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Meetings of the BBS - 1997

Spring Field Meeting 1997

Torquay, Devon, 2-9 April

As the Society had not met in Devon since 1982, it was felt the deficiency should be remedied. The centre chosen was Torquay, a town which is not only well placed for exploring the surrounding countryside but which also has a fascinating bryoflora of its own. The headquarters was the Norcliffe Hotel in Babbacombe Downs Road and the local secretary was Mark Pool.

The following members attended for all or part of the meeting: Ken Adams, Giles Clarke, Alan Crundwell, Dr and Mrs Sean Edwards, Jan Hendey, Mark Hill, Nick Hodgetts, David Holyoak, Roy Hurr, Roy Jeffery, Frank Lammiman, Martha Newton, Seán O’Leary, Jean Paton, Irene Perry, Roy Perry, Ron Porley, Sylvia Priestley, Michael Proctor, Christine Rieser, Gordon Rothero, Ron Shoubridge, Jonathan Sleath, Tony (A.V.) Smith, Graeme Smith, Philip Stanley, Rod and Vanessa Stern, and Harold Whitehouse.



A total of six enthusiastic members turned up for this short local excursion, on a gloriously sunny afternoon. Cockington is a well-preserved thatched village, with parkland and lakes, on the outskirts of Torquay; the bedrock is mostly sandstone.

The approach was made by way of a typical ‘red Devon’ sunken lane; the banks had quite a good bryoflora, including sheets of Lejeunea lamacerina. Bryum donianum and Scorpiurium circinatum were of great interest to those members not from the south-west. David Holyoak found a small, puzzling Tortula which might key out as T. solmsii or T. vahliana; unfortunately, there was too little of it to be certain. The local secretary hopes to keep an eye on it in the future, just in case. Cockington village itself had a useful wall with a fair amount of Tortella nitida; this is another plant which, while common around Torbay, is absent from much of the country. A good patch of Epipterygium tozeri, growing, as so often, in a sheltered soily chink of a hedgebank, also caused some excitement, but this was soon forgotten on the finding of a stone gatepost largely covered in Leptodon smithii, some of it fruiting.

After such a start, almost anything would have seemed an anticlimax. In any event, the few trees searched in the Cockington Court parkland held very little interest, and the impressive sandstone cutting by which the path reaches the lakes produced nothing more noteworthy than Leiocolea turbinata. Matters improved, however, near the lakes. Planted shrubs here sported a reasonable variety of epiphytes, including Cryphaea heteromalla, Neckera pumila, Orthotrichum lyellii and Metzgeria fruticulosa. Jean Paton found Brachythecium plumosum, a species usually found in more upland areas; she subsequently did even better, turning up both Anthoceros punctatus and Phaeoceros laevis within a metre or so of each other on a wet clayey bank. The other species found nearby were much more ordinary, but there were good colonies of Hookeria lucens and Plagiochila asplenioides.


Steps Bridge and environs

It seems to have become a tradition for Fingle Bridge, in the Teign valley on the edge of Dartmoor, to be visited every time the Society comes to Devon. By way of a change, a trip had been scheduled to the less well-known area around Steps Bridge, a few miles further down the river. The bedrock here consists of Carboniferous shales and grits, and often forms small crags. Most of the valley is wooded; there has been some coniferisation, but much of the area is still covered by sessile oak.

The party gathered at the Steps Bridge car park and set off up-river along the right (south) bank. The bryophytes here were not of spectacular interest; the species seen initially were those typical of shaded acid banks. A rock outcrop by the track further along sported Plagiochila spinulosa, Saccogyna viticulosa, Andreaea rothii, Rhabdoweisia fugax and Racomitrium aquaticum (the last, despite its name, often occurs on sloping rock faces which are only seasonally flushed). Neckera pumila, seen on hazel bark further up-river, was of interest to some as a decidedly western species. A determined search was made for the rare liverwort Porella pinnata, which is known from riverside habitats in this general area; unfortunately, it was not found at this time.

Members adjourned to the car park for lunch, after which the group (augmented by Ron Porley) proceeded up-river along the north bank. The main objective was Orthotrichum rivulare, of which a fine fruiting colony was duly found on waterside roots. O. lyellii, seen on at least one tree en route, was of interest to some.

Returning to the bridge, we headed down-river on the south bank. Full advantage was taken of the low water-level to search for Porella pinnata, but some promising-looking rock outcrops a short way along proved to be dominated by Chiloscyphus polyanthos. After a few hundred yards the group left the riverside and struck steeply uphill to gain the main footpath. As in the morning, the bryophytes here were largely common species of shaded acid banks, perhaps the most noteworthy being Cephalozia lunulifolia and Diphyscium foliosum. The ground could not have been too acid, however, as Dicranella varia was present in abundance at one spot, and Rhytidiadelphus loreus, abundant in so many of these Dartmoor woods, appeared to be absent!

Unfortunately, the party became rather scattered; this meant that only a few saw Porella pinnata when it was eventually found (on the base of a riverside tree about half a mile below the bridge). Consolation was provided by a number of other species of at least local interest: Microlejeunea (Lejeunea) ulicina, Metzgeria temperata, Saccogyna viticulosa, Fissidens curnovii and Orthotrichum pulchellum.

On the way back to Torquay most of the party stopped at the former Wheal Exmouth mine near Chudleigh; this is the only Devon site so far known for the ‘copper moss’ Scopelophila cataractae. The abnormally dry spring had made it doubtful whether the plant (which dies down in summer) would be visible, but after patient searching a good colony was found on damp spoil some distance from the road. Because of the heavy metal contamination other bryophyte species were few. However, Pohlia andalusica (P. rothii) was found (among a much greater quantity of P. annotina) and was of considerable interest; it has been known from this site for a good number of years and is found elsewhere in Devon, but appears to be very local nationally.


Ashclyst Forest

Ashclyst Forest is an area of mixed woodland, owned by the National Trust, lying between Exeter and Cullompton. It occupies an inlier of the ‘Culm Measures’ (Lower Carboniferous shales and grits), which cover so much of mid and west Devon. Perhaps its most noteworthy feature is that it straddles the meeting-point of four 100 km National Grid squares, which can make things interesting when recording! It had never been fully surveyed for bryophytes, so the presence of so much relevant expertise was most welcome.

Members gathered at the former car park at Forest Gate, and set off eastwards along one of the many forest walks in the area. Initial impressions were disappointing, but matters improved once a move was made into the deeply-incised stream valley to the north. Nowellia curvifolia (new to the 10 km square) was quickly discovered on a rotting log (the local secretary, on a reconnaissance the previous week, had managed to walk past without seeing it!). Very soon afterwards, fruiting Plagiothecium curvifolium was found nearby; although spreading in Devon (and recently discovered in Cornwall) this plant is still very local here. The stream ravine itself was not particularly rich, although good quantities of Hookeria (some fruiting) were of interest to those members living in drier areas. Much of the ground was very wet, but the bryophytes were mostly common ones; other than Hookeria, Lejeunea lamacerina, Microlejeunea ulicina (on birch) and Chiloscyphus polyanthos were the most noteworthy. The drier ground tended to be covered by a mixture of Eurhynchium striatum and Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus, with Cirriphyllum piliferum in the moister spots; Ctenidium molluscum (apparently not the ‘woodland taxon’) was seen at one place, while Mark Hill found a good colony of Cephalozia connivens on a large rotting log.

