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Meetings of the BBS - 1986


Spring Field Meeting 1986

East Dereham, 2-8 April

2 April. The meeting opened with a One Day Course on Bryophytes, run by Ken Adams and Peter Wanstall, at the Dereham Sixth Form Centre. A total of sixteen people attended comprising local teachers, biology students and BBS members.

Proceedings got off to a good start on coffee and biscuits provided by Ken's wife, ably assisted by various members of his family! After this Ken and Peter got straight down to business, dealing first with liverworts and then with the mosses. Progress was rapid, mainly because of the excellent handouts which Ken had provided, together with the range of fresh specimens supplied by Peter, and 'students' were soon looking down microscopes and identifying their first mosses.

After a break for lunch the party went to the local cemetery, where a very respectable number of bryophytes (35) were quickly collected and various points of field identification demonstrated. Back at the lab. another cup of coffee helped to warm everyone up before a final session with the microscopes, during which Ken did a good job of trying to 'sell' the BBS to those present.

At around five o'clock mopping up operations began, and people started to disperse - all expressing themselves well pleased with the event. Certainly from the Local Secretaries' point of view the event was very successful since contact was established with several local people who appeared very keen to get further involved in activities such as recording within the county.

The Society should be grateful to Ken and his family and to Peter for having given up their time, as well as to the Director of the Dereham Sixth Form Centre, Mr Paul Mitchell, who arranged for us to have the use of their facilities free of charge.

3 April. As the party ploughed its way across some very ankle wrenching terrain on Roydon Common it quickly became apparent that the lack of a competent Sphagnologist was going to be a distinct drawback. Roydon is rich in Sphagna, with 16 species recorded, but very few people were inclined to commit themselves as to actual identities so the final list from the site contains only five Sphagna.

A thorough search was made of the area where Homalothecium nitens was reputed to grow, but no trace of it could be found nor, indeed, of the other specialities of the region.

After an al fresco lunch, taken at Dersingham, the party moved onto Dersingham Bog, having first examined some of the dampish sandy banks lying above bog level which yielded fine Barbilophozia attenuata and a lot of Hypnum Jutlandicum in fruit. Attention then moved onto the Bog itself, where Eustace Jones supplied names for a variety of horribly small leafy liverworts.

We moved onto an old railway line, but it proved very dull bryologically until we reached some sandy banks near the Wolferton end of the line where Giles Clarke made the star discovery of the day by refinding Schistostega pennata, twinkling away merrily down a rabbit burrow.

Finally we moved on to East Winch Common, a Norfolk Naturalists' Trust reserve, to look specifically for Hypnum imponens, which had been found in luxuriant abundance a few weeks before. Eventually material was found.

4 April. A considerably enlarged party of 22 people assembled at Swanton Novers Great Wood where, after a brief talk by the warden - David Henshilwood -we moved off. None of the rarities encountered on previous occasions was refound, but the first NCR of the trip - Dicranum montanum - was found by Richard Libbey in an area of pollarded oak, where large tufts of Leucobryum glaucum were also prominent.

After lunch we drove to Mossymere Wood, which, despite its name, did not prove frantically interesting but Angela Newton found Frullania dilatata and Orthotrichum pulchellum and Joan Appleyard made an NCR with Hypnum mammillatum. Buxton Heath, the last locality of the day, saw a slight deterioration in the weather conditions, but not enough to stop play. Chris Preston found Ulota crispa, which is rare in the county but it was obvious that considerable changes in the habitat had been brought about by Willow and Birch encroachment, and no trace could be found of the pools in which Cinclidium stygium and Homalothecium nitens had grown.

5 April. Moving quickly through some fairly boring pinewoods at Holt Lowes Country Park the party reached a minor valley feature which led down into the main valley of the river Glaven. This was to be the main focus of our activities. The presence of species such as Campylium stellatum and Ctenidium molluscum indicated more calcareous conditions, as well as the various Sphagna. Hepatics included Pellia neesiana found by Martin Corley, Riccardia multifida and Odontoschisma sphagni. Various individuals were seen furtively lifting clumps of Sphagnum under some of the straggly birch growing on the valley side - however, no trace could be found of Cryptothallus. Harold Whitehouse, by neatly sidestepping the fangs of a lurking adder, managed to keep the party up to full strength, whilst at the same time relieving the local Secretary of a lot of tedious extra paperwork.

In the thicker birch scrub near the river Glaven Philip Lightowlers refound Hookeria lucens in its only Norfolk locality. It was subsequently found to be abundant all along the banks of a small rivulet.

In the afternoon a short drive took us to the next locality, Fellbrigg Hall a magnificent National Trust property, north of which lies the Great Wood. This includes fragments of ancient Beechwood. A haha proved immediately seductive to some of the party, and Harold Whitehouse found Rhynchostegiella tenella. Others, however, moved on more briskly to examine a sandy bank in the Lions Mouth area. Here Diplophyllum albicans, Lepidozia reptans and Nardia scalaris were found, along with the usual acidic mosses. The woods themselves proved disappointing, although the existing species list for the area was greatly expanded. The great attention being paid to seepy knotholes on the ancient Beeches suggested that Zygodon forsteri was on more than one mind. However, everybody was out of luck.

Towards the end of the afternoon various people could be discerned sloping off sheepishly in the direction of the Tearooms. It is a pleasure to be able to report however that the majority of the party upheld the fine moral standards of the Society and went on to do some recording in underworked squares. Harold Whitehouse led one group in an abortive search for Leptobarbula berica, which managed to locate more Rhynchostegiella tenella, as did some of the other groups. A visit to a Nursery at High Kelling provided Martin Corley with his second NCR of the day, Marchantia polymorpha var. alpestris.

6 April. Colder, distinctly damper, weather welcomed a diminishing number to Thompson Common, a Norfolk Naturalists' Trust reserve. The area consists of grassland and some scrubby wood, intermingled with a large number of small ponds, representing the remains of periglacial ice-cored mounds, called pingoes. Apart from quantities of frogspawn these yielded Fontinalis antipyretica, but little else of bryological interest.

It was hoped, vainly as it turned out, that some of the numerous anthills might prove productive of small acrocarps. However, the lateness of the season meant that growth had been much delayed. Finds included Rhodobryum roseum, Climacium dendroides and Bryum microerythrocarpum. Almost as a man the decision was taken to find a suitable hostelry in which to thaw out a bit and in which to have lunch.

Tony Smith (of Whittington, Staffs), the first arrival at East Wretham Heath, the scene of the afternoon visit, was surprised to find himself being interviewed for BBC Radio Norfolk! The party was joined for the afternoon by Rex Hancy, the President of the Norfolk and Norwich Naturalists' Society, and presenter of the programme in question. Rex had already given us some welcome air time before the meeting, so it was nice to have him join us in the field. Other victims to his microphone included Eustace Jones and Martin Corley. Wretham Heath proved to be exceptionally unexceptional! An area of tussocky Agrostis grassland occupied a lot of time and energy, as did one or two old elders which yielded Frullania dilatata to Rod Corner's eagle eye. Angela Newton found Tortula papillosa on an elder near Lang Mere. On the way back to the cars Riccia fluitans was found to be abundant in a murky pool by the side of the main road.

7 April. It was a much reduced party which assembled in a wet and windswept car park at Grimes Graves but a strongly developed sense of duty, or possibly an outbreak of mass lunacy, eventually drove the party out of their cars and into the field. Once out in it, it quickly proved to be even worse than it had initially appeared. Glasses and handlenses quickly misted over, and people were reduced to grabbing bits of 'interesting' material and stuffing them into polythene bags for later examination.

One small, but hyperenthusiastic, group ventured out to the nearby Battle area, in search of Rhytidium, which they duly found. Meanwhile, the rest retreated gratefully towards the nearest pub. Over sandwiches, beer, chips, and other gastronomic delights, it was decided to abandon Hockham Hills and Holes completely to the elements. As an alternative the trip to Scarning Fen, scheduled for the last day, was brought forward. This meant that those leaving early had an opportunity to see Leiocolea rutheana. Then, having made sure that at least one of the advertised goodies had been seen by at least some of the party, the local Secretaries retreated rapidly in the direction of King's Lynn, hot baths, and dry trousers!

8 April. The final remnants of the party, reduced by this stage to a mere six, met on Woodbastwick Village Green to meet Rick Southwood, the NCC warden for Woodbastwick Fen and the Bure Marshes. We convoyed to his HQ where he gave us a brief rundown on the site. Starting in an area of coppiced Alder we then moved to an open area of short mown marsh which was totally dominated by Calliergon cordifolium. This great uniformity of bryophyte vegetation proved to be fairly general. There were a lot of mosses, but only 21 species were recorded of which the most interesting was Orthotrichum pulchellum. A five minute spell in Woodbastwick Churchyard had yielded nearly as many species, with considerably less effort! However the party was partly compensated by the sight of lasciviously coupling toads, and spawning Pike. It can be a few parties of bryologists, too, who have had a bridge towed into position specially for their use!

Later, Winterton Dunes, was found to be covered in great sheets of common bryophytes: patches of Ptilidium ciliare up to 50 cm in diameter were particularly impressive, as were freely fruiting Campylopus introflexus and C. pyriformis. Damp hollows yielded Sphagnum fimbriatum, Drepanocladus fluitans and Gymnocolea inflata.

