lejeunea patens , Plagiochila spinulosa, Reboulia hemisphaerica, Saccogyna viticulosa and Scapania gracilis . Schistidium rivulare grew by the stream.

In April, Tessa Carrick invited the BBS to join us for our week-long meeting in Worcestershire, and after the annual summer recess we reconvened in October at The Brickyard (SO6082) near Wheathill in south Shropshire . Now in the Countryside Stewardship scheme, two of the pastures on this smallholding were once dug for making clay pipes, creating an uneven surface to the ground and an array of microhabitats good for bryodiversity. Ann Hill came upon Campyliadelphus chrysophyllus flourishing where drainage, aeration, and erosion of the soil slopes increased, and Acaulon muticum, Ctenidium molluscum and Fissidens dubius also enjoyed nutritious soil. Lorna Fraser found Dicranum tauricum on the trunk of a willow tree, and disturbed soil in the back garden gave us Bryum klinggraeffii and B. rubens.

After lunching in comfort in the farmhouse, we crossed the road and dropped down to a stream in a wooded dingle known as The Gore (SO5982), where Hygrohypnum luridum grew on a boulder in the stream. On the bank nearby, an odd-looking Plagiochila with irregularly incised leaves drew comment, and Jean Paton subsequently very kindly determined it to be a form of P. britannica . Further along the track, Bryum pallescens grew at the base of an outbuilding.

For our last meeting of the year, Sam Bosanquet met us at Llanellen (SO3010 and SO3110) near Abergavenny in Monmouthshire, where twelve of us explored the banks of the River Usk. Over 50 species went on the card, including Anomodon viticulosus from calcareous sandstone, Hennediella stanfordensis , Orthotrichum rivulare,O. sprucei , Oxyrrhynchium (Eurhynchium) schleicheri, Plagiomnium cuspidatum, Rhynchostegiella pumila (Eurhynchium pumilum) and Scleropodium cespitans. Reboulia hemisphaerica growing on a soil-covered ledge was also a pleasant surprise. Nearby, a rather odd Mnium with decurrent leaf bases was probably a form of M. hornum rather than M. marginatum.

After lunch we changed habitat, and drove up to the south-eastern flank of The Blorenge (SO2711), where a cooling wind proved as invigorating as the range of calcicoles on shallow soil over outcrops and boulders of Carboniferous Limestone – Acaulon muticum (yet again), Brachythecium glareosum , Racomitrium ericoides, Schistidium apocarpum s.str., Scleropodium tourettii,Thuidium assimile (T. philibertii) and Tortula lanceola , along with a little Lophozia excisa .

 

 

Account of Meetings in 2003

Mark Lawley

12A Castleview Terrace, Ludlow , SY8 2NG ; e-mail: mrbryology@gmail.com

Last winter was the first in the BBS’s three-year Survey of the Bryophytes of Arable Land, so for our first meeting in 2003 we decided to explore tilling-fields at High Meadow Farm (SO5172) near Ashford Carbonell, a couple of miles south of Ludlow, near Shropshire’s border with Herefordshire. The BBS’s illustrated guide to identifying arable bryophytes proved popular and useful as we contributed to the national survey, and eight ‘muddy buddies’ had a fine time playing in their favoured substance, which was wet and adhesive after recent rain.

The morning’s field seemed unremarkable, the least expected discovery being Bryum gemmiferum. After lunch we headed up to higher, better drained soil on Tinker’s Hill, where Phaeoceros carolinianus grew alongside Anthoceros agrestis, enabling everyone to familiarise themselves with the features and generic differences of these hornworts. P. carolinianus is monoicous but otherwise apparently indistinguishable from P. laevis, and with increased attention being paid to our arable bryoflora, P. carolinianus has come to notice sufficiently frequently of late to leave one wondering whether it remains entitled to elevated status as a Red Data Book species.

We noticed that the Phaeoceros and Anthoceros were confined to moist, well-drained soil in one corner of the field, where a rubbly tilth thinly cloaked bedrock of mildly calcareous mudstone. An adjoining plantation of Sweet Chestnuts shaded this ground, and had probably kept the soil moist in late summer, enabling several unusual arable weeds to germinate and develop sufficiently to fruit in winter. The Phaeoceros was new to Shropshire ; so was Fossombronia caespitiformis a few yards away. And not every arable field is moist enough for Riccardia chamedryfolia.

After the somewhat tedious two-dimensional topography of arable fields, February found us exploring Eleonora Armitage’s stamping ground on Chase Hill (SO6022) near Ross-on-Wye in south Herefordshire. Nine hardy souls braved cold, dry air; indeed, the fame of our meetings had spread so far that Bryan Edwards came all the way up from the south coast to join us for the day.

We found a respectable range of calcicoles on the sandstone outcrops of the hill’s wooded slopes – Porella platyphylla, Anomodon viticulosus, Bartramia pomiformis, Brachythecium glareosum, Campylophyllum calcareum, Didymodon luridus, D. sinuosus, D. tophaceus, Eurhynchium crassinervium, E. pumilum, Fissidens dubius, F. viridulus, Gyroweisia tenuis, Mnium stellare, Neckera complanata, Rhynchostegiella tenella and Rhynchostegium murale – alongside Zygodon viridissimus var. stirtonii and species less enamoured of lime. However, we did not refind Miss Armitage’s Blepharostoma trichophyllum or Scapania gracilis. Botanical interlopers had once again infiltrated our party, and burst into song before an outcrop bearing the lichen Cladonia caespiticia, with Leptogium lichenoides nearby. Mental rigour soon supplanted this momentary lapse into lichenology.

In March we met at Castlemorton Common (SO7638) by the eastern slopes of Swinyard Hill on the Worcestershire side of the Malverns, as brilliant sunshine and pleasant temperatures of early spring brought a new World and Olympic record in attendance, with eighteen naturalists from five counties. During our leisurely ramble over the common and hillside we inspected two flushes. The first was unshaded and sported Sphagnum palustre and S. subnitens (not bad for Worcestershire!) alongside Aulacomnium palustre and Palustriella commutata var. falcata. The second flush lay in the shade of a copse, where Chiloscyphus pallescens and Riccardia chamedryfolia flourished. Epiphytes were prominent on the trunks and boughs of many trees, and Rita Holmes found Microlejeunea ulicina new to Worcestershire on a mature hawthorn, alongside Dicranum montanum. Radula complanata, Orthotrichum lyellii and Zygodon conoideus also came to our notice.

A patch of Wild Daffodils, beautiful in bloom, adorned Swinyard’s slopes, and John Davies kindly gave directions for finding a flock of nine Waxwings just off the Ledbury bypass on our way home.

In April we met on the Stiperstones (SO3697 and SO3698) in western Shropshire, a National Nature Reserve where a scorched earth policy for re-establishing heather-moor (‘back to purple’) is inimical to bryophytes, save for such as Campylopus pyriformis, Ceratodon purpureus, Funaria hygrometrica and those rampant asylum-seekers Campylopus introflexus and Orthodontium lineare. One suspects that the tourist industry – so vital for the economy of local resorts – has influenced this policy of gardening the wild, for purple is pretty, and therefore profitable too. And the public does so love to see fritillaries frolicking over the flowers. Heather blooms better when unshaded, so native deciduous trees with varied epiphytic floras and much other wildlife have gone the same way as planted conifers in some parts of the Stiperstones, making much of the reserve a bryological desert.