The group divided after lunch, with Mark Hill leading a number of members northwards to explore Side Downs (grid square SY00). The main party initially followed the morning’s route, but continued along the eastern edge of the forest to the south-eastern corner before returning via Gookey Down and Forest Cottage. A considerable time was spent in an area of swampy woodland near the stream; this produced more colonies of Nowellia, while the less experienced members were able to learn some of the common species of such habitats. Two good patches of the lichen Lobaria pulmonaria, on an ash by the track, provided additional interest. At one point on the southern edge of the wood Leucodon sciuroides was seen growing on a young oak, associated with Orthotrichum lyellii and Neckera pumila; apart from this, the bryophytes were somewhat ordinary by Devon standards. For members not familiar with the west, however, their sheer luxuriance was an eye-opener. Mark Hill’s party came back from Side Downs with records for, among other things, Nowellia and Fissidens celticus.

The official excursion was now over, but a carload including David Holyoak and Jean Paton called at Dawlish Warren on the way back to Torquay. This is a nature reserve, consisting of dunes and salt-marsh, at the mouth of the Exe, and is famous as the only mainland site for the Sand Crocus Romulea columnae. David had hopes of finding Petalophyllum ralfsii (not previously recorded there); in the event the party not only did so but also discovered Fossombronia incurva*, new to Devon, nearby!


Lustleigh Cleave and environs

Lustleigh Cleave, like Steps Bridge, lies in the valley of one of the fast-flowing Dartmoor rivers (in this case the Bovey). There, however, the resemblance ends; the bedrock of the Cleave is granite, and the whole area (though equally well wooded) is much rockier.

The car park for ‘our’ part of the Cleave is a rather small layby in the hamlet of Water; bearing in mind the size of the party, the popularity of the area, and the continuing fine weather, the local secretary was viewing the day with some trepidation! In the event all was well; by some miracle the car park was unoccupied when the Society arrived, and all members managed to park either in it or on the adjacent verges.

The granite in the vicinity of Lustleigh seems to be rather more basic than that of much of Dartmoor. Pterogonium gracile is known in some quantity from rocks at one spot, and Eurhynchium (Cirriphyllum) crassinervium can be quite frequent (although rather stunted). The latter species was seen on a large boulder by the track just after leaving the cars. Progressing on into the Cleave, the track became steadily more sheltered (and wetter); Dr Sean Edwards was delighted to find a patch of fruiting Hookeria in just the right position for a photograph. The banks and walls by the track had a luxuriant growth of common acidophile species, while towards the bottom of the valley proceedings were enlivened by the finding of a colony of Trichocolea tomentella by a small tributary stream.

Lunch was taken by the river at a small unnamed footbridge. The riverside bryoflora was not very rich at this point, but included a certain amount of Porella pinnata growing on tree roots; other than this, the most interesting species were Fissidens curnovii and Jungermannia pumila. Afterwards the party struck upstream along the right (south-west) bank; this sported a large number of flushes, most of which carried good colonies of Trichocolea and Hookeria. The flushes were obviously not too acidic, as was shown by the presence of healthy populations of Aneura pinguis, Pellia endiviifolia and Riccardia multifida. The epiphyte bryoflora was also of interest, although not very rich in species (probably due to excessive shade). Michael Proctor was, however, able to demonstrate both Ulota crispa and U. bruchii (U. crispa var. norvegica), which were found here growing side by side on the same branch. Porella pinnata was locally frequent on rocks in the river, Gordon Rothero finding perianths at one point.

As the group neared Horsham Steps the going became harder; the ground here is basically a wooded boulder scree (many of the boulders several feet across) with the river flowing through the middle. Climacium dendroides, an extremely local plant in Devon, grows here in detritus on the tops of some of the streamside rocks. One or two members remarked on the absence here of species such as Bazzania trilobata and Plagiochila punctata which are typical of such habitats in the Scottish Highlands; the reason is probably that Lustleigh Cleave, lying as it does at a fairly low altitude on the drier eastern side of Dartmoor, has insufficient ‘wet days’. The local secretary, his patriotism no doubt stirred, duly set off on a frantic (but ultimately fruitless) search for the Bazzania (which is known from further down the valley). In the process he managed to lose contact with most of the group; luckily, their navigational skills led them safely back to the cars, finding Plagiochila spinulosa on the way. The errant leader, meanwhile, had teamed up with Graeme Smith to return via the left bank; on the way they found a reasonable patch of bog with six Sphagnum species, including a little S. fimbriatum.

En route for Torquay, most of the party stopped at a site a mile or two down-river to see the Red Data Book moss Cryphaea lamyana. This plant was unrecorded in the Bovey valley until 1996, when a visiting Dutch bryologist chanced to find several thriving colonies while out for a walk! Bearing in mind that this area has supposedly been well worked, there is hope that the Cryphaea may turn up in more new Devon localities.


Babbacombe Downs to Hope’s Nose, Torquay

The day started rather inauspiciously; the local secretary, not content with nearly losing part of the group the previous day, had unwittingly given different people different starting times! The party (the largest of the week) mercifully let him live, and duly set off for the bryological fleshpots of the Torquay limestone.

After a brief walk-in via the manicured flowerbeds of Babbacombe Downs, members’ first port of call was an area of shaded rock outcrops by Walls Hill Road. This had a number of common and conspicuous limestone species (Anomodon viticulosus, Neckera crispa, Ctenidium molluscum etc.), together with a much less common (and much less conspicuous) one in the shape of Cololejeunea rossettiana. A thorough investigation of a large Acer nearby produced not only the uncommon Mediterranean moss Leptodon smithii but also another Cololejeunea, C. minutissima.

The group fragmented somewhat as we walked up through pleasant limestone woodland to reach the open downs of Walls Hill. The woods produced nothing dramatic, but there was a reasonable list of calcicoles. The party duly coalesced at the site for Cheilothela chloropus, a Mediterranean moss which is extremely local in Britain (apart from the Torbay limestone it is known only from Somerset). It proved a little hard to find at first, with Didymodon acutus (Barbula acuta) being hopefully investigated by more than one of us, but Ron Porley’s previous knowledge of the site soon turned up a large population.

Lunch was taken near another Walls Hill speciality, the liverwort Petalophyllum ralfsii. This plant was discovered here in 1980, and the site (dry, open limestone grassland) is noteworthy as one of a very few in the British Isles where the plant grows away from sand dunes. Owing to the dry winter it was in small quantity and not in good condition, but enough was seen to satisfy those members who were unfamiliar with it. After lunch the group looked initially at a dripping basic cliff at Anstey’s Cove; this produced the usual bryophytes of such places, including Didymodon tophaceus (Barbula tophacea), Eucladium verticillatum, Palustriella commutata (Cratoneuron commutatum) and Riccardia chamedryfolia. The party then divided; a small splinter group (Martha Newton, Nick Hodgetts and others) set off to take the rather precipitous anglers’ path down to Long Quarry Point, while the rest headed for the Bishop’s Walk footpath and Hope’s Nose.