Final thoughts ......

Whatever success we achieved, it was in large part due to the tremendous amount of help we received from Dr Martin George, of the Regional NCC office, who supplied advice about sites, and addresses which it would have taken ages to find by any other means. The Norfolk Naturalists' Trust were similarly helpful. Even those private landowners who felt unable to grant us permission for a visit, due to the nesting activities of their pheasants, were sufficiently interested to indicate that visits at an oologically less critical time would be welcome. And that leaves us with some interesting sites to look at, maybe with some of the local people whom we met through the One Day School.

Socially the trip seems to have been enjoyed by most people: bryologically it can only be described as average to dull. We failed to refind more than a few of the recorded rarities of the region - and in most instances the culprit would appear to be habitat change, rather than incompetence. The need for conservation measures aimed specifically at bryophytes appears to be overwhelming, even on those sites which are already Reserves. It looks as if we, as a Society, ought to be looking at the way in which we record the results of our endeavours. As NCC noted, after I had sent them our final lists, site cards with a long list of names are of little use to a non-specialist, especially if the card gives no indication of degrees of rarity, nor of the location of any rarities.



Summer Meeting 1986

Fort William & Gairloch, 23 July -6 August

Fort William: 23 - 30 July

Participants: Tom Blockeel, Richard Fisk, Mike Fletcher, Richard Libbey, David Long, Jean Paton, Mark Pool, John Port, Tony Smith, Phil Stanley, Rod Stern, Harold and Pat Whitehouse and Gordon Rothero (Local Secretary), Peter Pitkin appeared on odd occasions (often from odd directions!) and we were joined on two days by Ro Scott local N.C.C, officer.

Fort William is not a prepossessing place, particularly if there is a big, wet, westerly wind blowing up Loch Linnhe and the cloud is down to the level of the pulp mill chimney. However, it is the obvious centre for exploring this part of the Western Highlands, and the Nevis Bank Hotel provided a comfortable and friendly base. The geology of the area is fairly complex and it is sufficient to say that the volcanic rocks associated with the two 'ring complexes' of Ben Nevis and Glencoe provided two sites (Coire Leis and Coire Gabhail): a further four sites were based on the outcrops at various levels of the Ballachulish limestone (Beinn na Socaich, Craig Aoil, Beinn Riabhach and Aonach Beag): finally Camas Salach is a ravine in the Dalradian schist while Lon Leanachan is a sort of (!) raised bog. The weather during our stay was very unsettled but the rain fell kindly for us and we had clear tops for two of the three high days. The blustery weather ensured that 'midges' were never a real problem even in the damp depths of Camas Salach.

During the evening of the 23rd, as we were meeting over drinks in the bar of the Nevis Bank, Rod Stern arrived with the sad news of the death of Ted Wallace. I never had the pleasure of meeting the man but his name cropped up again and again during my preparation for this meeting; he had been to virtually all the sites we visited during his remarkable series of forays into the Scottish hills.

24 July. Coire Leis on Ben Nevis (G.R. 27/1771).

A cool, damp day with the cloud hanging round the shoulders of the 'Ben' all day but fortunately never obscuring the base of the Coire. By courtesy of the Forestry Commission and the Economic Forestry Group we were able to drive up to the 300m contour leaving a reasonable if boggy walk up into Coire Leis. Despite instructions to the contrary, some bryologising took place on the walk in. In particular David Long found Ditrichum lineare on the eroded side of the path and also Racomitrium elongatum. Bryologising began in earnest above the climbing hut at the base of the coire. As we wended our way up the burn that flows out of Coire an Lochan, the more montane species began to appear in the rocky grassland here. Species like Anastrepta orcadensis, Anastrophyllum donianum and Scapania ornithopodioides were widespread and there were small amounts of Scapania nimbosa, Barbilophozia lycop odioides and Marsupella alpina. From the gravel near the burn David Long produced the piece of Haplomitrium hookeri that he always keeps in his pocket. It was raining persistently by lunchtime but this was good for the moral fibre and spirits remained high. After lunch we climbed round the base of the 'Douglas Boulder' (200m high) and picked our way up the scree slope below Observation Gully. Plants typical of this block scree and its associated gravel included some of the species already mentioned and also Kiaeria blyttii, Pohlia ludwigii, Racomitrium microcarpon and Marsupella adusta. Rod Stern and Peter Pitkin found Andreaea nivalis which proved reasonably frequent on wet blocks higher up. There was some ghoulish talk of climbing accidents and the occurrence of various Splachnaceae, but the best I could manage was Tetraplodon mnioides growing vigorously from an old sardine can. From the screes an interesting scramble led to a large snow patch below what climbers call the Orion Face; this patch normally persists throughout the year. The gravel below the snow patch enabled comparison to be made between Kiaeria falcata and K. starkei and with K. blyttii on the rocks nearby. Arctoa fulvella was also present, in small quantity as usually seems to be the case. Other plants of interest here included Ditrichum zonatum vars. zonatum and scabrifolium, Polytrichum sexangulare, Oedipodium griffithianum, Lophozia opacifolia, Marsupella stableri, M. sprucei and Pleurocladula albescens, while above the snow patch there was a beautiful carpet of Pohlia wahlenbergii var. glacialis, recognisable from a considerable distance. The dampness was by now all pervading and though no conscious decision was taken, a movement was made downward so we never reached the more basic rocks that outcrop further up in Coire Leis. After a minor mix-up over transport, all bodies were safely off the hill.

25 July. Beinn na Socaich (G.R. 27/2373 & 2374)

The weather forecast was not too bad so another 'hill' day was decided upon. The big north-facing coires of the range of hills known as the Grey Coires are little frequented and the geology map showed some basic ground at the western end - Beinn na Socaich. Again access up E.F.G, tracks cut the walk-in down to size and botanising could begin almost immediately in the ravine above the level of the plantation. Where we crossed the ravine, Anoectangium warburgii and Meesia uliginosa occurred in the bedding planes of the rocks. A cool breeze blew mist up the valley obscuring most of the, by now, widely dispersed party; however we did manage to coalesce for lunch, by which time the weather was beginning to improve. The remainder of the afternoon was spent searching for the elusive 'basic ground' on the awkward N.E. facing crags, with only intermittent success. The odd patches of good ground provided a respectable list; Rod Stern found a beautiful patch of Rhizomnium magnifolium, Jean Paton found Jungermannia borealis, Diplophyllum taxifolium and Scapania degenii, the detached wanderings of Peter Pitkin produced Aulacomnium turgidum and Bryum riparium; other interesting finds in this area included Campylopus schwarzii, Amphidium lapponicum, Barbilophozia lycopodioides and Plagiochila carringtonii. A few of us penetrated the upper coire where there were patches of snow. The communities here were much the same as on Ben Nevis but in addition there were good colonies of Moerckia blyttii and Anthelia juratzkana in the damp grassland and mineral soil,with Dicranoweisia crispula on the rocks. The lowly 'Munro-bagger' in our midst galloped off along the skyline whilst the rest of us made a more sedate return down the valley. The sun was shining. Subsequent conversation with Ro Scott, N.C.C. Area Officer, revealed that we had missed the best ground which is much lower than I had deduced from the map.

26 July. The 'Lost Valley' in Glencoe (G.R. 27/1655).

Two 'high days' and a poor forecast suggested a lower option. The bottom part of Coire Gabhail, known by climbers as 'the Lost Valley' and by bryologists as 'Dixon's Coire' is basically a ravine into which has fallen a considerable part of the mountainside. The blocks are huge and near the burn have a good covering of birch, rowan and some hazel providing a very humid and sheltered habitat. Large boulders on the open slope below the main rockfall are the locality for Andreaea megistospora which was dutifully refound by David Long. In the ravine and amongst the blocks it was the sheer biomass of bryophytes that impressed, carpeting the tops of the rocks and festooning the trees. Antitrichia curtipendula was abundant in this area. Of the more oceanic species Harpalejeunea ovata and Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia were not uncommon on the verical faces of rocks near the burn, Mastigophora woodsii formed some large cushions on the north-facing wall of the ravine, Leptoscyphus cuneifolius occurred on some of the older birches and Glyphomitrium daviesii grew in several places on the blocks above the tree line. Wet rocks under some of the dripping crags had fine carpets of Dicranodontium uncinatum.

Beinn Riabhach (G.R. 27/1071)

At lunchtime in the Lost Valley Jean Paton, Tom Blockeel and David Long were enticed away by the metamorphosed limestone that outcrops in low crags above the Blarmafoldach road S.W. of Fort William, a move which proved very worthwhile. Besides interesting species like Scapania aequiloba, Haplomitrium hookeri and Gymnostomum calcareum, they found three species new to Westerness (V.C. 97) in Thuidium recognitum*, Plagiochila britannica* and Scapania lingulata*.