Yet richer bryofloras do survive in a few spots where flames cannot reach into flushes or into deep declivities between boulders on scree. On our visit we examined a flush on the hill’s south-eastern flank, finding the mosses Calliergon stramineum, Sphagnum capillifolium, S. fallax, S. inundatum, S. palustre, S. papillosum, S. quinquefarium, S. russowii and Warnstorfia exannulata, and the liverworts Cephalozia bicuspidata, C. connivens, Cephaloziella hampeana (autoicous and fully fertile), Pellia neesiana, Riccardia chamedryfolia and R. multifida. In the western scree below the summit, Lepidozia cupressina lurked in a few of the most humid declivities beneath and between the largest boulders. Perhaps this beautiful and delicate liverwort may take comfort from being ethnically cleansed by ‘friendly’ fire, a weapon of mass destruction – crisped and cremated at the hands of caring conservationists.

After our summer recess, normal local service resumed in October, when Jonathan Sleath hosted our meeting at the Biblins (SO5415 and SO5515) near Symonds Yat in south Herefordshire. Calcicoles were much to the fore on the Carboniferous Limestone, among the first being Gymnostomum viridulum in an old quarry, one of Harold Whitehouse’s sites. It had suffered in the dry summer, but sufficient remained on show to enable comparison with G. calcareum and Gyroweisia tenuis, seen later in the day. Homage paid, we moved east to a quarried cliff-face, where dark mats of Marchesinia mackaii sprawled over the rocks.

Marchesinia mackaii

Dropping down to the River Wye, Orthotrichum sprucei grew on silted trunks of alders in the river’s flood-zone, with Eurhynchium crassinervium and Scleropodium cespitans nearby. Cinclidotus fontinaloides, Fissidens crassipes and Rhynchostegiella teneriffae grew on stones by the water, and F. exilis had found a crevice with soil.

The Dropping Well

We walked north along the riverside to Dropping Well, where prodigious quantities of Eucladium verticillatum and Palustriella commutata var. falcata flourished alongside more modest amounts of Aneura pinguis, Jungermannia atrovirens, Leiocolea turbinata and Gymnostomum calcareum on huge mounds of tufa encrusting the cliff-face. Further along the path, trees near the river offered the epiphytes Cryphaea heteromalla and Platygyrium repens, with Taxiphyllum wissgrillii on a boulder.

Gymnostomum calcareum

In November, our last outing of the year began in the churchyard at Grosmont (SO4024) in north-east Monmouthshire, where Sam Bosanquet soon found Orthotrichum cupulatum, a rare moss on the eastern side of the county. Dialytrichia mucronata growing on the sloping bottom of the church also drew comment, for it usually favours the flood-zones of watercourses. Perhaps the wall’s gradient retained sufficient water to suit this moss.

A heavy downpour hurried us back to the cars, but fortunately abated as we arrived at the southern side of Graig Syfyrddin (SO4021 and SO4022), which formed the main interest of the day. No startling discoveries came to light, but the wooded slopes, outcrops of calcareous or basic sandstone and forestry tracks yielded well over 100 species, with plenty for elementary bryologists to study. Some stones and boulders in the wood supported Heterocladium heteropterum var. flaccidum and Seligeria recurvata, and the face of a small quarry gave us Aloina aloides, Eurhynchium crassinervium, Rhynchostegium murale and Tortula subulata. We took advantage of opportunities to compare and contrast several species in the same genera, with Plagiothecium curvifolium (cells too narrow to easily distinguish using a lens) alongside P. nemorale (cells in rows), P. succulentum and P. undulatum. The sides of a forestry track carried Pohlia annotina, P. lutescens, P. melanodon and P. wahlenbergii. Fissidens pusillus went in the notebook along with F. bryoides, F. taxifolius and F. viridulus, and Sam and Graham Motley found Racomitrium ericoides, R. heterostichum and R. lanuginosum by a track at the top of the wood. But enough – it was time to go into the tilling-fields again, and work.

 

 

Account of meetings in 2002

Recording the discovery of species and recounting adventures of days in the field constitute the core of natural history's literature. Yet a very small minority of naturalists are control-freaks who deplore accounts of what has been found where, fearing loss of influence or income (or both) when their exclusive knowledge becomes public. They would, of course, lose credibility and risk ridicule by admitting as much, so offer alternative explanations for their qualms, citing crowds of visitors damaging habitats, and unscrupulous collectors endangering species. Well, let our proselytising custodians of botanical taste beware: in common with other reports of field meetings (not to mention the annual lists of vice-county records in the BBS's Bulletin), this article describes graphic scenes of a bryological nature, which some readers may find shocking.

After our first meeting of the year at Ludlow Museum, attending to troublesome microscopic techniques and recalcitrant gatherings, February found six folk negotiating a flooded Wye valley to reach the safety of higher ground on Coppet Hill (SO5818) near Goodrich Castle, just south of Ross-on-Wye in south Herefordshire. Torrential rain had fallen for several days, but the day of our excursion turned out dry (at least from above), and the mild sunny weather made for pleasant botanising. Coppet Hill offers an entertaining mixture of limestone and mildly basic Old Red Sandstone, and in the event we spent all day on the limestone of the hill's north-eastern flank, where mixed deciduous woodland remains continuously and sufficiently moist for Cololejeunea minutissima at its only known site in Herefordshire, and stones on the ground sprout Tortula marginata and Didymodon tophaceus. Old lime-workings and surrounding spoil always attract bryologists, and Coppet Hill's are home to numerous calcicoles, such as Bryum caespiticium and Campylophyllum calcareum (unusually, in fruit). Encalypta streptocarpa and Eucladium verticillatum grew on mortared masonry, but candidates for Gymnostomum viridulum found here the previous summer turned out to be Gyroweisia tenuis after checking under the microscope. Well-drained calcareous soil on the nearby spoil-heaps gave us the nerved Campyliadelphus chrysophyllus (growing near to its nerveless cousin Campylium stellatum var. protensum), Ditrichum gracile, Fissidens incurvus and Leiocolea turbinata, but no sign did we see of the little annual Pottiaceae which can be a feature of ephemeral calcareous habitats in winter.

March saw a team of ten exploring Hanter Hill (SO2557) in east Radnorshire. As we approached the hill, an old mortared wall at Lower Hanter was growing Aloina aloides, Pseudocrossidium revolutum and an Encalypta which became the subject of an exchange of views about the differences between E. vulgaris and E. ciliata. Rocks on the sheepwalk behind the farm held a Grimmia which eventually answered to the name of G. trichophylla. Racomitrium elongatum grew nearby, alongside seedlings of Upright Chickweed (Moenchia erecta) and Shepherd's Cress (Teesdalia nudicaulis). Hanter is one of a cluster of neighbouring hills (the others being Stanner, Old Radnor and Worsell) made of Precambrian volcanic rocks which offer very variable combinations of minerals to their plants, so a botanist may pass from acidic to basic floras in a matter of metres and minutes. Whereas conditions further up Hanter's slopes are invariably acidic, rocks and soil along the north-western foot of the hill sport numerous calcicoles as well: Ctenidium molluscum, Fissidens dubius, Neckera complanata, Thuidium delicatulum, Tortula subulata, Trichostomum brachydontium and Lejeunea cavifolia. Much of the ground, however, provided evidence of greater acidity: Fissidens adianthoides, Hedwigia stellata, Bartramia pomiformis, Bryum alpinum, Racomitrium aciculare, R. aquaticum, Marsupella emarginata, Scapania compacta, S. gracilis and Tritomaria quinquedentata were frequent on and about the boulders. Your correspondent regrets to inform that from time to time attention strayed to lichens, with a climax of cooing on arrival at a very dubious-looking substance which reportedly rejoices in the name of Ephebe lanata.

A few flushes below springs along the foot of the hill also contain a mixture of acid-lovers and basiphiles. Campylium stellatum var. stellatum and Drepanocladus cossonii indicated the presence of bases, while away from the seepage-runs Cephaloziella hampeana showed its attractive crimson male shoots, and Riccardia multifida found a tiny patch of bare soil. Bryum pallescens was fruiting beneath a dripping drainage-pipe on a barn, and the trunk of an old ash tree grew Leucodon sciuroides and Orthotrichum lyellii.