The Bishop’s Walk (named for a former Bishop of Exeter who lived nearby) starts off as a ledge along a limestone cliff, fortunately protected by a guard rail. The cliff face has a good bryophyte flora, highlights being Cololejeunea rossettiana, Eurhynchium (Isothecium) striatulum and Marchesinia mackaii. A short distance further along, the path leaves the cliff behind and continues through pleasant basic woodland; it was from somewhere here that Jean Paton collected a Plagiochila which she subsequently identified as P. britannica*, a new Devon record. A good patch of Bryum donianum nearby was of interest to some members.

The Bishop’s Walk epitomises to some extent the great geological variety of Torquay. It begins on limestone, passes on to basic shale, and then crosses an outcrop of dolerite in the vicinity of Black Head. This variety is echoed in the bryoflora; limestone saxicoles at the start, common species of basic woodland in the middle (Cololejeunea minutissima, on an ash, relieved things a little here), and plants of dolerite rocks further along. Outcrops in this last area have Porella arboris-vitae and Pterogonium gracile, together with sheets of Lejeunea lamacerina; unfortunately Lophocolea fragrans, noted in small quantity by the path on several previous visits, could not be refound on this occasion. Consolation was provided by sizeable amounts of Leptodon, growing here on Acer campestre.

Interest was flagging by the time the end of the footpath was reached, but a small band of stalwarts continued on to the headland of Hope’s Nose. Much of the rock here is a relatively acid slate, but there is limestone at the end of the promontory; perhaps unsurprisingly, all the remaining members concentrated on the latter. The ground was very exposed and the bryophytes correspondingly stunted; the predominant species were Trichostomum crispulum and Barbula unguiculata, but Scleropodium tourettii provided some extra interest.

The Long Quarry Point party had also had a productive afternoon, perhaps the best of a presentable list being Gymnostomum viridulum.


Noss Mayo and the Warren

Noss Mayo is a village on the estuary of the Yealm, south-east of Plymouth; the bedrock is Devonian slate and most of the surrounding countryside is owned by the National Trust. Prior to this excursion the bryophytes of the area were not well known, but were thought likely to be interesting.

Members gathered at Ferry Cottage, west of the village, and walked westward along the public footpath through Passage Wood. Initially the bryology seemed very dull; with the exception of Lejeunea lamacerina, Epipterygium tozeri and a possible candidate for Fissidens celticus, little of interest was found, and Rod Stern’s suggestion that we should aim for ninety taxa before lunch was greeted with near-derision! Matters eventually began to improve, however; the wall around Battery Cottage produced a useful list, of which the best was probably Orthotrichum cupulatum (not often recorded in Devon - perhaps overlooked?), and other interesting species appeared on the way down to the lunch spot at Cellar Beach. Orthotrichum tenellum, Metzgeria fruticulosa, Cololejeunea minutissima and Ulota phyllantha all occurred as epiphytes hereabouts; the Ulota is common on coastal bark in Devon, while the Cololejeunea can often be found in such habitats where the bark is basic. Rocks at Cellar Beach had Tortella flavovirens.

Moving on westwards in hot sunshine, members were glad of the shade of Brakehill Plantation. This consisted largely of beech and sycamore and, as would be expected in such an exposed coastal site, the bryoflora was not of great interest. Neckera pumila, hanging on grimly in one place, was perhaps the best find. A Radula, growing in abundance on a nearby wall, was collected and thoroughly checked in hopes of R. lindenbergiana; unfortunately the specimen was totally sterile and so could not be confirmed. In the prevailing conditions, searching the open coastal slopes around Mouthstone Point needed determination; the list was steadily growing, however, and the finding of Plagiochila killarniensis (another under-recorded species in Devon) on a rock outcrop provided a much-needed fillip. A better one came soon afterwards; a small group of enthusiasts (Ron Porley, Gordon Rothero and others) had been scrambling around the loose slaty cliffs of the area looking for the rare Tortula canescens. This hope was not fulfilled, unfortunately, but a specimen collected for checking was found later to be T. cuneifolia, a plant which may be even rarer. A Grimmia was common on the slate outcrops, but it all turned out on examination to be one or other of the forms of G. trichophylla. Rod Stern collected a sterile Fossombronia, resembling F. angulosa, from damp soil near Warren Cottage, but unfortunately this could not be satisfactorily determined; it would have been a new Devon record if correct.

By the time the group dispersed, the list total stood at something over a hundred; honour had definitely been satisfied! Much of this slate coast tends to be under-worked, perhaps because of its nearness to the more obviously interesting schists of the Bolt Head-Prawle Point area. The results of this excursion suggest that this neglect is unjustified.


Shipley Bridge and the Avon valley

The Avon (locally Aune) is another Dartmoor river. Its valley is more open than those visited earlier in the week, so it was felt that it would give members a taste of true moorland conditions without losing the variety conferred by the presence of a river. The area was known to be interesting (89 species previously recorded from the tetrad) but it was hoped it would benefit from a more concentrated survey; in the event this hope was fully justified.

Once again, members awoke to perfect weather. After parking at Shipley Bridge, the first port of call for most (David Holyoak and Jean Paton, arriving early, had already produced a list rivalling the former tetrad total) was an area of Sphagnum flush just to the east, together with the adjacent riverbank. The most interesting species here was probably Atrichum crispum, present as a single colony among riverside boulders.

Members soon moved upstream to the river bed immediately above the bridge; the granite bedrock here forms wide shelving ledges, approximately at normal water-level, which are partly shaded and therefore sport a respectable bryophyte cover. The party took advantage of the low water-levels to study them in detail. The highlight here was Tetrodontium brownianum, found by David Holyoak on a vertical rock face; another noteworthy species was Isothecium holtii, a plant locally abundant in many of these Dartmoor rivers but new to several members. Much interest was also taken in a Heterocladium growing on the rocks more-or-less at normal water-level; this was found to be H. wulfsbergii, a plant known to occur in this type of habitat but almost completely neglected over the last forty years.

Fortified by this and other discoveries, the group moved slowly upstream. Like several other valleys on Dartmoor, the main bryological attraction of the Avon lies in its variety. Rocks in the river produced the usual crop of calcifuge aquatics; trees of various types (oak, elder, sallow, sycamore, ash and rowan) supported a good variety of epiphytes (highlights being Orthotrichum pulchellum, O. striatum and Metzgeria fruticulosa). A surprising number of common calciphiles was found on masonry, including Bryum radiculosum, Didymodon rigidulus (Barbula rigidula) and Encalypta streptocarpa, while a patch of flushed grassland sported Thuidium delicatulum.

Proof of the interest being taken in the area was provided by the fact that lunch was taken some 400 metres from the starting point. The spot chosen was a pleasant area of grassy river bank; Jonathan Sleath enlivened the proceedings here by finding an unusual waterside Fissidens, which appeared to be the extremely local F. rivularis. Unfortunately, the plant turned out on further checking to be F. curnovii. An attempt by Mark Pool to find Cryptothallus mirabilis in a Sphagnum lawn on the far bank was also unsuccessful.

After lunch members continued northwards up the riverside track. The valley gradually became more open and more typically ‘moorland’, but there was still great variety. The ruins of the former Brent Moor House produced more calcicoles, including Pseudocrossidium revolutum (Barbula revoluta); a shaded rotting log nearby had Barbilophozia attenuata (apparently a local plant in Devon), while Sphagnum quinquefarium occurred in reasonable quantity further along the road. Probably the best find of the day, however, was Seán O’Leary's discovery of Mylia taylorii*, a long-awaited new vice-county record, from a bank not far from the track. It was accompanied by Lepidozia cupressina, another species which is very local here.