27 July. Craig Aoil (G. R. 27/1877), Lon Leanachain (G. R. 27/1978) and the Spean Gorge (G.R. 27/2081).

Our ranks had been increased with the arrival the previous day of Harold and Pat Whitehouse, John Port, Richard Fisk and Mike Fletcher and we were joined for the day by Ro Scott, so it seemed reasonable to visit sites within everyone's compass. Craig Aoil is a limestone knoll rapidly decaying under the onslaught of the quarrymen; it is surrounded by conifers but some birch and hazel scrub exists on the top and all trees are liberally coated with lime dust as a result of the quarrying operations. As in other areas near lime quarries this leads to some unusual epiphytes - Neckera crispa, Orthotrichum anomalum, Encalypta streptocarpa, Hygrohypnum luridum and Scapania aspera to mention a few. This is the habitat of Orthotrichum urnigerum in its only British site, refound on this occasion by Tony Smith. On the rocks themselves the luxuriance of the bryophytes was impressive: great wefts of Eurhynchium striatum, Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus and Brachythecium glareosum, deep cushions of Tortella tortuosa, often in fruit. On a different scale, three species of Seligeria were seen, S. pusilla, S. donniana and S. acutifolia and on the hazels, Neckera pumila and Orthotrichum pulchellum were not uncommon.

After lunch, to provide a contrast we moved on another kilometre down a forest track to a large bog, Lon Leanachain. The bog has good populations of Sphagnum magellanicum in dull red patches and large hummocks of both S. fuscum and S. imbricatum. The associated hepatic flora was a little disappointing, Calypogeia sphagnicola, Mylia anomala, Cladopodiella fluitans and Riccardia latifrons providing some interest.

There was just time for a brief visit to another site, so a small cavalcade moved on to the deeply incised section of the River Spean below Spean Bridge. On a previous visit to reconnoitre the site I had recorded a good list of oceanic species but time did not allow us to get to the more heavily wooded section; even so, in the short time available two rotting logs produced Cephalozia catenulata and Sphenolobus hellerianus. The lower part of the ravine would repay further exploration if you have a head for heights and are not worried by deep, dark pools!

During the course of the week, Tom Blockeel and Harold Whitehouse did their thing in various patches of cultivated ground in and around Fort William coming up with two new records for V.C. 97 in Dicranella staphylina* and Bryum microerythrocarpum*.

28 July. Camas Salach, Loch Sunart (G. R. 17/6860 & 6861)

Loch Sunart is only 25 minutes from Fort William via the Corran Ferry so, although the area is well known, I could not resist the temptation. Despite the reputation of the area, the N.C.C, did not have good species lists for specific sites, a result of our fixation with 10km squares perhaps. Anyway, the compilation of a species list for Camas Salach S.S.S.I, seemed sufficient to justify the long drive and even the wear on the suspension on the last few, sump-cracking kilometres. The weather was dreich: windless, damp and 'midgey', the worst of the trip, but bryologists' tolerance levels seem to be fairly high. The ravine is steep and incised, with lots of fallen trees giving rise to some amusing simian antics. The bryophyte communities were typical of these western ravines but with a few more rarities than is usually the case. In the first few metres after leaving the track we had already found Acrobolbus wilsonii and Plagiochila atlantica and soon after Jean Paton pointed out a slab covered in Sematophyllum micans. The list of extreme 'oceanic' species steadily increased as we scrambled upward and included Dicranum scottianum, F rullania teneriffae, Harpanthus scutatus, Lophocolea fragrans, Metzgeria leptoneura, Leptoscyphus cuneifolius, Plagiochila corniculata and Radula aquilegia. It was sad to see that, even in an area like this, some underplanting of the oak woodland with conifers had taken place, to the extent of ring-barking in one spot. The track by the coast, and the coastal rocks themselves, were given some attention and produced Atrichum tenellum, Haplomitrium hookeri and Fossombronia incurva.

29 July. Aonach Beag (G. R. 27/1971 & 2071)

Because I had been really looking forward to this day, I had subconsciously given it 'star status' and I'm sure this communicated itself to the rest of the party. Aonach Beag is a big hill, over 4000ft, with a lot of basic rock at high levels; added to this is a huge north east facing coire with semipermanent snow patches. Access via E.F.G, tracks again made life a little easier and the party left the vehicles and wandered off into a damp morning at about 10 am. After a reasonable walk-in and aided by some pin-point navigation by David Long, we had an early lunch in near sunshine (oh Ye of little faith!) below the obvious band of basic rocks that lead up from the floor of the coire to the bealach between Aonach Beag and Aonach Mhor. Early finds of Meesia uliginosa and Leptodontium recurvifolium augured well though the basic rocks were clearly 'patchy'. The block scree associated with the lower crags had good populations of Scapania ornithopodioides, S. nimbosa and Anastrophyllum donianum and the crags themselves produced Isopterygiopsis muelleriana and Scapania calcicola. Richard Fisk, Mike Fletcher and I scrambled up into a particularly rich little gully which had large quantities of both Bryoerythrophyllum caledonicum* and Odontoschisma macounii*; these were gratifying finds as they fill in a large gap in the known distribution. After rev isiting 'our' gully David and Tom pointed out that we had missed Tritomaria polita. The party regrouped by a little lochan for a second lunch and then resumed the ascent to the bealach via block scree, snow patch and crag. This is a very rich area, boasting Andreaea nivalis, Polytrichum sexangulare, Ditrichum zonatum var. zonatum and var. scabrifolium, Orthothecium rufescens, Bryum dixonii, B. muehlenbeckii, Amphidium lapponicum, Brachythecium glaciale, Philonotis tomentella*, Hylocomium pyrenaicum, Harpanthus flotowianus, Plagiochila carringtonii, Marsupella alpina, M. stableri and Pleurocladula albescens to name but a few.

The final snow patch before the bealach had proved so interesting, in climbing rather than botanical terms (although at one point it was necessary to use Harpanthus flotowianus for upward progress), that a number of people were fairly keen not to descend by that route. Despite the lateness of the hour we decided to head for the top and explore the large, summit plateau; here there were good colonies of Dicranum glaciale on the steep faces of the solifluction terraces and Nardia breidleri in amongst the carpets of Marsupella brevissima and Ditrichum zonatum. Windows in the cloud below us allowed views of the Water of Nevis and the big Glencoe hills beyond. After a conference on the summit the party divided, the 'A' team returning to the vehicles over Aonach Mor, while the 'B' team turned S.E. to scramble down to the head of A'Chul coire and back down the burn. The 'easier' descent line proved much steeper than my memory of it (my belated apologies!) and so it was a weary but unbowed team that reached the cars shortly after 10 pm. It is a tribute to the enthusiasm of the group and the remoteness and richness of the site that the BBS notched up perhaps its first 12 hour day in the field (?); a fitting end to a good week.

I looked forward with some trepidation to my first BBS meeting as local secretary and the fact that I actually enjoyed the week is due to the people who came along; my thanks to them. I'm sure Mike will not mind my saying that perhaps my biggest worry was that we would lose him on the hill, this necessitating informing my acquaintances on the local Mountain Rescue team that they were looking for a barefoot bryologist wearing a plastic 'mac' and carrying an old shopping bag! Our final tally for the week was well over 400 taxa with 9 new County Records, and a great number of plants with a restricted distribution. A number of these were photographed in stereo by Pat Whitehouse and the results that she demonstrated at the AGM were very impressive, particularly the great depth of field. I hope everyone on the meeting went away with an impression both of the beauty and the fragility of the sites that we visited. Even the most remote site, on Aonach Beag, is under som e threat from the possible extension of the proposed skiing development on Aonach Mor. One thing we can try to do as a Society is to make sure that these unique bryophyte communities are not lost through ignorance of what is there.


Gairloch, Wester Ross: 30 July - 6 August

Participants: Eric & Evelyn Birse, Agnita Burton, Richard Fisk, Michael Fletcher, Richard Libbey, David Long (Leader), Caroline Pannell, Jean Paton, Peter Pitkin, John Port, Gordon Rothero, Philip Stanley, Rod Stern, Eric & Joyce Watson, Harold & Pat Whitehouse.

Gairloch was chosen for the second week of the meeting partly because the BBS have rarely met north of the Great Glen, and also for its geographical location and range of accommodation. The surrounding area is a highly glaciated landscape with a rugged coastline and a hinterland dominated by Loch Maree, the Torridon hills to the south, and to the north the wilderness of the Letterewe Forest and high mountains such as An Teallach. Geologically the district lacks significant basic outcrops, the predominant formations being acidic gneiss and quartzite, and to the south Torridonian sandstone. Remnants of natural woodlands are widespread, especially around Gairloch and Loch Maree, with fragments of Scots Pine, Oak, Birch and Rowan woodlands.

The BBS met in Ullapool in 1960 when much of Wester Ross was completely unknown bryologically. Since that time considerable field work has been done on some of the mountains (e.g. Beinn Eighe and Beinn Dearg) but much unworked ground remains. The weather in general was not kind to us during the meeting, with cool, windy and often wet conditions, but this was compensated for by the number of participants and their dedication, enthusiasm and conviviality.

31 July. The first excursion was to a windswept raised (but partly cut-away) bog near Loch Sguod NW of Poolewe, where the group ranged far and wide, later reporting back with a good list including 10 Sphagna, notably S. fuscum and S. imbricatum forming conspicuous hummocks, Calypogeia sphagnicola, Cephaloziella subdentata, Cladopodiella fluitans, Kurzia setacea and K. sylvatica. This was followed by a rather speculative and breezy walk along the sandy and rocky coastline at Mellangaun; particularly rewarding was a small Torridonian sandstone ravine where Cynodontium bruntonii (rare in N. Scotland), Calypogeia trichomanis, Aphanolejeunea microscopica, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Frullania fragilifolia and Lophocolea fragrans lurked in the sheltered humid microclimate. Cephalozia leucantha was found by Jean Paton on peaty ground nearby.