As teatime approached, we moved along the road to Stanner Rocks, where Ray Woods demonstrated some of the rarities of this south-facing, often sun-baked, volcanic outcrop beloved by bryophytes with mainly Mediterranean distributions: Bartramia stricta, Grimmia ovalis, G. longirostris, Riccia beyrichiana, R. nigrella, Targionia hypophylla and Reboulia hemisphaerica.

On a bright sunny day in April larks sang in the heavens and curlews thrilled as we made sport at Rhos Fiddle (SO2085) in the Clun Forest in south-west Shropshire. This wet moorland with unimproved sheepwalks, peaty and boggy areas has recently become a nature reserve of the Shropshire Wildlife Trust, and boasts a representative, if apparently unremarkable, assemblage of bryophytes to be expected from such habitats. We put the JNCC field-guide to Sphagnum through its paces, finding and identifying S. capillifolium, S. denticulatum, S. fallax, S. inundatum and S. palustre. Of our other finds, Polytrichum strictum has seldom been recorded from Shropshire, and wetland pleurocarps included Calliergon cordifolium, Warnstorfia exannulata and W. fluitans. Of liverworts we found Cephalozia bicuspidata, C. connivens and Barbilophozia barbata, and Joy Ricketts showed us the attractive lichen Cladonia arbuscula. A Short-eared Owl rose like a ghost from the ground, and wafted silently over the moor, as if pulled on invisible strings.

Our May outing took place in similarly brilliant sunshine at Darnford and Catbatch (SO4297) on the Long Mynd in west Shropshire. No bryological surprises came our way in the course of the day, but a considerable number of species were in evidence. In the Darnford valley, outcrops of acidic rock gave us Hedwigia ciliata and Racomitrium aquaticum (the latter here towards the eastern edge of its range locally), and flushes held Campylium stellatum var. stellatum and Chiloscyphus pallescens, with C. polyanthos for comparison in the stream. The flushes of Catbatch had Calliergon cordifolium, C. stramineum, Drepanocladus revolvens and Warnstorfia exannulata, with Cynodontium bruntonii on rocks. As seems usual on the Long Mynd, the first rabbit burrow we examined was lined with Schistostega pennata.

After cavorting in Carmarthenshire on the BBS summer meeting, playtime in Perthshire arrived, as a scouting party headed north to reconnoitre and ransack the hills for Caledonian cryptogams in advance of next year's summer meeting. However, rain discouraged us from exploring high ground on our first day in Scotland, so we looked over shingle on the west bank of the River Tummel at Tomdochoille (NN9655), downstream from Pitlochry. Pohlia drummondii and P. filum found damp, nutrient-enriched soil between stones on the shingle banks to their liking, along with Racomitrium canescens and (rather surprisingly) Bartramia ithyphylla. A weird-looking Bryum with obtuse tips to the upper leaves, growing in soil between the pebbles of shingle, eventually turned out to be B. pseudotriquetrum. Beautiful Ptilidium pulcherrimum spread itself over an uprooted tree trunk which had been washed down by the river. Scapania subalpina and Schistidium rivulare grew nearby, and an oat-field near the lane contained Bryum violaceum.

The rest of our week was fortunately fine enough to explore higher ground, and rather than going over the region's well known hot-spots on higher peaks, we looked over bryologically little-known ground on the spurs of Ben Vrackie and around Spittal of Glenshee, in an effort to extend the sum of knowledge about the occurrence of species.

For our first day on Ben Vrackie (NN9461 - NN9563), we followed the well-known path from Moulin, paying our respects to Brown Bog-rush (Schoenus ferrugineus) on the way. Lesser Twayblade (Listera cordata) lurked beneath many of the heather clumps, and Scottish Asphodel (Tofieldia pusilla) was a feature of the calcareous flushes, but we were there to work, so averted our gaze. Dicranum scottianum, Grimmia curvata, G. hartmanii and Barbilophozia hatcheri bestrode boulders alongside the path, with Ditrichum lineare, Marsupella funckii and Blasia pusilla on compacted soil.

Upon reaching the main buttress, the flora was predominantly basiphilous; Encalypta ciliata, E. rhaptocarpa, E. streptocarpa, Grimmia donniana, G. torquata and Scapania gymnostomophila were found on rock or in crevices. A tiny tuft of a Grimmia-like substance growing on a boulder turned out after prolonged microscopic contemplation to be G. incurva - a pathetic imitation of the robust colonies which abound on Titterstone Clee in Shropshire.

On leaving the crags, the rare Eurhynchium pulchellum barred our way past a hummock of soil at its only known extant British station outside Skye. We continued north-east, crossing more acidic ground towards Ben Vrackie's eastern flank. Cynodontium jenneri fruited in a shaded crevice of rock, with Grimmia curvata, Hymenostylium recurvirostrum, Kiaeria blyttii and Splachnum sphaericum on boulders. We missed an area of wet rock further east along the spur, and instead headed up a gully over into the northern coire, where flushes contained Scapania scandica and fruiting Meesia uliginosa.

For our second day on Ben Vrackie, we explored the hill's western flank: Meall an Daimh and the crags immediately south thereof (NN9363). Leaving the path down to Killiecrankie, we crossed a mire which may well repay fuller inspection than the fleeting glance we gave it, and the first boulder we came to beneath the crags told us how exciting this base-rich ground might be, for within a short interval of time and space Antitrichia curtipendula, Bartramia ithyphylla, Bryoerythrophyllum ferruginascens, Ditrichum gracile, Grimmia curvata, G. hartmanii, G. torquata, Kiaeria blyttii and Schistidium strictum had all presented themselves for inspection, and jostled for the privilege of leaping into packets. Liverworts represented themselves with Frullania fragilifolia, plentiful Barbilophozia hatcheri and much less B. barbata. Indeed, B. hatcheri seemed to be the commonest member of its genus on the ground we explored during the week.

Dauntingly precipitous crags above us deterred a frontal assault, so we took the wimps' way up, sidling round their eastern edge, a route which proved quite challenging enough from a bryological perspective, as Splachnum ampullaceum and Syntrichia virescens came before us. The Syntrichia was a surprise, growing on soil half way up a Scottish mountain, for the good books say it normally occurs as an epiphyte or on man-made substrates on low-lying ground. Bounding up the slopes, a boulder on the ridge gave up Grimmia longirostris and Pterigynandrum filiforme. On again to Meall an Daimh, where exposed, friable soil on its south-facing slope held Didymodon ferrugineus, Entodon concinnus, Encalypta rhaptocarpa and Myurella julacea, with Dicranum fuscescens, D. scottianum, Distichium capillaceum, Ditrichum gracile, Orthothecium rufescens, O. intricatum, Pohlia cruda, Pseudoleskeella catenulata, more Pterigynandrum filiforme, Seligeria donniana and S. recurvata on rocks. Scapania gymnostomophila held up the hepatic end of interest. Time passed unnoticed as we browsed among this bryological feast, and the afternoon was too far gone to explore crags on the hill's north side. Thirst things first, so we headed back to the bar at Moulin for market-research among a fine range of home-brewed beers.

The other district to occupy us during the week was Spittal of Glenshee, beginning with crags on the east side of Glen Taitneach. We wondered if they might be as bryologically rewarding as outcrops on the other side of the hill, west of the road up to The Cairnwell. In this hope we became disappointed, for the exposures we looked at in Glen Taitneach proved only slightly and patchily basic, and did not bear comparison with the rich ground on Ben Vrackie. Nevertheless, several species came to hand which we southerners seldom see. On or around the rocks of Creag Dallaig (NO0875) Dicranoweisia crispula, Grimmia donniana, Kiaeria blyttii, Rhabdoweisia fugax and Barbilophozia hatcheri occupied base-poor niches, cheek-by-jowl with the calcicoles Distichium capillaceum, Drepanocladus cossonii, Grimmia torquata and Orthothecium intricatum. Further down the valley, rocks in and by the stream draining Coire Shith (NO0972) held Hygrohypnum eugyrium and Jungermannia hyalina, with a calcareous boulder nearby sporting Seligeria donniana around more robust calcicoles such as Tortella tortuosa and Schistidium agg. South-facing crags at the foot of Ben Gulabin (NO0971), opposite Dalmunzie Hotel, gave us Encalypta vulgaris, Grimmia donniana and Orthotrichum rupestre, but by now we were hot, dry and dehydrated, so into the bar we went.