A combination of advancing time and bryological repletion meant that the party turned back well short of the Avon Dam, after a final look at a rather uninteresting (and very wet) patch of bog. The day resulted in a prodigious list; the local tetrad now has a total of 165 species, making it one of the top half-dozen in Devon. Jean and David headed for home from Shipley Bridge, but the rest moved further down the river for a look at the rare Fissidens polyphyllus in one of its several Devon sites.


Kerswell Down Hill

A small group of diehards met at the Norcliffe Hotel for a morning visit to two local limestone sites. The first of these, Kerswell Down Hill, is an area of woodland and scrub, with some open downland, on the edge of the village of Kingskerswell. Unfortunately, much of the site now belongs to a quarry company but, after a public enquiry, permission to quarry was refused so the area should be safe for the foreseeable future! Members concentrated mainly on the woodland, as the day was hot and the best of the downland, which was some distance from the car park, was not expected to have anything not already seen on the Sunday. An attempt by the local secretary to refind Seligeria pusilla (found ‘just near here two years ago’) was probably a forlorn hope from the start, but it did result in the finding of a healthy tuft of fruiting Orthotrichum striatum. Porella arboris-vitae was in fine form nearby, along with Marchesinia mackaii and Neckera crispa.

Broadridge Wood, Newton Abbot

Moving on from Kingskerswell, the group managed to reconvene (just!) in the busy car park at Baker’s Park on the western edge of Newton Abbot. The goal was Broadridge Wood, a fine limestone woodland reached by way of the National Trust’s Bradley Manor estate. This whole area is good for bryophytes; among many other things the tiny Fissidens exiguus, known nowhere else in Devon, has been collected from the riverbank here (unfortunately it was not seen on this occasion).

The walk in via Bradley Manor produced a considerable number of species (Hookeria, Anomodon viticulosus and Neckera pumila, to name but a few); the focal point was, however, the former Broadridge lime quarry. This is almost certainly the best, and may be the only, current Devon site for the rare Grimmia orbicularis, which grows in quantity on many of the limestone slabs and faces. In addition to this, members noted several colonies of both Pleurochaete squarrosa and Bryum canariense, some of the latter fruiting, while things like Syntrichia (Tortula) intermedia and Trichostomum crispulum were locally abundant.

Considering that all the excursions were held in the relatively well-worked VC 3 (South Devon), the finding of three new county or vice-county records is most impressive. There were also a considerable number of new 10 km grid square (and, of course, tetrad) records, which have been duly incorporated into the county database and for which I am most grateful.

As this had been the first meeting I had led for the Society, I had been viewing it with a mixture of euphoria and abject terror! In the event, it proved most enjoyable; my sincere thanks go to all those participating for making it so. Our thanks as an organisation go to the management and staff of the Norcliffe Hotel, for the efficient way in which they catered for our needs; to English Nature, the National Trust and the Devon Wildlife Trust, for permission to visit and/or collect on their land; and last, but not least, to whoever organised the weather. April in Devon can be a very unpredictable time; as it turned out, our only problem was potential dehydration! No doubt the manufacturers of spray bottles enjoyed it too....



Summer Field Meeting 1997 (I)

North-east Yorkshire, 13-20 August

In view of its close proximity to the meeting in the Italian Alps, the meeting was pretty well attended. The leader, John Blackburn, was hoping for some joyous records for VC 62, in which vice-county all the localities visited were situated. Those expected to fulfil these hopes were Agneta Burton, Frank Lammiman, Seán O’Leary, Jean Paton, Christine Rieser, Ron Shoubridge, Graeme Smith, Phil Stanley (whom duty called home a day early) and Cliff Townsend, all staying at the Beansheaf Hotel, a little south of Pickering on the Malton road. Vincent Jones attended for three days, and Tom Blockeel and Mark Owen for a day each. The weather was kind to us and virtually no time was lost; most of the distances travelled by car were mercifully short.


Seven Valley woods, north of Sinnington

From Sinnington we walked gently northwards, taking in Spring Bank Wood, Hill Bank Wood and Cropton Banks Wood, moving on to Howlgate Wood after lunch. The woods are on the sides of the River Seven valley; the bedrock is Jurassic limestone, which includes calcareous grits. That this was to be a disciplined meeting was soon indicated when the leader (perhaps after brooding on the word ‘Jurassic’) thumped Seán with a large branch which he claimed had broken off in his hand. Thus spurred, the party got to work. The bryophyte flora was not rich, but species found included Anomodon viticulosus, Bryum subelegans (B. flaccidum), Campylium stellatum var. protensum, Eurhynchium (Cirriphyllum) crassinervium, E. pumilum, Encalypta streptocarpa, Hygrohypnum luridum, Isothecium alopecuroides (I. myurum), Rhynchostegium murale, Tortella tortuosa, Pseudephemerum nitidum, Jungermannia atrovirens, Porella platyphylla and Radula complanata. Several species seen here on previous occasions, such as Apometzgeria pubescens, were not encountered. Stubble fields near Howlgate Wood produced the statutory grovel, with a good crop of Brya (B. klinggraeffii, B. rubens, B. ruderale and B. violaceum), Ditrichum cylindricum, Dicranella staphylina, Riccia glauca and R. sorocarpa. The return to the village involved a pleasant cooling paddle across the shallow river.


Saltergate Gill

This day was spent along Saltergate Gill, about 15 km north-north-east of Pickering, and was the most productive of the week. The deep gill has a waterfall and dripping rocks, and ends at a fen by the North York Moors railway.

A bog at the commencement, quite near the road, produced Sphagnum flexuosum (S. recurvum var. amblyphyllum) in small quantity as well as S. fallax (S. recurvum var. mucronatum), and recording proceeded steadily until a climb became necessary in order to skirt the upper edge of the gill, along a fence behind which were a large number of beehives. All was well at first, but almost at the end Ron was stung through a thick shirt by a determined bee, Agneta suffered from a bee which got tangled in her hair (no doubt with aspirations to be a bat), while Cliff developed a yen for a legal career after being stung in The Temple. A rapid descent got us back to work. Graeme produced Moerckia hibernica* near the waterfall, not recorded in VC 62 since 1898, and on a grassy slope Vincent spotted Marchantia polymorpha ssp. montivagans* (ssp. polymorpha was on a rock in the stream nearby). Elsewhere along the stream were found Calliergon stramineum, Sphagnum fimbriatum, S. squarrosum, Fissidens osmundoides, Climacium dendroides, Philonotis calcarea, Mnium stellare, Pogonatum aloides, Aneura pinguis, Calypogeia arguta, C. muelleriana, Jungermannia atrovirens, Leiocolea badensis, Preissia quadrata, Lophozia incisa and Scapania umbrosa. One rock was plastered with the rigid saxicolous form of Hypnum resupinatum (H. cupressiforme var. resupinatum) - so different from the softer corticolous form. Hymenostylium (Gymnostomum) recurvirostrum was on wet rocks by the waterfall – only the second vice-county record this century. Cliff bumped into a big tufa rock by the stream which had Distichium capillaceum in a crevice and Barbula spadicea and Eucladium verticillatum at the damp base. While Vincent suspended bryological activities to investigate hawkweeds, the rest proceeded to the fen, where fine Scorpidium scorpioides, Calliergon giganteum and Drepanocladus revolvens soon took the eye. Returning to the cars by higher heathy ground the inevitable Campylopus introflexus was soon seen, as well as C. flexuosus (C. paradoxus), Leptodontium flexifolium, Orthodontium lineare and Barbilophozia attenuata, while the sight of some fine old steam trains puffing along the railway added to the pleasure – notably the streamlined and famous Sir Nigel Gresley.