During lunch on the adjacent beach a short appreciation of Ted was delivered by Rod Stern in a very appropriate setting to remember his greatly-missed presence at BBS meetings and his huge contribution to Scottish bryology.

After lunch we drove to Tollie Bay at the NW end of Loch Maree to explore the steep slopes covered in block-scree and Birch/Rowan woodland. Lepidozia cupressina was in great profusion. Other species included Hygrohypnum eugyrium, Colura calyptrifolia, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Plagiochila corniculata and Radula aquilegia on rocks in two small streams, Douinia ovata and Leptoscyphus cuneifolius on trees and Grimmia hartmanii and Glyphomitrium daviesii on boulders by the loch. An impressive find by Dr Whitehouse and others was an extensive colony of Cryptothallus mirabilis in swampy ground (later in the week flooded) amongst Betula and Molinia. This, and later the Colura, were the subjects for Pat Whitehouse's stereoscopic camera which focussed on many bryophytes during the week.

1 August. Beinn Eighe NNR. Beinn Eighe dominating the Torridon hills above Kinlochewe, is famous as the only British locality for Herbertus borealis, and for its fine Pine woods on the northern slopes. A number of bryologists have visited the reserve and an extensive list has been compiled by Martin Corley, to which we were able to add 25 species.

Our ascent was via the 'tourist route' from the NCC car park, up through the Coille na Glas Leitire pine woods. An advance party made remarkable speed towards the mist which threatened to (but never did) descend, whilst the slower group enjoyed the panorama across Loch Maree, and noted Sphenolobus hellerianus and Cephalozia catenulata on a log. Towards the summit of the ridge oceanic-montane hepatics were abundant: Anastrophyllum donianum, Bazzania pearsonii, Mastigophora woodsii, Plagiochila carringtonii, Scapania nimbosa and S. ornithopodioides. We then traversed to the southern slope of Meall a'Ghiubhais with the apt pseudonym of 'Green Pastures', one of the few basic outcrops of the district (dolomitic sandstone). After a reunion of stragglers and lunch a good tally of calcicoles was clocked up, including Barbula ferruginascens, Encalypta ciliata, Hypnum hamulosum, Meesia uliginosa, Plagiomnium cuspidatum, Pterigynandrum filif orme, Seligeria recurvata, Barbilophozia lycopodioides, Cephalozia pleniceps, Eremonotus myriocarpus, Harpanthus flotowianus, Jungermannia subelliptica, Lophozia wenzelii and Scapania aspera.

The group once more fragmented, a few went downhill to the stony plateau below, where extensive orange mats of Herbertus borealis were admired (all 3 Herbertus species were seen in the reserve); the others worked slowly back, some with some curious navigation which combined with 'going barefoot' made it a painfully long descent. In the afternoon we even enjoyed a little sunshine, spectacular scenery and rounded off a thoroughly rewarding day's bryology.

2 August was a very wet day and the Talladale Ravine near Loch Maree left few of us dry. The gently sloping oak woods at the base had both Tritomaria exsecta and T. exsectiformis on logs, Cryptothallus mirabilis again, and one of the new British Andreaea species (A. megistospora) on a boulder. This soon gave way to a steep slippery gorge containing a raging torrent and few penetrated very far upstream. After lunch under a dripping cliff we found Anoectangium warburgii, Hygrohypnum eugyrium (locally common in ravines but easily overlooked because of its almost black colour), luxuriant Oxystegus hibernicus, Colura calyptrifolia, Metzgeria leptoneura and Plagiochila corniculata. In general the list was a bit disappointing, but reasonable considering the poor visibility and steamed-up lenses.

On the return journey to Gairloch a few soggy stragglers searched on the shore of Loch Bad an Sgalaig where Fossombronia foveolata and Odontoschisma elongatum were barely visible in the misty half-light.

3 August. The group dispersed in all directions: north to Beinn Dearg, south to Kishorn (both very long drives) and also to the nearby Inverewe Gardens. The Beinn Dearg group retraced the footsteps of the BBS in 1960 up the misty, wet Gleann na Sguaib from Inverlael. A brief halt at the small lochan enabled us to re-find Hygrohypnum polare submerged in its only British locality (discovered by Ted Wallace in 1952), with abundant Anastrophyllum joergensenii on the scree slopes above. At this point Gordon Rothero, in energetic mood, set off to cross the bealach into Coire Ghranda, whilst the remainder worked up the slopes to the still-persistent snow patches. The snow-melt streams and flushes were spectacular, with pink mats of Bryum weigelii, glaucous-white Pohlia wahlenbergii var. glacialis, along with Rhizomnium magnifolium and Harpanthus flotowianus. The snow-patches were equally interesting; on the lo ose boulders were *Andreaea blyttii, forming shiny black sheets, *A. sinuosa and *A. mutabilis, all three recent additions to the British Flora, soon to be written up by B. M. Hurray (the last as yet undescribed), Racomitrium microcarpon and Marsupella alpina; with Polytrichum sexangulare, Moerckia blyttii and Pleurocladula albescens on soil (all in vc 105).

In steadily improving weather, David Long then descended into Coire Ghranda (vc 106) to meet Gordon Rothero in a steep base-rich gully, where the latter had already seen many rarities, including Anoectangium warburgii, *Cirriphyllum cirrosum, Isopterygiopsis muelleriana, Leptodontium recurvifolium, Lescuraea patens, Racomitrium microcarpon, Barbilophozia lycopodioides, Marsupella alpina and Odontoschisma macounii. To these were added *Andreaea alpestris, *A. blyttii in profusion and *Ditrichum zonatum var. scabrifolium in the late-snow area above the cliffs, and Oxystegus hibernicus and *Scapania aequiloba in the gully. A very brisk walk reunited the party at the cars at 6.30 pm.

Meanwhile, the 'garden party' at Inverewe, including Harold Whitehouse, not only admired the exotic phanerogams, but contributed significantly to the ruderal bryoflora of vc 105 by recording *Bryum rubens, *B. ruderale, *Dicranella staphylina, Ditrichum cylindricum, Pottia truncata and Riccia sorocarpa. The 'calciphiles', Jean Paton and Phil Stanley, explored the Allt Mor limestone ravine at Kishorn, discovering a new record for *Gymnostomum calcareum, with Orthothecium rufescens, Encalypta streptocarpa, Leiocolea muelleri, Lejeunea lamacerina, Scapania aequiloba and S. aspera amongst a luxuriance of woodland species and calcicoles. On their return journey a short halt at the Shieldaig birch wood on the S side of Loch Torridon produced Kurzia sylvatica, Lepidozia cupressina and Plagiochila killarniensis.

4 August. An Teallach is among the most rugged and spectacular of Scottish mountains, visited by the BBS in 1960 when bad weather limited exploration. With a clear dry morning we anticipated more favourable conditions and approached the mountain from near Dundonnell House via Coire a' Ghiubhsachain. The absence of an expected footbridge necessitated an icy paddle not to everyone's liking, but without mishap we continued steadily up to Loch Toll an Lochain with relative ease across a natural pavement of Torridonian sandstone slabs on which were collected Andreaea megistospora and Campylopus atrovirens var. falcatus. A small promontory by the loch provided a perfect setting for a snack in the huge amphitheatre of An Teallach, with Mastigophora woodsii and Bazzania pearsonii at our feet. Sadly the good weather suddenly disappeared and some heavy showers kept us on the move. The corrie proved relatively acidic and a clockwise search of the crags was conducted, Gordon Rothero scrutinizing the more airy heights. The list included Amphidium lapponicum, Campylopus schwarzii, Dicranodontium asperulum, D. uncinatum, Herzogiella striatella, Isothecium myosuroides var. brachythecioides, Lescuraea patens (in an eroded gully), Anastrophyllum donianum and a little A. Joergensenii, Harpanthus flotowianus, Lepidozia pearsonii, Moerckia blyttii, Plagiochila carringtonii, Scapania nimbosa and S. ornithopodioides. Chiloscyphus pallescens and Philonotis seriata were seen in flushes by the loch, and Cephalozia loitlesbergeri was picked up by Jean Paton nearby. On the return walk we avoided a second paddle, but not the clouds of Dundonnell midges whilst waiting for a few stragglers who chose a novel descent from the mountain.

5 August. On the final day, Loch Maree was again the venue for our excursion, but this time we took to the water thanks to the NCC at Kinlochewe, who provided a boat, and Tim Clifford who ferried us in it. In addition to this unusual BBS transport, an element of competition was introduced in that the two boat-loads were deposited on different islands (E peninsula of Garbh Eilean and W peninsula of Eilean Subhainn) for two hours of very intensive bryology. The islands were of great interest for their undisturbed and relatively ungrazed vegetation, dominated by Scots Pine and Juniper, very tall Calluna, and with open tracts of Sphagnum bog. The bryoflora was luxuriant, in particular taxa such as Lepidozia cupressina and Pleurozia purpurea both on the open ground and in the woodland.