A couple of days later, ground across the glen in Coire a'Gheàrraig (NO0769) on the north-east flank of Ben Earb proved considerably more basic - more a bryological peer to Ben Vrackie than the crags along Glen Taitneach. Following a stream up from the back of the Dalmunzie Hotel, rocks by the water had several calcicoles, including Anoectangium aestivum, Grimmia torquata and Leiocolea bantriensis, mixed amongst acidophiles. A Black Grouse whirred away up the glen as we skirted round a young, deer-fenced plantation of spruce. The crags beyond were all and more than we could have hoped for. Immediately we were finding Antitrichia curtipendula, Distichium capillaceum, Grimmia curvata, G. donniana, G. hartmanii, Scapania aequiloba and S. scandica. Contouring along, a further orgy of browsing over rocks and soil on the slopes left us gawping at Amblyodon dealbatus, Meesia uliginosa, Dicranum scottianum, Isopterygiopsis pulchella, Kiaeria blyttii, Orthothecium intricatum, O. rufescens, Plagiothecium denticulatum var. obtusifolium, Pterigynandrum filiforme, Schistidium strictum and S. trichodon. Liverworts were less varied, as indeed they were all week, doubtless because we were so far from the western seaboard and hence in drier country. Nevertheless, we did see some hepatics, such as Gymnomitrion concinnatum, G. obtusum, Lophozia incisa and L. sudetica, and Leiocolea alpestris grew on a stone in a flush near to the uncommon moss Oncophorus wahlenbergii. To round off the day, a patch of the strikingly symmetrical pale-green moss Conostomum tetragonum grew on rocks at the top of the coire.

We spent our last day on the hills of Perthshire searching cliffs on the east side of Carn nan Sac (NO1277 and NO1276), overlooking The Cairnwell. Calcareous ground above the ski-lift is a well-known locus classicus for botanists, and we spent little time there before passing on to the less familiar ground we had chosen to explore. Herzogiella striatella grew on a grassy slope below the ridge as we made our way over to Carn nan Sac. There the cliffs and scree below disappointed insofar as they proved not to be calcareous, but consolation came in good measure with the appearance of Grimmia atrata, G. curvata, G. donniana and G. incurva (this last-named being identical to the stunted stuff we had seen on Ben Vrackie). Ditrichum zonatum was there too, along with Andreaea alpina, Kiaeria blyttii, Pohlia elongata subsp. elongata and subsp. polymorpha and Barbilophozia hatcheri. Coming off the hill down a long south-facing spur to the road, we passed an outcrop of pinkish-looking rock, quite different to the forbidding dark stone of the cliffs above. Here, a boulder by our way held a range of common calcicoles and Pseudoleskeella catenulata, which convinced us that richer ground than we had been on that day lies closer to the road.

The art of field bryology is fine and often intricate, so clear-cut decisions about one's discoveries sometimes elude us. But the conclusion we drew from our Perthshire lists was obvious enough - that you would have to be several slates short of a full roof not to come on the BBS meeting there this coming summer.

Back on home territory, a stormy day in October saw six stalwarts abandoned by their fair-weather friends. Our target was the upper Olchon Valley (SO2733 - SO2634) hard by the Welsh border in south-west Herefordshire, where it soon became clear that base-rich ground alongside the stream bore comparison with similar habitat in Perthshire. Admittedly, many Scottish mosses were absent, but over 80 species went on the list in the course of half a mile's exploration, and more still would doubtless have joined them had the weather been kinder.

Jonathan Sleath pointed out the neat colonies of Bryum radiculosum and the profusely gemmiferous B. subelegans (or B. laevifilum, as we should now be calling it) on the mortared bridge by the lane, and Gymnostomum aeruginosum made its first appearance of the day on a damp retaining-wall below. Rocks in the stream were home to Brachythecium plumosum, Hygrohypnum luridum and Schistidium rivulare, and we came across Hyocomium armoricum further upstream. Less frequently inundated boulders hid beneath colonies of Tortella tortuosa and Schistidium crassipilum, and several flushes above the stream's banks were full of Sanionia uncinata, while another contained Drepanocladus cossonii. Patches of Philonotis fontana were compared with the larger, secund shoots of P. calcarea nearby. Other calcicoles noted included Ditrichum gracile, Seligeria recurvata and Tortula subulata, and Dicranella rufescens grew in shallow soil on a boulder. Diminutive Fissidens exilis came to notice on the soil of the stream's bank, and the larger F. adianthoides occurred nearby. However, the rain came down ever harder and faster, and with honour satisfied by early afternoon we beat a retreat to hot baths and toddies. The Olchon Valley will surely repay further and more thorough exploration in better weather.

Our final excursion of the year took place on and near The Blorenge, immediately south-west of Abergavenny in Monmouthshire, by kind invitation of Sam Bosanquet. During the morning we pottered about looking at common acidophiles on the moor, finding Sphagnum papillosum, Cephalozia connivens and Calypogeia muelleriana in wet runnels.

After lunch, we found conditions more sheltered and bryophytes more diverse at nearby Garnddyrys and Cwm Ifor (SO2511), a north-facing valley with an industrial past. Outcrops of Carboniferous Limestone, heaps of calcareous spoil-soil, furnace-slag and a stream provided a mosaic of habitats which entertained us all afternoon. A mound of spoil below our lunch-spot grew a range of calcicoles, including Aloina aloides, Campyliadelphus chrysophyllus, Campylium stellatum var. protensum and Ditrichum gracile, and Sam pointed out Hypnum lindbergii looking flatter and more hooked at the apices of its leaves than H. lacunosum nearby. Bryum pallescens, a species apparently addicted to high concentrations of metal, grew on the furnace-slag along with Lophozia sudetica, and L. bicrenata was nearby on acidic spoil.

Following the old tramway along the hillside, steep grassy slopes with patches of exposed soil and rock gave us Leiocolea badensis, Scapania aspera (antical lobes crossing the stems, and green gemmae) and less S. nemorea (brown gemmae). Several notable fungi attracted attention and comment: the Biodiversity Action Plan priority species Microglossum olivaceum, along with the orange fingers of Cordyceps militaris (a species which infects and grows in insects living in the soil), and several waxcaps (Hygrocybe coccinea, H. conica and H. punicea). A calcicolous lichen, Solorina saccata, grew in the crevices of a retaining wall, looking as though it had the plague, with its dark ulcers set deep in fresh green thalli of similar hue to the liverwort Preissia quadrata nearby. Lorna Fraser found Tortella tortuosa with capsules, and Neckera crispa was also in fruit near the stream. Sam relocated a colony of Cololejeunea calcarea on a damp rock by the stream, with some leaves of a Seligeria next to it. A puzzling Hygrohypnum (either H. eugyrium or H. luridum) grew nearby, and a brief sortie along the western flank of the valley provided more Leiocolea badensis (rather unusually with a few underleaves) on a damp rock by the path.