Egg Griff, Bridestones

The morning was spent in the Bridestones area, in the event mostly in the peculiarly named Egg Griff. Penetration of this gully was only possible for a relatively short distance owing to tumbled trees and rocks having fallen in. An egg’s chances of survival would have been slim. The surface soil in the area is highly acidic, but basic influence was clear from the presence of two or three colonies of Mnium stellare. Scrambling around among the debris produced Anomodon viticulosus, Dicranum tauricum, Fissidens gracilifolius (F. pusillus var. tenuifolius), Eurhynchium pumilum, Rhytidiadelphus loreus, Seligeria recurvata and Jungermannia atrovirens; the most pleasing find was Plagiochila britannica.

Dundale Griff, Levisham Moor

Following Egg Griff, it had been hoped to visit Dovedale Griff, but high and impenetrable bracken above and below made for a quick lunch and a retreat to Dundale Griff, on Levisham Moor, about 11 km north of Pickering. This long, gradually deepening gully, damp in places, was more productive, and on the damp acid sandstone one had the constant feeling that good things would turn up. Plagiochila britannica was here also, as were Hookeria lucens, a little rather poor Mnium stellare, Orthodontium lineare, Pohlia lutescens in company with Dicranella rufescens, Racomitrium heterostichum and Tetrodontium brownianum in small quantity in one spot; Cephalozia lunulifolia, Scapania umbrosa and Jungermannia obovata were also noted. Brachydontium trichodes, recorded here previously, was constantly expected but never actually seen.

Members were very much intrigued by huge numbers of burrowing bees inhabiting holes on sandy banks on Levisham Moor. The leader communicated to your scribe that Jean thought this was Dasypoda hirtipes and worth mention, producing an abiding feeling that I was being ‘had’ in retribution for an incident on a previous BBS trip. The Hairyfooted Hairyfoot, in Greek and Latin, seems a suspicious nomenclatural overkill....


Falling Foss

Our morning’s activities were centred on Falling Foss Forest Nature Reserve, and particularly around Falling Foss itself – a 10 m cap-rock waterfall on the May Beck, in a predominantly acidic area with slight base-enrichment in some rocks. Species seen included Brachythecium populeum, Heterocladium heteropterum, Hyocomium armoricum, Eucladium verticillatum, Eurhynchium pumilum, Hookeria lucens, Orthodontium lineare, Ulota bruchii (U. crispa var. norvegica), Jungermannia atrovirens, J. sphaerocarpa, Leiocolea turbinata, Nowellia curvifolia and Scapania nemorea.

Fen Bog Nature Reserve

In the afternoon a visit was paid to the Fen Bog Nature Reserve, about 20 km north-north-east of Pickering. This luscious-looking area, again offering the bonus of proximity to the North York Moors Railway, soon caused the party to assume the frog-like posture characteristic of bryologists in such a locality. Jean soon homed in on Cephalozia macrostachya var. macrostachya, and as the party dispersed 11 of the 13 taxa of Sphagnum recorded from this extensive area were found – though some, such as S. teres, only in small quantity. Other finds included Calliergon stramineum, Warnstorfia exannulata (Drepanocladus exannulatus), D. revolvens s.str., Scorpidium scorpioides, Calypogeia neesiana, Cephalozia connivens, Cladopodiella fluitans, Kurzia pauciflora, Mylia anomala, Odontoschisma sphagni, Riccardia multifida and R. chamedryfolia. Respects were paid to rather senescent Carex limosa and Rhynchospora alba, and it was pleasant to see cranberry stems trailing about here and there. We missed a few interesting species recorded here in the past, notably Philonotis caespitosa and Splachnum ampullaceum. It was only a short while before the party began to move back that rain began in earnest for the first and only time on the meeting.


Botton Head, Greenhow Moor

This morning gave rise to the longest drive of the meeting, when a visit was paid to Botton Head SSSI, where permission had been given to gain access through Greenhow Plantation in order to reach the Botton Head gully with minimal walking. The purpose was to demonstrate Mielichhoferia elongata to those who had not seen it and to investigate some old records. The rarity was found with no trouble, though those who had visited the locality in 1958 had the impression that it was greatly reduced in quantity. Among the other bryophytes seen in its vicinity were Dicranella cerviculata, D. palustris, Calliergon stramineum, Oligotrichum hercynicum, Pogonatum urnigerum, Nardia compressa, Riccardia multifida and Scapania scandica in its second VC 62 locality. On a rock below the gully a grimmiaceous moss was collected as a candidate for Coscinodon cribrosus, recorded from the site but not seen there for many years. What this moss is remains a little uncertain, though Grimmia montana has been both suggested and disputed! Three members, deterred by the initial steep climb through low-growing larch branches, remained within the forest rides, finding Fossombronia pusilla and Jungermannia sphaerocarpa but little else of note. Just before leaving the area, John led the party to a bank where he had seen Rhodobryum roseum, and this was rapidly refound.

Ashberry, Rievaulx

The remainder of the day was spent at the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s reserve at Ashberry, 6 km west of Helmsley, which the BBS had previously visited in 1967. Little work was done in the woodland area, the party concentrating in the marshy meadows along the stream and a dry basic grassland area by the roadside above. In the meadows were seen Campylium stellatum, Philonotis calcarea, Plagiomnium elatum, Aneura pinguis, Jungermannia atrovirens and Riccardia chamedryfolia. The dry grassland produced a good quantity of Entodon concinnus (one of only two known sites in VC 62), Trichostomum crispulum, Pseudocrossidium hornschuchianum (Barbula hornschuchiana), Ditrichum gracile (D. crispatissimum), Plagiomnium affine and Scapania aspera. The woodland by the track connecting the two areas yielded on cursory examination Anomodon viticulosus, Bryum subelegans and Plagiothecium undulatum.


Duncombe Park, Helmsley

The morning visit was to Duncombe Park, the home of Lord and Lady Feversham, and noted for its ancient trees. It is also rich in rare insects. With the exception of one small area we were able to roam freely, but in the event concentrated on the woods around the public car park and a reach of the River Rye. There were also productive old walls, one of which soon yielded a quantity of Tortula marginata, seen for the first time in the week. Another basic wall produced Didymodon rigidulus (Barbula rigidula), Zygodon viridissimus var. viridissimus, Syntrichia (Tortula) intermedia and Leucodon sciuroides – the latter the first record in VC 62 for 70 years. In the woods occurred Taxiphyllum wissgrillii, Eurhynchium crassinervium, Rhynchostegium murale and Didymodon (Oxystegus) sinuosus, also clearly showing basic conditions, while Pseudephemerum nitidum was locally common in damp bare patches in the rides. Fissidens growing on rocks in the river produced a little subsequent internecine growling until it was realised that both F. crassipes and F. rufulus were present, thoroughly intermixed though the latter in greater quantity. A number of scattered patches of F. pusillus poking up through the mats added to the confusion. There was plenty of Amblystegium tenax, with Thamnobryum alopecurum on the banks. Mucky Orthotrichum on roots near the floodline proved to be merely a form of O. affine, which would formerly have been called var. rivale Wils.