The lists were duly compared with the following results: 159 taxa were recorded, of these 82 on both islands, including Pterogonium gracile, Calypogeia sphagnicola, Cryptothallus mirabilis, Frullania fragilifolia, Kurzia sylvatica and Riccardia latifrons. Eilean Subhainn produced no less than 45 taxa not seen on Garbh Eilean, most interesting being Campylopus brevipilus, Dryptodon patens, Pterigynandrum filiforme, Sphagnum fuscum, S. imbricatum, S. molle, Ulota drummondii, Cephalozia catenulata, C. leucantha, *C. macrostachya, *Cephaloziella subdentata, Cladopodiella fluitans, Colura calyptrifolia, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Kurzia setacea, K. trichoclados and Plagiochila killarniensis. Garbh Eilean, on the other hand, lacked the hepaticological scrutiny of Jean Paton, but nevertheless yielded 32 taxa not seen on Eilean Subhainn; including Campylopus introflexus, Glyphomitrium daviesii, Grimmia funalis, G. hartmanii, Ulota coarctata on Juniper, Calypogeia trichomanis and Odontoschisma elongatum (on peaty gravel on the shore). The list was astonishing for two hours work, a tribute to the dedication and competitive spirit of the BBS.

The two parties were then ferried over to the Letterewe oakwoods at Port an Aoil on the NE shore of the loch. Here a fenced enclosure demonstrated the dramatic regeneration possible when large herbivores are excluded. Bryologically, the woods proved less rich than hoped, particularly the streams which were too open. Nevertheless, the following were noteworthy: Anoectangium warburgii, Antitrichia curtipendula, Grimmia hartmanii, Hygrohypnum eugyrium, Zygodon baumgartneri, Cololejeunea calcarea, Frullania microphylla, Jungermannia confertissima, Leiocolea bantriensis, *Plagiochila britannica, P. corniculata, P. killarniensis, Porella arboris-vitae and Tritomaria exsecta. The return sail and views across the loch were a most memorable end to the meeting.

During the week a number of additional localities were visited by those who were unable or chose not to join the main excursions; in particular Eric and Evelyn Birse with an elderly dog which made history by riding in a rucksack. They recorded Glyphomitrium daviesii in a third locality by Loch Maree, near Bridge of Grudie, and Kiaeria blyttii and Douinia ovata at Coire Chaorachain, Dundonnell Forest. Harold Whitehouse added *Bryum microerythrocarpum to vc 105 at South Erradale. Several people visited the damp sandy sea-shore at Opinan where Fossombronia incurva, Haplomitrium hookeri and Riccardia incurvata were seen.

In terms of new country records this meeting was less productive than that in 1960, but nevertheless for all the 'revisited' localities we added some rarities to the lists, even on Beinn Eighe. Most new records came from ruderal habitats and from the Beinn Dearg excursion which turned up several Andreaea taxa of great interest and other montane rarities such as Odontoschisma macounii, Cirriphyllum cirrosum and Rhizomnium magnifolium, which reinforces its claim to be the richest mountain north of the Great Glen.

The leader wishes to thank all who attended for making it such an enjoyable and successful week, the various landowners who were very cooperative, Tim Clifford for his boating skills, and to the management of the Old Inn, Charlestown for their hospitality to our group in the evening.


AGM & Symposium Meeting 1986

Leeds, 20-21 September

AGM & Symposium Meeting 1986, Leeds, 20-21 September

Ellerslie Hall at Leeds University was the scene of a well-attended meeting where the results of some notable contemporary study were presented. It was a particularly appropriate venue in view of the significant bryophyte research carried out in the Department of Genetics at Leeds itself.

Three papers from that source were concerned with the latest discoveries of developmental processes in Physcomitrella patens, considering physiological aspects of auxin transport as well as a monitoring of morphological changes using the novel method of time-lapse microscopic photography. Those papers were well complemented by others spanning a range of topics from field studies to electron microscopical work. Thus, one speaker put forward a strong and persuasive argument in favour of urgent attention to bryophyte conservation, whereas another unravelled the fascinating historical record, as seen in peat profiles, of the fluctuating fortunes of mosses in an area of the southern Pennines. There was also a significant ecological slant to a third paper, which called for a more critical stance in interpreting chemical analyses, paying particular attention to development factors. That patterns of development hold the key to other problems too, was shown by a speaker who, in dealing with the ultrastructure of liverwort oil bodies, opened up a new area of basic research as well as of Phylogenetic comparison. These papers combined to establish the present state and future promise of bryology which, in Britain, is built on the work of many bryologists including that of W.E. Nicholson, whose biographical details were presented by a further speaker. The papers are summarized below.

Dr N.W. ASHTON (University of Regina, Canada): "The role of medium acidification and auxin transport in the morphogenesis of Physcomitrella patens."

The following observations of the influence of certain environmental factors of gametophytic development in Physcomitrella patens have led to elaboration and testing of a model which can account for these observations.

  1. The morphology of P. patens grown in red light (RL) on agar medium, containing nitrate as sole nitrogen source and having a pH of approximately 6.8, resembles that of gametophytes cultured under white light (WL) on medium containing a low concentration of the synthetic auxin, naphth-lylacetic acid (NAA)
  2. In RL on medium with a pH of approximately 5.3, the appearance of the moss is similar to that of cultures grown in WL on medium supplemented with a higher concentration of NAA.

Key elements of my model which seeks to explain these findings are:

  1. P. patens gametophytes produce endogenous auxin(s) which is transported into the growth medium and which, subsequently, may be reabsorbed by the moss cells.
  2. In WL, the endogenous auxin is degraded while it is in the agar medium. This, in turn, leads to a reduction of the level of auxin within the moss cells.
  3. In RL, the endogenous auxin remains undegraded and accumulates in both culture medium and moss tissues.
  4. The accumulation of auxin by moss cells from their environment is driven by a pH gradient across the plasma membrane (PM), the pH inside being higher than the pH outside. This gradient may be generated by the cells extruding protons into their environment resulting in medium acidification or the gradient can be established by experimental manipulation of medium pH.

Some of the more important evidence supporting the model is as follows:

  1. P. patens gametophytic tissues grown in WL contain a low level of the endogenous auxin, indol-3ylacetic acid (IAA) (Ashton et al., 1985).
  2. UV spectroscopy studies have established that IAA is rapidy degraded in aqueous solution when exposed to WL. In RL, no degradation occurs even after prolonged incubation for more than three weeks (Ashton, unpublished data).
  3. The results of experiments in which P. patens has been cultured by the drip-feeding of liquid media suggest that endogenous auxin(s) can be released into the growth medium (Cove et al., 1980).
  4. Studies on the ability of P. patens to accumulate 14C- IAA and 3H-IAA have revealed that accumulation is highly pH- dependent, being greatest when the pH of the incubation medium is low. The data obtained also strongly support the existence of two kinds of auxin carrier in the PM, one, probably an IAA anion/H + symport, responsible for influx of auxin and the other, an IAA anion uniport, responsible for auxin efflux (Ashton & Bridge, unpublished data).
  5. P. patens gametophytic tissues are capable of both short and long term medium acidification (Ashton, unpublished data), suggesting that moss cells are capable of pumping out protons and, therefore, also of generating a pH gradient across their PMs.


Ashton, N.W., Schulze, A., Hall, P. & Bandurski, R.S. (1985). Estimation of indole- 3-acetic acid in gametophytes of the moss, Physcomitrella patens. Planta 164, 142-144.

Cove, D.J., Ashton, N.W., Featherstone, D.R. & WangT.L. (1980). In D.R. Davies & D.A. Hopwood (eds.), The Proceedings of the 4th John Innes Symposium, 1979, pp. 231-241.

Dr D.H. BROWN (University of Bristol): "What can bryophyte mineral analyses really tell us?"

The ways in which chemical analyses of bryophytes have been successfully used as a method of biomonitoring to show patterns of heavy metal distribution in aquatic and terrestrial species at both local and regional scales were briefly described. Reasons why bryophyte analyses cannot, however, be used quantitatively to predict levels of elements in the environment or their biological consequences were discussed. These emphasised our lack of methods to distinguish accurately between metals present in the plant in theform of a) insoluble particles, b) chemically bound to exchange sites on the cell wall or c) biologically incorporated into the cell interior. The use of a sequential elution technique providing information on the latter two sites was discussed using examples taken from studies on Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus. Changes in the amounts and proportions of elements at extracellular and intracellular sites at different positions along the gametophore were considered. It was shown that retranslocation occurred from older regions to the growing apex and from extracellular sites into the cell. The need for careful selection of material of uniform age and a suitable weight basis on which to b ase concentration calculations was emphasised. Comparison between two control populations, showing differences in photosynthetic sensitivity to added cadmium, was related to the age structure and chemical composition of their apical segments and not to inherent differences in heavy metal tolerance.

Prof. J.G. Duckett (Queen Mary College, London) and Prof. K.S. Renzaglia East Tennessee State University, U.S.A.): "Transmission electron microscopy of oil bodies in hepatics: games with systematics and cytochemistry."

Although widely used in taxonomy the origin and development of oil bodies in Hepaticae are poorly understood. Similarly their possible functions (repellance to herbivores, protection against cold, desiccation or high irradiance) remain in the realms of speculation untried by experiment save for the discovery made by virtually every bryologist that they rapidly disappear in the dried herbarium specimens. This dearth of knowledge about development and functions is reflected in definitions no more precise than "distinctive bodies always easily recognisable by their refractive index which differs from that of the surrounding cell content" (Schuster, 1966, p. 202).

Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) is an approach to oil bodies, which might reasonably be expected to provide new insights on their ontogeny and functions, both with obvious implications for Systematics. Inexplicably this is an area of Bryology marked by extreme neglect: developmental studies are limited to but one genus (Marchantia) and data on the ultrastructure of mature oil bodies to a mere handful of taxa (see Duckett, 1986, for review). However, these few published micrographs underline the unique nature of hepatic oil bodies. They are cytoplasmic bodies bounded by a single unit membrane and contain numerous lipid droplets in a proteinaceous matrix. This distinctive compound ultrastructure (so clearly different from the simple lipid droplets, lacking a limiting membrane, which are frequently encountered in the cytoplasm of all land plants) should be widely assimilated as a feature setting the Hepaticae apart from Musci and Anthocerotae, if not all othe r archegoniates. Whether or not structures akin to oil bodies also occur in the cells of particular groups of algae has yet to be explored.

Whereas oil body ultrastructure is a major diagnostic feature of Hepaticae as a whole, its potential at lower levels in the taxonomic hierarchy is at present impossible to assess. Satisfactory preservation of oil bodies for TEM is very difficult to achieve using standard glutaraldehyde-osmium fixation procedures. From our own observations on Riccardia, Aneura and Cryptothallus we confirm the findings of Galatis et al.(1978b) that redistribution of lipids from oil bodies onto the ER and plasma membrane and around the mitochondria and plastids during primary fixation in aldehydes is a recurrent problem. Further lipids may be lost during dehydration resulting in the apparently "empty" appearance of mature oil bodies. The dispersion of oil films on the boat surface during fine sectioning indicates mobility of the lipids even in resin- embedded specimens. Until the problem of lipid retention is solved we have no way of knowing if differences in oil body ultrastructure between taxa are real or merely a reflection of how much of their contents have been lost during preparation.

The meticulous developmental studies of Galatis et al.(1978a, b) reveal that, in Marchantia, oil body formation is a highly complex process directly involving Golgi bodies and coated vesicles, and intimately associated with ER, microbodies and a system of cytoplasmic tubules. Lipophilic materials accumulate exclusively within the oil body and lipid droplets in the cytoplasm never enter the same. Our discovery of ATPase activity associated with the oil body membrane in Cryptothallus is in line with the conclusion of Galatis et al. that oil bodies are an active cell compartment. Other cytochemical tests on Aneura, Riccardia, and Cryptothallus provide further insight into the nature of the endomembrane domains involved in oil body ontogeny.

Not surprisingly specific reagents for the plasma membrane (phosphotungstic-chromic acid and sodium silicotungstate) fail to stain the oil body membrane. In the Thiery procedure for non-cellulosic carbohydrates reaction products are limited to the cell wall and Golgi vesicles. Acid phosphatase activity is restricted to the Golgi bodies.

Pescreta & Lucas (1984, 1985), have recently demonstrated the existence of a "partially- coated-reticulum" in charalian algae and angiosperms. This endo-membrane system, possibly analogous to the endosome of animal cells, is intimately associated with both microbodies and lipid droplets and exhibits staining patterns different from both the Golgi and ER. Our cytochemical tests on the Riccardiaceae appear to preclude direct participation of the Golgi bodies in oil body development. Yet coated vesicles and microbodies are clearly involved in the same process in Marchantia. Taken together these results suggest that oil body ontogeny may involve a highly distinctive endomembrane system like the partially-coated-reticulum but hitherto unrecognised in the Hepaticae.


Duckett, J.G. (1986). Ultrastructure in bryophyte systematics and evolution: an evaluation. J. Bryol. 14, 25-42.

Galatis, B., Apostolakos, P. & Katsaros, C. (1978a). Ultrastructural studies on the oil bodies of Marchantia paleacea Bert. I. Early stages of oil-body cell differentiation: origination of the oil body. Can.J.Bot. 56, 2252-67.

Galatis, B., Katsaros, C. & Apostolakos, P. (1978b). Ultrastructural studies on the oil bodies of Marchantia paleacea Bert. II. Advanced stages of oil-body cell differentiation: synthesis of lipophilic material. Can. J.Bot. 56, 2268-85.

Pescreta, C. Th. & Lucas, W. J. (1984). The plasma membrane coat and a coated vesicle- associated reticulum of membranes: their structures and possible interrelationship in Chara corallina. J.Cell Biol. 98, 1537-45.

Pescreta, C. Th. & Lucas, W. J. (1985). Presence of a partially-coated reticulum in angiosperms. Protoplasma 125, 173-84.

Schuster, R. M. (1966). The Hepaticae and Antherocerotae of North America East of the 100th Meridian. Volume 1. Columbia University Press.

Miss C.D. KNIGHT and Prof. D.J. COVE (University of Leeds): "Time-lapse microscopy of the gravitropic response of Physcomitrella patens."

A moss protonemal filament grows by the elongation and division of its apical cell and the direction of growth is influenced by environmental stimuli. In the absence of light, certain filaments of the moss Physcomitrella patens respond to gravity by bending away from the gravitational vector. This represents a discrete developmental pathway.

We are using time-lapse microscopy, as part of a programme of study, to observe the timing and pattern of bending and to formulate a model for this developmental response. Observation of mutants altered in this response may reveal critical stages of the pathway.

A method of cell culture has been devised for the video recording of filaments under conditions necessary for a gravitropic response (Cove & Knight, in press). Important aspects of this method are:-

  1. The microscope lies horizontally so that the gravistimulated filaments grow in a plane perpendicular to the light source without affecting focus.
  2. The cultures are exposed to infra-red light; this does not appear to interfere with the gravitropic response which normally requires darkness. These wavelengths are detected by an infra- red sensitive camera.
  3. Cultures grow in a thin layer of agar, irrigated by medium pumped from the reservoir of a specially constructed culture chamber.

Using this method cultures have been maintained, without contamination, for up to 5 days.

Trends have emerged from recordings of the wild type response. The ability of filaments to bend away from gravity appears to be associated with stages of the cell cycle. More specifically, during nuclear division negatively gravitropic bending does not occur and those cells in the process of bending at the start of mitosis may undergo a temporary reverse bend. One explanation for this may be that bending requires an intact cytoskeleton and experiments are underway to test the effect of cytoskeletal drugs on this response.

The analysis of mutants in fine detail has revealed that one mutant, thought to be agravitropic, in fact responds by bending 10-15° away from gravity when reorientated 90° from gravity. The reason for this is unclear but since results from other mutants suggested that members of this class were altered in their perception of gravity, it is clear from this data that this may not be the case. Special attention is being given to the apparent sedimentation of cell organelles in this mutant on gravistimulation. Sedimentation of statoliths is proposed as a mechanism for graviperception in other organisms but has not been observed in the wild type response of Physcomitrella patens. It is possible that this strain may contain multiple mutations. One of these mutations might lead to the observed sedimentation of cell organelles and it is possible that this may be connected to the bending observed.

The advantages of this technique are manifold. It is hoped that, in addition to the detailed analyses of wild type and mutant responses, data obtained from the application of growth inhibitory or enhancing substances to cultures, will add to knowledge of the gravitropic response.


Cove, D.J. & Knight, C.D. (in press). In Thomas & Grierson (eds.), Developmental Mutants in Higher Plants. Cambridge University Press.

Mr D.J. McCLELLAND (University of Leeds): "Protonemal branching patterns in Physcomitrella patens".

Regular patterns of branching arising from caulonemata of the moss Physcomitrella patens are observed in cultures grown on agar based nutrient medium, at 25°C under bright white light. Radiating caulonemal filaments arise from primary chloronemal tissue inoculated onto the centre of a petri-dish of medium. Each cell of a caulonemal filament sequentially gives rise to a lateral side branch. The majority of side branches develop into secondary chloronemata, but some branches give rise to caulonemal filaments, and a few become buds, which grow out as gametophores. Caulonemal filaments elongate by division and extension of the apical cells, a process which occurs every 5½-6 hours, and branches arise from cells in the 2nd or 3rd sub- apical position. Therefore a single caulonemal filament observed at any particular instant represents a "snap-shot" of a dynamic system: an elongating caulonemata giving rise to lateral branches which, moving back sequentially from the apex, represent stages in development of branch initials following a number of alternate fates. Analysis of the branching observed in a population of filaments may provide insight into the mechanisms by which development and cellular differentiation are controlled in mosses.

Taking the apical cell as a reference position, the type of side branch arising from cells at each sub-apical position up to 30 cells back from the tip was noted. Twenty to thirty filaments in each culture were recorded in this way. The results obtained provide a statistical representation of the occurrence of branches of each type arising from cells in the 30 most apical positions in a population of filaments. To standardise the analysis, cultures were observed 21 days after inoculation; however, the branching patterns appear to be established after 15 days growth, and very little change occurs after this time. Assuming a constant cell division rate for caulonemal growth, cell position can be equated with a measure of time, metered in units of 5½-6 hrs: the time in which apical cell division occurs.