This last meeting on our programme came about in consequence of conversation during the BBS's summer meeting, and was arranged with the aim of bringing together bryologists from neighbouring counties who live within commuting distance. In this our meeting was most successful, attracting fourteen folk from eight counties, and encouraged the wish for further joint meetings in future. Our will to share meetings, expertise, and information also confirms the Welsh border as a region of renaissance, no longer a bryological backwater for naturalists fearful of æweb sites, motorways, 125 mph trains, the national grid and GPSs', who abhor and shun technological advances facilitating the discovery of species and public pooling of records, reeled by private demons along maternal cords into their land of lost content à yea, even unto the Middle Ages.

MARK LAWLEY

 

 

Account of Meetings in 2001

‘The mind is a moving picture, according to which we are ceaselessly painting. But it takes in at a glance what the painter’s brush executes gradually, and to see an object, to decide that it is beautiful, to experience a sensation of pleasure, and to desire possession of that object are all parts of a single and instantaneous state of mind.’

Botanists attest the truth of Diderot’s sublime insight as they quarter the countryside for new plants: at the moment of pleasurable discovery they admire their forms, colours, scent, taste and texture, and also covet their quarry for herbaria or albums of photographs. Yet the Border Bryologists did not begin their year’s programme in the field, but with a now-traditional January day at the microscopes in Ludlow Museum. Local bryologists set store by this annual opportunity to share and solve bryological problems - whether recalcitrant gatherings, or difficulties with a key or techniques for examination.

February fog cloaked the Wye valley as seven hardy souls set out to explore woodland on Capler Hill (SO5932) south of Hereford. A shy sun eventually burnt off the vapours, daffodils in early bud made a cheerful portent of spring, and we lunched in pleasant sunshine on a south-facing bank in a pasture near the top of the hill. Both species of Pseudocrossidium and Ephemerum serratum var. minutissimum grew nearby. Rather as we had found at Dinmore two years ago, the wooded upper parts of Capler Hill are acidic and bryologically rather tedious, but minerals draining from above endow the steep lower banks between the lane and river with a more varied and calcicolous flora. Masses of Hart’s-tongue Fern (Phyllitis scolopendrium) spoke of base-rich conditions, and several old sandstone quarries carried Anomodon viticulosus, Homalia trichomanoides, Mnium stellare, Zygodon viridissimus var. stirtonii, Campylophyllum calcareum, Eurhynchium pumilum and Rhynchostegiella tenella. Lorna Fraser found a patch of Taxiphyllum wissgrillii, and further searching would surely reveal many more plants of interest. Nearby, a few minutes inspecting the flood-zone of the River Wye at the end of the day brought Didymodon nicholsonii, Schistidium rivulare and Cinclidotus fontinaloides to notice. A high water-level probably hid more species from view.

After the floods of early winter, the pestilence arrived, and restrictions on access to the countryside brought about by the epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease caused us to shift our ground in March, April and May. On a bitterly cold day in March we bryologised in Ross-on-Wye (SO52/62). A car park near Wilton Bridge held Didymodon luridus in abundance around the margin of tarmac, with smaller quantities of Encalypta streptocarpa on a kerbstone, and the much less common Tortula protobryoides on gravelly soil. The Reverend Augustin Ley found this moss on a garden path at Pengethley in February 1888. One can imagine him pausing to gather it on his way to visit a parishioner. Pengethley is only two or three miles west of Ross, so it was good to discover that T. protobryoides remains in the district, and may be readmitted to Herefordshire’s list of bryophytes. Mortared walls across the road from the car park carried Pseudocrossidium revolutum and Schistidium crassipilum, the latter distinguished from S. apocarpum s.s. by elongated exothecial cells in the lower half of its capsules. It is beginning to look as though S. crassipilum is much the commoner of the two species in this part of the country. Alder trees by the river gave us Syntrichia latifolia, Orthotrichum sprucei and Leskea polycarpa.

After a bowl of life-saving soup at Les Smith’s, we thawed out sufficiently to nose round his garden, finding Didymodon luridus, D. sinuosus, Dicranella staphylina, Orthotrichum affine and O. diaphanum. Les was like a dog with two tails to wag when O. lyellii turned up on his lilac tree, with Didymodon nicholsonii on the tarmac drive.

April’s meeting was conducted in ceaseless rain, so it was just as well that the epidemic of foot-and-mouth had obliged us to forsake exposed ground on the Long Mynd for the relative shelter of Bishop’s Castle churchyard (SO3288), which by the most fortuitous of circumstances lies directly opposite the Six Bells Inn. Mortared walls around the churchyard sprouted Bryum radiculosum and Didymodon sinuosus, and Scleropodium cespitans and D. nicholsonii grew on the tarmac path to the church. After an hour in the rain we felt able to retreat without loss of face, substituting bucolic for botanic pleasures with some Cloud Nine in the Six Bells, in which happy circumstance the day passed into hazy remembrance.

Of our finds that day, Scleropodium cespitans and Didymodon nicholsonii have for long tolerated the scarifying action of particles of soil and other debris swept by water past riverbanks, but they can also withstand similar attrition from feet and wheels on paths and driveways. One small consolatory benefit of the foot-and-mouth epidemic may be a rash of records of mosses from tarmac drives, pavements, building sites and other habitats in towns and villages. Indeed, in some districts D. nicholsonii seems to be a widespread and abundant suburban weed. Not a particularly charismatic cryptogam, it is probably overlooked, and may not merit its elevated status as ‘Nationally Scarce’ for much longer.

Platygyrium repens is another moss which, like Didymodon nicholsonii, has recently turned up several times in Herefordshire and Shropshire. It seems to like damp or humid conditions - on oak and ash by a pool in Lower Bolstone Wood (SO53) south of Hereford, on an old apple tree by the River Teme in Downton Gorge (SO47), in great quantity on alder, silver birch, crack willow and hazel in the damper parts of Incham Coppice (SO57) near Ludlow (but not in the drier part of the wood), and on ash by the River Rea downstream from Cleobury Mortimer (SO67).

Still in the throes of foot-and-mouth, we rearranged our meeting for May to Chaddesley Corbett (SO8873) in north Worcestershire. There we looked over Mervyn and Rose Needham’s commercial nursery garden, where the bryological weeds reminded us again how many species we pass by when ignoring disturbed habitats. The sandy ground was very dry, and Mervyn had been zealously protecting his livelihood with a spray-gun, but we rounded up the usual suspects from the soil and concrete kerbs, and added Campylopus pyriformis from peat in some of the pots. After demolishing Rose’s wonderful buffet lunch, we ambled across the road to examine some sandstone exposed by a stream. Conditions there were sufficiently damp for a quite different suite of species, and here may be told the best finds of the day - Amblystegium fluviatile, A. varium, Fissidens crassipes and F. pusillus (the latter plant new to Worcestershire), with Hookeria lucens nearby.

Our October meeting took place at Featherknowl (SO5170), a private house and grounds two miles south of Ludlow. This meeting combined al fresco exploration of the garden and orchard with the opulent ambience of a large drawing room for microscopic examination of our finds, a mixture which proved particularly popular for several children, and will be worth repeating should similar opportunities arise again in future. The advantages of promptly confirming the identities of plants found only a few minutes previously helped to fix in our minds the connections between habit and form as revealed to the naked eye or lens, and microscopic details of the same plants once their leaves and capsules had been mounted beneath coverslips.