Wass Bank

The final visit of the meeting was made in the afternoon to Wass Bank limestone quarry, in order to attempt rediscovery of Seligeria diversifolia in its only known English locality. However, as on John’s two previous visits, this was unsuccessful, despite the presence of more pairs of eyes; only numerous colonies of S. recurvata were found, some plants with virtually straight setae giving rise to unease. Other interesting species were Fissidens gracilifolius, Eurhynchium pumilum, Rhynchostegiella tenella, Taxiphyllum wissgrillii again, Porella platyphylla, Jungermannia pumila and Gyroweisia tenuis.

Thus ended a week which, while not notable for a great haul of rarities, fulfilled the more laudable aim of adding a record to the vice-county list, and refinding species not seen for many years or known only in few localities. Equally important, there was as usual the opportunity of renewing old friendships and making new ones. Evenings swung violently between hilarity and sharing of knowledge, with many participants helping to finalise some of the introductory parts of Jean’s forthcoming hepatic Flora. A good time was had by all, to coin a phrase, and sincere thanks are owed to John for an excellent programme. I am grateful to all those participants who sent notes and records, which have greatly helped in writing this report.



Summer Field Meeting 1997 (II)

North Italian Alps, 26 July - 4 August

The summer meeting of the BBS in the Italian Alps was organised by Giorgio Buffa and Luca Miserere from the University of Turin. Four members attended from Britain: Tom Blockeel, Chris Curtis, Ron Porley and Gordon Rothero. We were also pleased to welcome a young Serbian bryologist, Marko Sabovljevic from Belgrade. The small size of the party (perhaps due to uncertainty earlier in the year about the future of the meeting) had its advantages, and we were able to use private cars for transport. Giorgio and Luca organised a very interesting programme for us, and the meeting was a great success bryologically and socially.

Most of us arrived in Turin on Friday 25 July, and we were able to spend some time in the city during a very hot Saturday morning and afternoon. Later on the Saturday we drove to our first destination, the village of Usseglio in the Val di Viù. En route, Giorgio told us about the decline in pastoral agriculture in the alpine valleys of Piedmont, leading to the abandonment of pastures and the consequent spread of green alder thickets and coniferous woodland. Even the extensive larch wood on the hillside at Usseglio was of recent origin.

On our arrival in the village we met Gordon, who had travelled overland in his camper van. Our accommodation was at the Grand Hotel Rocciamelone. Architecturally it was indeed in the grand style, but for hungry bryologists the service at mealtimes undoubtedly lacked a sense of urgency.


Lac Falin and Arnas Superiore

As Giorgio explained to us, the valleys of the inner Alps of Piedmont are subject to surprising variations in humidity within short geographical distances, and the programme he had organised was intended to encompass the range from dry to relatively humid locations. The Val di Viù belongs in the latter category.

Our first destination was Lac Falin, a small alpine lake situated at 1690 m to the south-west of Margone. Our route took us through grassland with rock outcrops of calcareous schist, to a small col leading to the hollow in which the lake lies. We soon found species such as Distichium capillaceum, Blepharostoma trichophyllum and Barbilophozia hatcheri which were to prove nearly ubiquitous during the meeting. Other species noted during the ascent included Barbilophozia lycopodioides, Tritomaria scitula, Scapania aequiloba, Encalypta microstoma, Syntrichia norvegica, Grimmia ovalis, G. sessitana, G. elatior, G. tergestina, Bryum elegans, Mnium thomsonii, Hedwigia ciliata var. leucophaea, Pseudoleskeella catenulata, Ptychodium plicatum, Thuidium abietinum, Heterocladium dimorphum, Campylophyllum halleri and Isopterygiopsis pulchella. Vascular plants also diverted our attention, among them Ajuga genevensis, Lilium martagon, Veratrum album and many others.

By the defile leading to the lake Ron found a small amount of Athalamia hyalina on soil under the edge of a rock, and Gordon found Brachythecium reflexum and Hypnum vaucheri. The geology became more complex here, with outcrops of ultrabasic rock supporting a less obviously calcicole flora. There were large amounts of Grimmia hartmanii and a little G. anomala, along with Anastrophyllum minutum, Diplophyllum taxifolium, Lejeunea cavifolia, Paraleucobryum longifolium, Timmia bavarica and Hylocomium pyrenaicum.

Runnels on the slope by the lake contained a magnificent Plagiomnium, apparently P. elatum but with rather shortly decurrent leaves. The vegetation of the lake itself has been studied by Luca, and is characterised by a high constancy of Carex elata, with C. limosa and C. magellanica. The shallow margins produced plentiful Sphagnum teres, with a few patches of S. palustre var. centrale and S. capillifolium. Drepanocladus cossonii and Warnstorfia exannulata were in the shallow water. Among the species of more base-rich niches were Calliergon giganteum and Tomentypnum nitens. A patch of dung had a little Splachnum sphaericum, a very rare species in Piedmont.

A temporary change of plan for the second venue of the day took us to Lago di Malcioussia, a reservoir lake higher up the Val di Viù. However, on our arrival the lake margins resembled nothing so much as a giant car park, being hopelessly congested with visitors (this was a Sunday afternoon). We quickly retreated to the venue originally planned by Giorgio, at Arnas Superiore in the Arnas valley, a lesser arm of the Val di Viù. We examined an area of grassland and rock outcrops below extensive green alder thickets, at approximately 1600 m altitude. Species additional to those found at Lac Falin included Leiocolea bantriensis, Tortella fragilis, Schistidium flaccidum, Grimmia unicolor, Mnium spinosum, Pterigynandrum filiforme and Pseudoleskeella nervosa. Our visit ended in a torrent gully among green alders. In their enthusiasm to see some of the mosses here both Ron and then Chris discovered how slippy the rocks were, and had to engage in some precarious manoeuvres to avoid a fall and a wetting. Damp rock on the gully side produced Jungermannia atrovirens, Blindia caespiticia and Orthothecium rufescens. The most significant find, however, was Bryoerythrophyllum ferruginascens (with rhizoidal tubers) on bare soil on the torrent banks, a species new to the Italian flora.


Sagna del Vallone

Our second excursion from Usseglio began at Pian Benot, a small ski development on the south side of the Val di Viù. From here we made a steep ascent to Colle delle Lance at 2170 m to cross over into the head of Il Vallone, our destination. Of course, some bryologising was done during the ascent. Pohlia andalusica was on a track side, and Lophozia bicrenata, Dicranella grevilleana, Saelania glaucescens and Oncophorus virens were noted on banks and on moist stony slopes. A small area of block scree produced Bazzania tricrenata, Gymnomitrion concinnatum, Andreaea rupestris, Paraleucobryum longifolium, Pseudoleskea incurvata, Brachythecium glaciale and Hylocomium pyrenaicum. Again we admired the diversity of vascular plants of these alpine pastures, particularly Cardamine plumieri, an endemic of the Western Alps. Other flowering plants included Dianthus pavonius (D. neglectus), Campanula barbata, Gentiana nivalis, Centaurea nervosa and Arnica montana.