No branches are produced on cells nearer the apex than the second sub-apical position; however, at the 4th sub-apical position 97% of the cells have given rise to a side-branch initial (SBI). Not all caulonemal cells produce branches: a small proportion of cells (1%) at positions more than 20 cells back from the apex do not give rise to SBI's. 85-90% of SBI's develop into chloronemata, and the maximum level is obtained by the 6th sub-apical position. 5-6% of SBI's give rise to caulonemal branches similar to the filaments from which they are branching; however, the maximum level of caulonemal branch production occurs further from the apex than the position at which maximal chloronemal branching is observed, i.e. on older cells. Buds arise from SBI's at a frequency of less than 1% at particular cell positions; however, no more than 1 bud forms on each filament. The positions at which buds form range from the 12th sub-apical position (no buds form nearer the apex than this position) up to the 30th cell position, the extreme of this analysis. The differentiation of buds appears to occur later than that of other branch types, i.e. arising from initials on older cells. By the 17th sub-apical position along caulonemal filaments the differentiation of branch types appears to be fixed. In considering a population of filaments this shows the branching pattern to be in "steady-state", i.e. the branches have become irreversibly committed to developmental fates. Thus no change in this pattern of branch ing is observed at positions further back from the apex than the 17th cell.

The pattern of branching described is characteristic of wild-type cultures grown under standard conditions; however, significant changes in the proportions of branch types produced occur when conditions are altered, or growth substances (e.g. auxin or cytokinin) are added to the substrate. Phosphate-starvation specifically inhibits the development of chloronemal branches. Tissue inoculated onto phosphate-free medium produces radial caulonemal filaments, as on phosphate-containing medium; however, there is a reduction in the number of branches produced: throughout the length of the filament (not counting the 3 most apical cell positions) the number of unbranched cells increases from 1% in the presence of phosphate to 10% in its absence. No chloronemal branches are produced in the absence of phosphate: SBI's which would have given rise to secondary chloronemata are halted in growth and development at an early stage and persist as single cells. Branches of caulonemal cells arise at the same position, relative to the apex, in both the presence and absence of phosphate, but whereas caulonemal branching reaches a maximum level around the 12th cell position in the presence of phosphate, in its absence the number of caulonemal branches continues to increase at positions more distant from the apex, throughout the whole region analysed. This increase is accompanied by a corresponding decrease in the number of SBI's present at those positions. It therefore appears that initials which might otherwise have given rise to chloronemata in the presence of phosphate, but are unable to do so in its absence, alter their developmental commitment under conditions of phosphate-starvation, and give rise to caulonemata. The production of buds is also reduced in the absence of phosphate.

Exogenously supplied growth factors such as auxin and cytokinin can also affect the branching pattern. Developmental roles for auxins and cytokinins in mosses have previously been established. In these experiments auxin (NAA) and cytokinin (BAP) were added directly to cultures, giving a final medium concentration of 1µM. The branch types arising at each cell position were analysed 5 days after the application of growth factors. The effect of auxin was to increase the level of caulonemata branches from 6% to 20%, whilst reducing chloronemal branching by a similar amount. However the production of buds was unaffected by auxin application. Treatment with 1µM NAA also causes a "shift" of the pattern of branching away from the apex by 1 cell position, i.e. the production and out-growth of SBI's, giving rise to branches of all types is delayed (with respect to the apex) by 1 apical cell division cycle. This delay is not due to a change in the caulonemal growth rate, which is unaffected by the treatment. Cultures grown on phosphate-free medium show greater sensitivity to 1µM NAA: when treated with auxin in the absence of phosphate new SBI's appear to have an equal probability of remaining as initials or giving rise to a caulonemata.

The effect of application of 1µM BAP is even more marked. In treated culture, almost all new SBI's give rise to buds rather than chloronemal branches, and more buds are induced to form as growth continues over the 5 day period analysed. 80% of SBI's develop into buds when treated with 1µM BAP. The number of chloronemata branches is reduced, but the production of caulonemata branches is unaffected by the cytokinin treatment. This suggests the existence of two populations of SBI's predetermined, to a certain degree, to produce either chloronemal or caulonemal branches, and only the former is susceptible to BAP action in inducing bud formation.

Branching patterns provide a method of quantifying the stages of development as SBI's differentiate, giving rise to chloronema, caulonema or buds. On solid substrate, filaments are held in position in the medium, thus it is possible to observe a complete cell lineage; in principle it is possible to follow the lineage of any particular cell back to the initial inoculum. It is therefore possible to observe the "context" in which branches of each type arise, with respect to cell lineage or the branch types arising from adjacent cells. Using this form of analysis it is also possible to follow the development of specific branches over a period of time as they differentiate. The effects of exogenously applied growth factors on branches at different stages of development can also be assessed, and morphologically abnormal mutants can be compared to wild- type cultures, as can the responses of mutant strains to exogenous growth substances. Branching pattern analy sis thus provides a technique to investigate aspects of differentiation and morphogenesis in mosses.

Dr P.H. PITKIN (Nature Conservancy Council, Edinburgh): "Bryophytes, the 'poor relations' in nature conservation?"

The world's bryophyte flora is much better represented in Britain than the world's vascular plant flora. Very few bryophyte species are endemic in Britain, but our flora is remarkable for its high proportion (c. 10% of the mosses, 12% of hepatics) which are very restricted in their distribution in Europe and the rest of the world, and for the many species which occur in Britain at the edge of their range or far distant from their other known occurrences. Many of these species are strongly Atlantic in their British or European distributions.

Afforestation and changes in farming have probably affected bryophytes less than other kinds of wildlife, though the current planting in the far north of Scotland will destroy large areas of Sphagnum-dominated peatland. The felling and underplanting of native broadleaved woodland has all but ceased, but there are several new threats to be added to Ratcliffe's list of 1968. Epiphytic bryophytes in particular are sensitive to atmospheric pollution, and probably to the much more widespread acidification of rainwater and substrates. There is a new interest in hydro- electricity in Scotland; several new small-scale installations have been proposed which would intercept the flow of streams through gorges. The popularity of downhill skiing has increased in Scotland; planning permission has recently been granted for three new developments and for facilities at two of the already developed sites. Most of these developments are close to areas of fragile Racomitrium</ i> heath on bryophyte-dominated snow-bed communities which are likely to be damaged by construction work, by skiing or trampling.

Collecting by bryologists has probably caused more harm to the rarer bryophytes than any other influence, particularly in well known localities. On Ben Lawers (Payne, 1984) seven very rare species have not been recorded for more than fifty years, and there are no recent records of eighteen other uncommon ones.

The most significant development in conservation since Ratcliffe's paper has been the statutory protection given to SSSI's in the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act, which also required all SSSI's to be renotified. Perth and Kinross and Lochaber are two local authority Districts in Scotland with many sites of bryological value. Out of 95 biological SSSI's in Perth and Kinross the new citations of fifteen specifically mention some bryological interest, but the citations of a further eleven which probably have comparable interest do not. In Lochaber SSSI renotification is not yet complete, but in mid-1987, out of 26 sites renotified, eleven citations mentioned a special bryological interest.

In both Districts the treatment of bryological sites has greatly improved since 1981; in Perth and Kinross there were formerly only two sites for which bryophytes were separately mentioned.

Biological SSSI's are selected either as examples of particular habitats or for their uncommon or threatened species. The criteria for selecting 'species sites' for insects and vascular plants are based on 10km-square distribution maps. Similar criteria are not used for bryophytes, partly because there is no complete Atlas. The Bryophyte Site Register project commissioned from the BBS by the Nature Conservancy Council has begun to review the interest of bryological sites and might be used to determine whether they are adequately represented In SSSI's. The Register uses a complicated scoring system which is not recognised by NCC for selecting SSSI's. The progress of the Register has been slow (it is only complete for four English counties), hampered partly by the lack of an Atlas. Work on it has now been suspended and the NCC is funding a two-year project to complete the Atlas.

The cause of bryophyte conservation could be considerably furthered in the following ways

  1. by the appointment of a lower-plant ecologist in the NCC (expected 1987)
  2. by the establishment of precise criteria for selecting bryological SSSI's
  3. by the mention, where appropriate, of any bryological interest in the citations of SSSI's
  4. by a review of the representation of the bryophyte flora in SSSI's
  5. by an appreciation among bryologists of the need for site-based records in addition to a 10km- square system
  6. by bryologists communicating site records and lists to the NCC.


Payne, A.G. (1984). The rarer bryophytes of the Ben Lawers and Meall nan Tarmachan ranges. Unpublished report, The Nature Conservancy Council, Perth, U.K.

Ratcliffe, D.A. (1968). An ecological account of Atlantic bryophytes in the British Isles. New Phytol. 67, 365-439.

Dr P.E. STANLEY (Cambridge): " The life of W.E. Nicholson."

William Edward Nicholson (1866-1945), a solicitor by profession, worked and lived in Lewes, E. Sussex (VC 14). He contributed greatly to the knowledge of British hepatics and especially the bryophyte flora of Sussex and The Lizard peninsula in Cornwall (VC 1). He travelled widely in Britain and Europe often with his friends H.N. Dixon and H.H. Knight. Like many of his generation he carried on a copious correspondence with bryologists throughout the world.

On retiring he moved to Mullion on the Lizard and on his death was buried at the churchyard at Landewednack, near Lizard Town.