A gravel and brick drive by the house had a sward of Didymodon luridus and D. nicholsonii (both species superficially similar in form, but the former having unistratose margins to the leaves, while the latter has bistratose margins). Tiles on the roof sprouted Grimmia pulvinata, G. trichophylla and Racomitrium fasciculare, while in the orchard behind the house we noticed great differences between the epiphytic bryofloras of the various kinds of tree. The trunks of old cherry trees were entirely devoid of moss, with damson and pear hardly more rewarding, and much the best trees were apple. In addition to plentiful Hypnum cupressiforme, Brachythecium rutabulum, Amblystegium serpens, Dicranoweisia cirrata, Orthotrichum affine and O. diaphanum, a large colony of Syntrichia papillosa grew on one trunk, showing its characteristic combination of gemmae and inrolled leaf margins, while more modest quantities of Brachythecium salebrosum grew on another. This uncommon moss has sufficiently plicate leaves to have one suspecting a Homalothecium at first glance, but the dimensions of the basal cells of the leaves differ from the cells above. Bryologists have paid little attention to the still-numerous old orchards of Herefordshire and neighbouring counties, and our findings at Featherknowl left us wondering how important old apple orchards may be as refugia for uncommon epiphytes requiring adequate light and a neutral or basic bark - a bryological equivalent of the rich lichen flora on tree trunks in old country parks in the region, such as at Moccas and Brampton Bryan.

Worcestershire has been enjoying a bryological renaissance recently, and 16 people met up in the Wyre Forest (SO7476) west of Bewdley for our last meeting of the year on a mild Sunday in November. Rosemary Winnall guided us to north-facing banks on the Worcestershire side of Dowles Brook, where damp ground and humid air suited the liverworts Riccardia multifida, Saccogyna viticulosa (this in considerable quantity) and Scapania nemorea, with the moss Hookeria lucens in attendance too. As so often happens in these affairs, the best ground was not reached until a few minutes before lunchtime, and would repay less hasty inspection. Nearby, concrete on the bridge over the brook held Didymodon rigidulus, D. sinuosus and D. tophaceus, with Amblystegium fluviatile and A. tenax growing on stones by the water.

After a picnic, we moved a quarter of a mile up to the forest’s ‘Great Bog’, immediately south of a long-disused railway-line. Choice vascular plants once found there by George Jorden, Edwin Lees and others 150 years ago, and reported in old issues of the Phytologist and Transactions of the Worcestershire Naturalists’ Club, include Summer Lady’s-tresses (Spiranthes aestivalis), Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadenia conopsea) and Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris), as well as Bog Pimpernel (Anagallis tenella), Broad-leaved Cottongrass (Eriophorum latifolium) and Alder Buckthorn (Frangula alnus). But the place has suffered greatly from subsequent drainage, and is not the botanical hot-spot it once was. Nevertheless, a number of calcareous flushes remain, and local naturalists have recently cleared many trees and shrubs in an attempt to restore some of the former botanical character. We found the flushes to be full of Palustriella commutata var. commutata, with Campylium stellatum var. stellatum, Cratoneuron filicinum and Ctenidium molluscum for company round the edges of the water. A patch of Leucobryum juniperoideum grew on damp soil by one of the felled trees, and sufficient timber remained nearby for Dicranum montanum and D. tauricum to go on the list. Lorna Fraser found a colony of Trichocolea tomentella, and Sphagnum inundatum turned up in a drainage ditch on the edge of the bog. Of these, the Leucobryum was new to Worcestershire, and the Trichocolea and Sphagnum had not been recorded in the county for over 50 years.

In these ways we added fresh details during 2001 to our pictures of nature in the Silurian (and Permo-Triassic) region, and derived much pleasure from tracking down, observing, and taking into possession the plants we found.

Shropshire bryoflora

A Bryological Tour through Shropshire and An Annotated Check-list of the Bryophytes of Shropshire are now available on the British Bryological Society’s website, and will be brought up to date annually. If you would like a copy of these documents but do not have access to the internet, I can supply them on floppy disk or as an unbound paper copies; simply write to me at 12A Castleview Terrace, Ludlow, SY8 2NG. There is no charge for this, but please offer a donation payable to the British Bryological Society to cover the costs of copying, packing and postage.

The Border Bryologists’ programme of meetings is also available on the BBS’s web-page and on the Herefordshire Botanical Society’s pages at http://ralph.cs.cf.ac.uk/HBS/Border.htm.

 

Account of Meetings in 2000

Like so many human interests, natural history’s popularity ebbs and flows according to circumstance. But some branches of the subject have an enduring attraction for many naturalists, while others - such as bryology - remain sequestered backwaters of enquiry, destined, it seems, never to enter the mainstream of public interest. One feels that assessing the aesthetic beauty of Bryum bicolor’s bulbils or the delicate foliage of Lophocolea bidentata is unlikely to catch on big-time and become must-see viewing on television, for mosses and liverworts do not have pretty petals or plumage, and lack the lives of ceaseless sex and violence so vital for retaining viewers’ attention. Likewise, most naturalists who stray from couch to countryside begin by studying vertebrates, showy insects, or in-your-face flowers and ferns.

The hoi polloi may remain forever obsessed by blooms, birds and butterflies, but we more sophisticated types soon progress beyond this intellectual infantilism to look for less conspicuous species, wherefore one may be sure of meeting a more refined class of naturalist on bryological outings. It is indeed the quiet other-worldliness of bryology which attracts the discerning cognoscenti of the countryside - a confidence that mosses and liverworts will neither be sullied on screen nor succumb to common denominators of taste and mass moss-appeal.

Feburary - Wenlock Edge, Shropshire

Comfortable, then, with our non-conformity, thirteen Border Bryologists met in February at the north end of Wenlock Edge in Shropshire, half a mile south of Much Wenlock, to explore Silurian limestone and calcareous soils. Our trysting-place turned out to be a classier kind of car park, with cushions of Trichostomum crispulum on rock and soil. T. brachydontium grew nearby, alongside the shiny, beautifully russet-brown leaves of Rhynchostegium murale. Crossing an old by-way, further up the slope we entered a close-cropped pasture which had formerly been quarried. Here the shallow soil over outcrops of limestone proved ideal for Tortula lanceola, Encalypta streptocarpa, Fissidens incurvus, Campyliadelphus chrysophyllus, and the uncommon winter-ephemerals Weissia longifolia var. longifolia and Ephemerum recurvifolium. These last two mosses were entering Salopian lists for the first time. Nearby woodland also showed calcareous influence, with Didymodon sinuosus, Aloina aloides, Campylophyllum calcareum, Leiocolea badensis and L. turbinata.

March - Maelinydd Common, Radnorshire

Our March meeting coincided with idyllic warm sunshine for the annual cross-border raid into north Radnorshire to pillage Celtic cryptogams at Maelinydd Common. A pair of newly-wed Stonechats sunbathed on a gorse bush and Buzzards drew circles in the sky, while we contemplated falcate pleurocarps in the common’s wet flushes. This was indeed a day for ‘Dreps’ - Sanionia uncinata, Warnstorfia exannulata and Hamatocaulis vernicosus, with Scorpidium scorpioides, Ctenidium molluscum, Palustriella commutata var. falcata and ‘Hyps’ to hand nearby for ease of comparison. Calliergon species were prominently represented too, with the red-brown tint of C. sarmentosum contrasting with pale green C. stramineum. C. giganteum, nerved and with auricles, nestled near Calliergonella cuspidata, which lacks both these corporeal accoutrements, and we compared Thuidium delicatulum with the more two-dimensional shoots of T. tamariscinum. Fissidens osmundoides and Polytrichum strictum relished the dampness, with smaller plants on the tops and sides of hummocks and runnels: Entosthodon obtusus, Riccardia multifida and Cephalozia connivens. To end the day we moved a few hundred yards west to the Camddwr stream, finding Pohlia wahlenbergii, Archidium alternifolium and Didymodon spadiceus on damp soil-banks by the stream. Schistidium crassipilum and Orthotrichum cupulatum var. cupulatum grew on the concrete of the bridge, with O. lyellii on an ash tree nearby.