Rock ledges near the col produced Plagiobryum demissum and Myurella tenerrima. From here the view into Il Vallone was splendid, and on flat ground 200 m below, encircled by craggy slopes, we could see the two adjacent mires (sagna), dominated by Carex rostrata, which were our principal objective. They were known to be bryologically rich, being the only recently recorded site in Italy for Scorpidium turgescens. We spent a long time examining the upper mire, which was grazed by a herd of very friendly cattle. The mire is strongly calcareous in parts, and the long list of species present included Tritomaria polita, Scapania irrigua, Sphagnum teres, S. subsecundum, Oncophorus virens, Splachnum sphaericum, Tayloria lingulata, Cinclidium stygium, Meesia uliginosa, Amblyodon dealbatus, Catoscopium nigritum, Drepanocladus cossonii, Calliergon sarmentosum, C. trifarium, C. giganteum and Scorpidium turgescens (the latter not previously recorded in the upper mire).

During our circuit of the upper mire we also took the opportunity to examine boulders and rock outcrops at the base of the encircling slopes. These also proved to be very interesting. Scapania gymnostomophila, a second addition to the Italian flora, was found in a crevice on a huge boulder, associated with Cyrtomnium hymenophylloides. The distinctive thallose liverwort Sauteria alpina was found at the base of another large boulder, growing on damp humus. Other records included Lophozia bicrenata and Marsupella funckii (both on thin soil on rock), Jungermannia confertissima (on the bank of the outflow stream of the mire), Cephalozia pleniceps (on moist humus in a hollow in scree), Leiocolea heterocolpos, Barbilophozia lycopodioides, Tritomaria scitula, Anthelia juratzkana, Scapania aequiloba, S. cuspiduligera, Dicranella grevilleana, Paraleucobryum longifolium, Encalypta alpina, Anoectangium aestivum, Blindia caespiticia, Seligeria donniana, Timmia austriaca, Ptychodium plicatum, Myurella julacea, Heterocladium dimorphum and Campylophyllum halleri. A small rivulet had Schistidium rivulare, Bryum schleicheri and Hygrohypnum duriusculum.

Late in the afternoon we moved on to the lower mire by way of the connecting stream. Scapania cuspiduligera was found again on a damp rock outcrop by the stream, with more plants of Sauteria alpina. The lower mire proved to be much drier and not quite so rich as the upper one, but Luca eventually refound Scorpidium turgescens in the place where he had seen it previously. A jumble of boulders nearby produced Bazzania tricrenata and Tritomaria exsecta, and Brachythecium reflexum was in block scree.

We retraced our steps to Pian Benot to the shrill accompaniment of whistling marmots. We all agreed it had been a truly excellent day.


Susa Valley

This was a transfer day and involved a fairly long drive to the Val di Rochemolles near Bardonecchia at the head of the Susa Valley. However, Giorgio had arranged visits en route to two xerophytic localities at low elevations (ca 600 m) on the south-facing slopes of the main Susa valley. Our first stop was at Chianocco, to visit a reserve in a wooded ravine (orrido) with small stands of Quercus ilex. The base of the ravine contained concrete dams and had few bryophytes. On the more open upper slopes we passed through deciduous woodland, where the epiphytic flora included Syntrichia papillosa and Pseudoleskeella nervosa. Lophocolea minor was found on stones and tree bases, and Grimmia laevigata with G. ovalis on boulders. Later we reached an open slope with small rock outcrops supporting Crossidium squamiferum, Tortella inclinata, Grimmia tergestina and G. orbicularis.

The day was very hot and dry and we felt obliged to take an extended lunch. Giorgio duly arranged this for us at the Ristorante del Castello in Chianocco where we enjoyed cheeses, meats and anchovies, with an aperitif of vermouth. At mid-afternoon we moved on a little distance up the Susa valley to investigate the hillsides near Ambruna, an area of old fields with scattered trees, old walls and terraces, and low rock outcrops; the vegetation consisted of Stipa capillata grassland with Melica ciliata, Artemesia campestris and Echinopsis sphaerocephalus. There were many of the species which we had seen at Chianocco, including large quantities of the Grimmias (G. tergestina, G. ovalis and G. orbicularis). Pleurochaete squarrosa was plentiful on the banks, and there was a small amount of Tortula atrovirens on a wall.

After the hot dry day in the busy Susa valley, it was a relief eventually to make the drive to the cooler mountain air of the Vallone di Rochemolles, via Bardonecchia. We ascended past the reservoir lake to the rifugio Scarfiotti, which was to be our accommodation for the next three nights. We were able to drive to the refuge via a rough road, and did not need to carry our baggage. The refuge is spectacularly situated at 2156 m against a backdrop of steep crags incised by cascades and water chutes. Many of the adjacent peaks exceed 3000 m. Giorgio enhanced our enjoyment by introducing us to the local spirits, including genipi and serpillo, both infused with mountain herbs.


Rochemolles Valley, day 1

The first of our two days in the Rochemolles valley was spent in the upper part, mainly at 2400 to 2700 m. Much of the valley is composed of calcareous schists, giving rise to a rich vascular plant flora. At this altitude there were also patches of late-lying snow. It was interesting to compare the vegetation of the snow-beds with that of their Scottish equivalents. The contrast was striking. The ground dries quickly as the snow recedes and there is relatively little accumulation of humus or peat; vascular plants are much more prominent in the flora. The calcareous nature of the bedrock, the dry climate and the warmer summers must all be contributory factors.

It was not surprising that we soon encountered unfamiliar bryophytes. Asterella gracilis with mature sporophytes was on humus on blocky ground. Gordon found Lophozia decolorans, an arctic-alpine relative of L. bicrenata, on thin dry humus, this being only the second record for Italy. Dicranoweisia compacta was in rock crevices, and Tayloria froelichiana was plentiful at one spot on damp humus. Also of considerable interest was Barbilophozia quadriloba, in its slender form with two-three-lobed leaves. This is the first confirmed record for Italy, although there is an old unsubstantiated literature record. Other finds included Anthelia juratzkana, Jungermannia polaris, Lophozia opacifolia, Leiocolea heterocolpos, L. bantriensis, Tritomaria scitula, Scapania cuspiduligera, Encalypta alpina, Tortella fragilis, Syntrichia norvegica, Tortula euryphylla (Desmatodon latifolius), Grimmia sessitana, Ptychodium plicatum, Brachythecium fendleri (B. collinum), Platydictya jungermannioides and Hypnum revolutum. In areas of seepage and moist humus were Oncophorus virens, Meesia uliginosa and Amblyodon dealbatus, and Bryum schleicheri was by the main stream. The vascular plants were equally spectacular, with Geum reptans, Pedicularis rosea, Primula hirsuta, Vitaliana primuliflora, Gentiana bavarica, G. brachyphylla, G. nivalis, Artemesia genipi, Achillea nana, Erigeron borealis, Leontopodium alpinum, Sesleria varia and many others.