He was President of the BBS during 1929-1930.

His extensive bryophyte herbarium together with his 'diaries' (which are accounts of his botanical field trips) are kept at the Botany School, Cambridge University.

Dr J.H. TALLIS (University of Manchester): "Missing mosses from Holme Moss."

Holme Moss is an upland blanket mire in the southern Pennines, with extensive areas of heavily eroded peat. Easily recognisable leaf remains of several species of Sphagnum (including S. imbricatum, S. papillosum and S. cuspidatum) and of Racomitrium lanuginosum occur widely in the upper layers of peat at Holme Moss, though these mosses are totally absent at the present-day. Also common in the upper peat layers are fragments of burnt plant material.

The abundance of remains of Sphagnum and Racomitrium, and also of burnt material, was assessed at different levels in 0.5-m peat cores from eleven sites on Holme Moss. A timescale covering the last 1000 years was constructed for each site on the basis of detailed pollen analyses, so that synchronous levels in all cores could be recognized.

Clear differences in the frequency of Sphagnum and Racomitrium leaves over the last 1000 years were discernible in the cores, and the frequency-patterns were different in cores from sites with eroded peat and with uneroded peat at the present-day. High frequencies of Racomitrium may indicate a lowered water table in the peat. Racomitrium was abundant at all sites in the early Middle Ages (a period of known drier climate), and persisted subsequently at eroded sites until the eighteenth century. At uneroded sites Sphagnum became dominant over large areas by the fifteenth century, and this expansion is interpreted as a response to colder wetter climatic conditions. The absence of renewed Sphagnum growth at this time at eroded sites suggests that peat erosion may have set in them.

The final disappearance of both mosses at Holme Moss coincides with evidence of at least one major fire event in the eighteenth century, when large areas of the mire surface must have been devastated. Air pollution at the same time (as evidenced by obvious soot particles in the uppermost peat layers) must also have contributed to the disappearance of these mosses. Certain features of the morphology of the peat margin at Holme Moss suggest that in addition there may have been an episode of limited peat sliding down the steep slopes bounding the Moss; a newspaper report of a catastrophic cloudburst over Holme Moss in July 1777 supports this conclusion.

The peat erosion currently visible at Holme Moss may thus have originated in a number of different ways and at several different times.

The Annual General Meeting held afterwards (Minutes in Bulletin 50) was followed in the evening by a conversazione during which the demonstrations and posters listed below were on display. There was also a much-appreciated opportunity to visit laboratories in the Department of Genetics to see some of the bryological work in progress. All contributed towards making this a most enjoyable and worthwhile meeting, the success of which was ensured by the enthusiastic and generous arrangements made by Prof. D.J. Cove and his colleagues, to whom we are greatly indebted.

Anon.: Margaret Plues and bryology.
Anon.: Stereoscopic photographs and some Scottish bryophytes.
T.S. Futers, D.J. McClelland, R. Potter, T.L. Wang and D.J. Cove: The interaction of light and cytokinin in bud induction in the moss Physcomitrella patens.
D.G. Long: Andreaea blyttii in Scotland
B.B.S. summer meeting 1986.
M.E. Newton: Pellia borealis, a liverwort newly discovered in Britain.
R. Stevenson: Unidentified moss from Yugoslavia.v
H.L.K. Whitehouse: Leptobarbula berica and Gyroweisia tenuis growing on calcareous stones.


Field meeting, Otley, 1986

Rich bryological sites close to Leeds are not easy to find, but the reservoirs of the Washburn Valley near Otley provided an opportunity to look at a temporary kind of habitat which was not familiar to many of the participants. The communities of exposed mud are inevitably somewhat unpredictable in occurrence from year to year, but on this occasion we were not disappointed. The richest site, the first venue of the day, was at Lindley Wood Reservoir. Here Physcomitrium sphaericum was plentiful and attracted much attention, but it was later upstaged by a small purple Riccia, well camouflaged against the dark mud. This proved to be a form of R. huebeneriana, in which development had possibly been arrested by recent unseasonal frosts. Other species at this locality included Riccia sorocarpa, Archidium alternifolium, Pseudephemerum nitidum, Ephemerum serratum var. serratum, Physcomitrella patens, Pohlia camptotrachela, P. bulbifera, Bryum klinggraeffii and B. tenuisetum. The next stop was higher up th e valley at Swinsty and Fewston Reservoirs, but these were less productive. The water level in the former was too high, and the banks of the latter were dry and stoney, although Archidium alternifolium was abundant in places and Philonotis arnellii was also found. A lateral inflow stream, known to harbour Discelium nudum, was found to have been scoured by flood water a few weeks earlier. However Richard Fisk with commendable perseverance took some bits of soil home and was able to find protonema and male plants under the debris.

Late in the afternoon a much reduced party visited Birk Crag near Harrogate, where it was a pleasure to walk upright after the hands and knees work at the reservoirs. This crag is in an area of oak/birch woodland on Millstone Grit and is of interest for the occurrence of a small quantity of Lepidozia cupressina, an Oceanic species now very rare in the Central and South Pennines, but which was probably once more widespread in this type of Pennine habitat. Two small patches were located and a third is known to occur, but the species is only just hanging on in this locality, where pressure from visitors scrambling over the rocks is a real problem. Also seen on and about the crag and in the adjacent woodland were Barbilophozia atlantica, a sterile Kurzia (probably K. trichoclados), Scapania umbrosa, Lejeunea lamacerina, Sphagnum quinquefarium and Heterocladium heteropterum.


Taxonomic Workshop 1986

Reading University, 1-2 November

Twelve participants, including one from Sweden and another from West Germany, gathered in the Botany Department of Reading University for the society's annual workshop which this year was on cultivation techniques. Early arrivals browsed through the selection of relevant papers and books, which were available throughout the weekend.

After welcoming us and explaining the programme for the weekend, Dr Royce Longton began with an introduction to culture media recipes. This was followed by an instructive tour of the University's media kitchen by its senior technician, Mr Brian Render. He explained how culture media are made whilst showing us the impressive university facilities; however, he was at pains to explain alternative equipment that could be used by anyone without such facilities, such as a domestic pressure cooker instead of an autoclave for sterilising media. A demonstration on the aseptic pouring of plates and their inoculation with spores was followed by an opportunity to try for ourselves.

In the afternoon Dr Harold Whitehouse discussed the uses and advantages of culturing bryophytes on agar-slopes in sealed test tubes. He had brought a selection of his cultures, derived from various organs, for us to examine. After demonstrating his technique for sterilising plant parts, we tried our hands at inoculating plates and agar slopes with plant pieces.

Sunday morning began with a brief demonstration of liquid-cultures during which Royce explained their advantage for following changes in dry weight. The potential of axenic cultures for investigations was demonstrated by a range of floristic problems at present being investigated at Reading. These included the morphological variation between a Reading and an Antarctic population of Bryum argenteum; the influence of bacteria on the growth of Bryum antarcticum; genecological differentiation in Polytrichum alpestre; and, most intriguing of all, a protonema from Antarctica which refuses to produce gametophores!

Most of Sunday, however, was devoted to the art of Mr Michael Fletcher, who introduced his contribution by explaining that he "does not cultivate bryophytes. I grow mosses!" And so we turned from the techniques of the research worker to the horticultural techniques of the plant enthusiast. Michael's enthusiasm for his hobby and his expertise were immediately obvious as he demonstrated how he sets up appropriate substrates in 3" flower pots by imitating, as far as possible, the known ecological requirements of species. Planting is simplicity itself - merely press onto the surface of the substrate two or three stems, or a small portion of thallus! Epiphytes are glued with UHU glue (experience shows that it has no adverse effect on the plants) onto pieces of expanded polystyrene tile which are then propped up in a flower pot! The importance of watering by overhead spraying was explained. Afterwards we were invited to "have a go" ourselves, Michael generously providing a selection of previously requested species from his own collection for us to plant. Probably the highlight of the weekend was a visit to Michael's "Mossoleum", a collection of about 1500 cultures, housed in his new l0ft x 8ft greenhouse. Most of the bryophytes are British, but his collection also includes a number from New Zealand and several from many other countries, especially Florida and South India. Michael explained how temperature, light and humidity gradients are obtained by simple, inexpensive, reflective shading made from aluminium-coated polythene, as made for mountaineers' "survival blankets", and by judicial pruning of surrounding, but incidental, trees!

Meal-times during the weekend were carefully researched by Royce and Michael to be gastronomic events! A brisk stroll across the University grounds into suburbia beyond, brought us to our Saturday pub lunch of home-cooked, on-the-whole English style dishes. The welcome was warm: even a table had been prepared for us. Chatting over our meal quickly dispelled the awkward shyness of the morning. Saturday evening dinner was taken at a local Pizzeria, two of us making sure we would be unpopular the next day by having garlic bread whilst the rest of the company enjoyed more conventional starters. Sunday lunch was taken at a riverside public house. This was a very useful workshop, providing, I am sure, something for everyone. The hands-on experience was most welcome. On behalf of the participants I should like to thank Royce Longton for organising it and for his contribution, and also Harold Whitehouse, Michael Fletcher and Brian Render for their contributions. For myself I should like to thank all participants, st udents and contributors, for their enjoyable company.



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