April - Rushall, nr. Much Marcle, Herefordshire

On a cold morning in April we met at Rushall, near Much Marcle in south-east Herefordshire, hoping that old walls at the Tudor mansion of Chandos might yield a crop of calcicoles, but recent remortaring had put paid to these. Grubbing about in soil nearby brought Leptobryum pyriforme, Dicranella staphylina, Bryum bicolor and B. violaceum to notice. Behind the buildings on an old apple tree at the entrance to an orchard we came across Syntrichia papillosa, which had to be moistened before assuming recognisable form and revealing its gemmae. After lunch we found Weissia rutilans, Ephemerum serratum var. minutissimum and Ditrichum heteromallum on anthills in the orchard, and outcrops of rock on Marcle Hill provided Encalypta streptocarpa, Trichostomum brachydontium and Bryoerythrophyllum recurvirostrum.

May - Holywell Dingle, nr. Kington, Herefordshire

After a few days playing with the big boys at the BBS spring meeting in Bude, we gathered again on a delightfully warm, sunny day in May at Holywell Dingle south of Kington in north-west Herefordshire. Pied Flycatchers and Redstarts competed for the air-waves with Chiffchaffs, Willow and Wood Warblers. So much for a quiet day in the dingle. Jonathan Sleath pointed out Bryum radiculosum on mortar by an old cottage, then Plagiothecium curvifolium just inside the wood. Metzgeria fruticulosa thrived in the moist conditions, while Fissidens gracilifolius, Dicranella schreberiana and Mnium stellare waited for us on the streambank, with Amblystegium fluviatile and Rhynchostegiella teneriffae on stones by the stream. A bank of tufa sprouted Palustriella commutata and Eucladium verticillatum, and a colony of Herb Paris Paris quadrifolia was at the peak of its beauty.

June - Cleeton St Mary, Shropshire

We chose Cleeton St Mary on the east side of Titterstone Clee Hill in south Shropshire for our June meeting, in a determined and successful attempt to avoid the arctic conditions which had troubled us there the previous year. We did further justice to the rich bryodiversity of the flushes and sheepwalks, recording Andreaea rupestris, Fissidens osmundoides, Racomitrium fasciculare, R. heterostichum s.s., R. lanuginosum, Sphagnum denticulatum, S. inundatum, S. capillifolium, S. fimbriatum, S. palustre, S. fallax, S. squarrosum, S. subnitens, Campylium stellatum var. stellatum, Heterocladium heteropterum, Hyocomium armoricum, Dicranum bonjeanii, Leucobryum glaucum, Cephalozia connivens, Pellia neesiana, Riccardia multifida, Drepanocladus aduncus and Sanionia uncinata. Jonathan Sleath found Drepanocladus cossonii - a ‘debracketing’ for Shropshire - before moving into overdrive on screes higher up the hill and adding Gymnomitrion obtusum to the county’s bryoflora, with Andreaea rothii subsp. rothii as another ‘debracketing’. Lophozia excisa and Barbilophozia floerkei grew nearby.

June - Fealar, E. Perthsire

June also saw bryological reconnaissance at Fealar in east Perthshire, at the end of a 12 mile dirt track after leaving the main road near Kindrogan Field Centre. Islands of upland basic rock and flushes amongst more acidic terrain at Fealar promised endless botanical entertainment, while hospitality at the Lodge - one of the highest permanently inhabited dwellings in the land - was top-of-the-range too, with four-course cooked breakfasts to set us up each day, and lavish evening meals after cocktails in the lounge.

Fully laden thus, if the explorer manages to achieve lift-off with a short stroll down the track, he will soon spy a flush sporting Meesia uliginosa and Catoscopium nigritum. Plunging into the wooded gorge below he comes upon Distichium capillaceum, Seligeria pusilla, Ptilium crista-castrensis, Apometzgeria pubescens, Lophozia longidens, L. incisa, Cololejeunea calcarea, Anastrophyllum minutum, Porella cordaeana and Tritomaria exsectiformis alongside commoner cohabitants.

Further down the track again, a brief sortie up the Allt á Ghlinne Bhig produced Grimmia torquata, Bartramia ithyphylla, Leptobryum pyriforme in its natural habitat on soil over rock, Hyocomium armoricum (surprisingly, new to VC 89), Ulota drummondii on a rowan tree, Schistidium crassipilum, Calypogeia sphagnicola, and Tritomaria polita on a rock by the stream with T. quinquedentata close by.

Next day we explored the upper reaches of Ghlinne Bhig and acidic ground on Beinn Iutharn Mhor, the highest hill on Fealar’s estate. Calcareous flushes in the valley carried Amblyodon dealbatus, Schistidium crassipilum, Leiocolea alpestris and L. bantriensis, and the bright green of Calypogeia neesiana at one spot made a fine contrast with the more anaemic hue of its congeners. Conostomum tetragonum, Tetraplodon mnioides and Gymnomitrion concinnatum brightened the ascent of acidic screes on the north-east flank of Beinn Iutharn Mhor, with Dicranum fuscescens, Diplophyllum taxifolium and Marsupella sphacelata on the summit plateau. A rivulet down the west side of the hill provided congenial conditions for Pohlia ludwigii and Plagiothecium denticulatum var. obtusifolium, and back in Ghlinne Bhig below Jungermannia exsertifolia subsp. cordifolia grew by a stream, with Schistidium crassipilum on basic rock.

Next day we stopped first at a calcareous flush on the east flank of Meall na Spionaig, where Ditrichum gracile, Meesia uliginosa, Anomobryum julaceum, Orthothecium rufescens and Tritomaria polita created a mood for more. Moving on, and leaving the track further south, after passing Dwarf Birch Betula nana and a flush wherein grows False Sedge Kobresia simpliciuscula, we arrived at the top of calcareous cliffs immediately east of Loch Loch. Bryum elegans, Encalypta rhaptocarpa, E. streptocarpa, Grimmia torquata, G. hartmanii, Schistidium crassipilum, Conostomum tetragonum, Distichium capillaceum, Seligeria pusilla, Myurella julacea, Pseudoleskeella catenulata (a moss whose mats can be measured by the metre on these cliffs), Entodon concinnus and Orthothecium intricatum enlivened the mossy scene, while that incorrigible calcifuge Rhabdoweisia fugax had found an acidic abode. Although the cliffs are relatively dry, the liverworts Cololejeunea calcarea and Gymnomitrion concinnatum found circumstances to their liking. Vascular plants are choice here too, and our visit coincided with the peak of flowering of Yellow Milk-vetch Oxytropis campestris (whose flowers are really a delicate creamy colour), and the lovely azure blue of Rock Speedwell Veronica fruticans with its unblinking red eye. Flowerless but refulgent, the fresh green fronds of Holly-fern Polystichum lonchitis adorned the declivities as we contemplated the grey screes and forbidding bulk of Beinn a Ghlo across the loch.

On the following day a mosaic of basic and acidic ground on Carn an t-Sionnaich gave us Sphagnum fuscum, Conostomum tetragonum, Dicranoweisia crispula, Kiaeria blyttii, Splachnum ampullaceum, Plagiothecium denticulatum var. obtusifolium, Barbilophozia atlantica, Marsupella sprucei, Diplophyllum taxifolium, Anastrepta orcadensis, Gymnomitrion concinnatum, Calypogeia sphagnicola, Anthelia julacea and Lophozia bicrenata. Dropping down to explore base-rich flushes in Gleann Mor, Isopterygiopsis pulchella, Campyliadelphus chrysophyllus, Meesia uliginosa, Leiocolea bantriensis, Tritomaria polita and Harpanthus flotovianus cheered us home for cocktails.

Our last day’s sortie began at the lower end of Fealar Gorge, where Bartramia ithyphylla, Gyroweisia tenuis, Orthothecium rufescens, Anoectangium aestivum, Didymodon spadiceus, Isopterygiopsis pulchella, Scapania aequiloba, S. aspera, Leiocolea alpestris, L. bantriensis, Tritomaria exsectiformis, T. quinquedentata, Anastrophyllum minutum, Blepharostoma trichophyllum, Blasia pusilla and Cololejeunea calcarea were waiting for us on calcareous rocks. After lunch we moved along to the gorge of the Allt á Ghlinne Mhoir, our descent to the stream upsetting a family of Peregrines who screamed blue murder at us from the sky. They had been committing it in the flesh pretty regularly too, for the feathered remains of dead grouse lay on nearly every boulder. Hygrohypnum eugyrium, Hygrobiella laxifolia and Scapania subalpina were growing in the gorge, and went on our lists for the first time.

These finds at Fealar had come from merely skim-sampling sites for an hour or so each day, and one’s thoughts ever stray to what and how much we passed by unawares, which might have (and may yet) come to notice with prolonged searching by more pairs of eyes.

August - Ardtornish, Morvern & Cairnwell, Perthshire

With appetites whetted for further Scottish adventures, we set off northwards again in August, to Ardtornish in Morvern on the west coast, capital of the Bryophyte Belt where sooner or later every bryologist cuts his teeth. But the high rainfall and humidity which suit the cream of cryptogams are less popular with those who hunt them, and unfortunately either rain fell or midges ate us during much of the week.

We did enjoy some sunshine on our first day, though, and we began by exploring the Allt na Sochaich behind the House, where Hylocomium umbratum grows on soil under trees, and Scapania subalpina on rock by the stream. Beckoned by the rump of Glais Bheinn, rocks and crevices held Grimmia torquata, Racomitrium ellipticum, Schistidium strictum and Ditrichum zonatum var. zonatum, and a Hen Harrier cut short its lunch to swing away over a peat hag. Contouring round, the dark, crumbling basaltic cliffs of Table of Lorn held the rare Schistidium pruinosum, its markedly papillose leaves distinguishing it from other S. apocarpum segregates.

Pouring rain all next day hampered exploration of the Fossil Burn south of the jetty on the east side of Loch Aline in the morning (Harpalejeunea molleri and Marchesinia mackaii), and Munghasdail Burn by the road to Drimnin in the afternoon, where boulders and trees supported Radula aquilegia, Frullania fragilifolia, Plagiochila killarniensis, Harpalejeunea molleri and Cololejeunea minutissima. On bedraggled retreat to a hot bath, a brief inspection of the Black Glen (Gleann Dubh) at the head of Loch Aline produced Bazzania trilobata, Plagiochila punctata, Anastrophyllum minutum, Frullania teneriffae on a birch tree, and Riccardia palmata on a rotting log, with the mosses Tetrodontium brownianum, Grimmia hartmanii and Eurhynchium pumilum on a rock. The Eurhynchium is quite common in southern woods, but becomes more notable this far north, where its requirements constrain it to sheltered spots like the Black Glen.

Next day we looked over base-rich rocks on Beinn Iadain, and though geographically disorientated in the mist, ecologically we knew we were in the right place when we started finding plants such as Grimmia torquata and Bryoerythrophyllum ferruginascens. Arctoa fulvella looked very Dicranum-like, Ditrichum zonatum var. zonatum appeared again, and Donald Kennedy, the local warden for the Scottish Wildlife Trust, kindly pointed out the hill’s vascular specialities: Arctic Sandwort Arenaria norvegica and Hairy Stonecrop Sedum villosum. We passed a little patch of Antitrichia curtipendula on our way down the north-western spur.

For our final day at Ardtornish we explored base-rich ground on the north flank of Beinn Chlaonleud overlooking the upper reaches of Gleann Dubh, where Bazzania tricrenata and Aphanolejeunea microscopica suggest that a more prolonged search on a less midgy day might pay dividends. A short stop in woodland in Glean Geal on the homeward drive gave us Leucobryum juniperoideum and Plagiochila killarniensis.

We punctuated our pilgrimage eastwards from Ardtornish to Perthshire with a pit-stop at the bryologists’ shrine of Coire Gabhail in Glen Coe, also known as the Lost Valley. Perhaps a better name still would be Liverwort Larder, for here hepatics drape themselves over every one of Nature’s shelves, bough and boulder alike. A felicitous combination of oceanic climate and precipitous, base-rich cliffs brooding over this sun-starved, north-facing declivity renders it Utopia for liverworts, and although the rarest species eluded us during our short exploration, Cephalozia catenulata on a fallen rowan and Leptoscyphus cuneifolius on a birch tree headed a cryptogamic cast of Herbertus aduncus subsp. hutchinsiae, Douinia ovata, Scapania subalpina, Nardia geoscyphus and Riccardia palmata.

Back in the eastern Highlands, we chose the Cairnwell for our last foray of the year in Scotland. Mild still air made the day ideal for this well-known hill above the ski-runs north of Spittal of Glenshee. As at Fealar, a combination of high ground and calcareous substrate promised excitement and proved rewarding, yielding Rhytidium rugosum and Grimmia funalis, with Rock Sedge Carex rupestris and Mountain Sandwort Minuartia rubella nearby. Oncophorus virens and Harpanthus flotovianus turned up in flushes to the north of the ridge, together with some decidedly odd-looking Dichodontium pellucidum looking nothing like the plants which grow by lowland water-courses. Indeed, one marvels (living as we do in an age of ‘splitters’) that D. pellucidum has not been carved up into more species.

October - Cramer Gutter, nr. Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire

After all this Scottish excitement, we settled back into our local routine in October at Cramer Gutter, a reserve of the Shropshire Wildlife Trust near Cleobury Mortimer. This mire is one of Shropshire’s most botanically interesting sites. We ate our sandwiches next to Cladopodiella francisci growing on peat exposed near the path. This recent addition to Salopia’s flora came a long way if it spread here from either of its nearest known out-of-county sites in south Wales and Yorkshire. But C. francisci is very small and may have lived quietly at Cramer for a long time without anyone realising. Gemmae sit on the ends of its shoots, and it has a stiffer habit than its congener C. fluitans, which straggles in profusion through the bog-mosses nearby in a manner more reminiscent of Odontoschisma sphagni than its closer relative. O. sphagni lives there too, along with the gemmiferous O. denudatum. Mylia anomala (also with gemmae), Cephalozia connivens and Kurzia pauciflora completed a list of liverworts notable for a largely low-lying county so close to the kingdom’s industrial heartland. Outside the reserve, on Catherton Common to the south of the stream, Scorpidium scorpioides and Campylium stellatum in flushes attested the influence of basic minerals, and Tortella tortuosa grew in the crevice of a boulder.

November - Hunthouse Wood, nr. Mamble, Worcestershire

With a dire weather-warning ringing in our ears, a remarkably brave team of ten turned out in early November at Hunthouse Wood, a reserve of the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust in the north of the county near Mamble, between Cleobury Mortimer and Bewdley. The wooded dingle’s diverse bryoflora relished the damp, sheltered atmosphere and ground, and ideally suited our educational agenda, with many of the common species of English broadleaved woodland on show. We also managed to add a few species to the reserve’s list, including the epiphytes Bryum subelegans, Zygodon conoideus, Frullania dilatata and Metzgeria fruticulosa, while a steep rocky bank offered sufficiently base-rich conditions for Leiocolea turbinata.

December - Ludlow Miseum

We ended the year with our third indoor workshop at Ludlow Museum for those seeking the help we all need at the outset of our bryological careers in order to feel confidently at home in the diminutive world of mosses and liverworts. Indeed, we arrange all our local meetings - both indoor and out - for naturalists keen to embark on field bryology. And we hope that the British Bryological Society will also play its part in encouraging beginners, as well as acting as a coterie for those who have already passed the nappy-stage in bryology. We don’t expect the Society to advertise on commercial television networks during prime-time viewing hours, but we do want an up-to-date, easy-to-use guide for identifying British mosses and liverworts using a lens in the field, with life-like illustrations of habit and notes on where to find each species. Crazy dreams linger on ….

MARK LAWLEY

 
 
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