Rochemolles Valley, day 2

After some discussion the previous night, we decided that the dramatic crags behind the refuge could not be ignored, and we spent the morning of our second day in the valley investigating them. We soon dispersed over different parts of the crags. The vegetation was noticeably more luxuriant here than in the upper valley, an impression enhanced by the streams and waterfalls. There were deep turfy ledges and low thickets of dwarf shrubs, including much Rhododendron.

Wet rock ledges and crevices produced Scapania gymnostomophila in a second locality, Tritomaria polita, Cyrtomnium hymenophylloides, Rhizomnium magnifolium, Plagiopus oederianus, Amphidium lapponicum, Catoscopium nigritum, Timmia austriaca, Myurella julacea, Palustriella decipiens, Cirriphyllum cirrosum and Orthothecium rufescens. Other species on the crags included Grimmia sessitana, G. funalis, G. torquata, G. unicolor, Racomitrium macounii, Orthotrichum alpestre and Hedwigia ciliata var. leucophaea. On deeper humus were Ptilidium ciliare, Dicranum elongatum, Philonotis tomentella and Rhizomnium pseudopunctatum. Tortula euryphylla was on exposed ground. The water chutes were dominated by Palustriella commutata var. falcata, but Hygrohypnum smithii and H. duriusculum were also present.

On our return from the crags we were able to lunch al fresco back at the refuge, enjoying a meal which included dishes of porcini (Boletus elegans) with plenty of polenta (mashed corn). The afternoon was spent west of the refuge, mainly in an area of green alder thickets. There were some calcareous flushes with Carex davalliana near the refuge and (predictably by now) we recorded Catoscopium nigritum, Amblyodon dealbatus and Meesia uliginosa, along with Hymenostylium recurvirostrum and Drepanocladus cossonii. Species seen on rocks and crags and in the green alder thickets included many of those seen during the morning. Additional records were Timmia norvegica, Orthotrichum rupestre, Brachythecium reflexum and Campylophyllum halleri. The alder scrub had a rich tall-herb vegetation, among which Giorgio introduced us to a yellow-flowered crucifer with a memorable name, Hugueninia tanacetifolia. The return to the refuge was through flower-rich alpine pastures with species of Bupleurum, Euphrasia, Euphorbia, Onobrychis, Anthyllis and Aster - a pure delight.


France: Valle Stretta

August brought with it not only a change of venue but also a change of country! The border with France is a few kilometres from Bardonecchia, and the town is the easiest point of access to Valle Stretta, historically once part of Italy but now in French territory. Giorgio had to return to Turin for the day, leaving Luca as our guide.

Valle Stretta is formed of dolomitic limestone, and a massive rock wall lines the south-western side of the valley. We spent the morning in an area of bouldery larch woodland, proceeding at midday to Les Granges, where there are two alpine refuges. From here a steep path climbs out of the valley emerging onto alpine grassland at Col des Thures. The larch woodland explored in the morning was very dry, with only a few moist niches. Ron and others reached the base of a large crag and found Cololejeunea calcarea and Grimmia anodon. Elsewhere in the woodland we noted Barbilophozia barbata, Lophocolea minor, Scapania cuspiduligera, Timmia bavarica, Pseudoleskeella catenulata, Hypnum vaucheri, H. recurvatum and H. revolutum. The path to Col des Thures also led through larch woodland; Seligeria donniana, S. pusilla and Campylophyllum halleri were additional records here.

We took lunch by the little Lac Chavillon and then ascended through alpine grassland to Lac Bellety, a small pool at 2289 m. This had some well-developed mire vegetation about its margins, the bryophytes including Calliergon trifarium, C. giganteum, Scorpidium scorpioides and Drepanocladus cossonii. The surrounding grassland was not rich in bryophytes: we noted Tortula euryphylla, Racomitrium canescens and Thuidium abietinum. There were some small rock outcrops with Grimmia funalis. Later we located an area of moist turf with small runnels and flushes, supporting a fine population of Nigritella nigra orchids in a very attractive pink form. We had now come to expect Catoscopium nigritum, Meesia uliginosa and Amblyodon dealbatus in such places, and they were duly found. Also present were Leiocolea bantriensis, Tritomaria polita, Tortella fragilis and Rhizomnium pseudopunctatum. On the descent back into Valle Stretta we were able to enjoy the fine prospect towards Mont Thabor, which, though somewhat obscured by cloud, was still magnificent.

From Valle Stretta we drove to Sauze d’Oulx, where Giorgio had arranged accommodation at the agricultural experimental station. Sauze d’Oulx is now a ski resort, and, as Giorgio observed, it is an ideal place to study the ecology of abandoned pastures! The alpine station has become rather run down with the decline in pastoral agriculture, but the accommodation was free, and from an altitude of 1865 m the views were splendid. Giorgio also set a precedent for BBS meetings by cooking the evening meal, at which we sampled some ancient and interesting pieces of toma, the local cheese.


Gran Bosco di Salbertrand

Il Gran Bosco di Salbertrand is an area of old woodland on the north-facing slopes of the Susa Valley. It has many relict species, including Pinus cembra in the upper parts and the primulaceous herb Cortusa matthioli. It was within walking distance of the alpine station. We took a circular route across the upper part of the wood and returned via the middle part. A wrong turning at the beginning took us higher than originally intended, from 2180 m to about 2300 m at Colle Blegier. The views from here were much admired, given special effect by the blanket of mist which shrouded the floor of the Susa Valley. Along this route tree boles produced Dicranum tauricum and Pterigynandrum filiforme. On and about rock outcrops were Leiocolea heterocolpos, Scapania cuspiduligera, Seligeria donniana, S. pusilla, Timmia bavarica, Platydictya jungermannioides and Isopterygiopsis pulchella. Near Colle Blegier the ground was more open. Eurhynchium pulchellum was in thin turf and Lophozia opacifolia occurred with Cephalozia pleniceps on a bank. A small mire had Marchantia polymorpha ssp. montivagans, Plagiomnium ellipticum, Brachythecium mildeanum and Palustriella decipiens.

From Colle Blegier it was a long knee-grinding descent to the vicinity of Montagne Seu, from where we began our return traverse across the wood at a little over 1800 m. On the descent we passed an area of springs and runnels with, inevitably, Catoscopium nigritum, Meesia uliginosa and Amblyodon dealbatus. Also present were Leiocolea bantriensis, Ditrichum gracile and Oncophorus virens. The return route was through dense woodland, partly now in mist, where the Cortusa was just past flowering. The large sneezewort Achillea macrophylla was conspicuous in places. There were few rock outcrops and the bryophytes were therefore somewhat limited, but we noted Mnium thomsonii, Plagiopus oederianus and Bartramia halleriana. Some of us searched rotting tree stumps expectantly but they were rather dry. We found Calypogeia neesiana, Dicranum montanum, Dicranodontium denudatum, Plagiothecium laetum and Herzogiella seligeri.

The climb back to the alpine station took us back into bright sunshine and was hot, thirsty work. After time to freshen up, we departed for our final destination, the Orsiera-Rocciavrè Natural Park. This took us back east along the Susa Valley. Our accommodation was to be at the Val Gravio Refuge. The approach took us through a traditional area of chestnut production, and we passed through groves of Castanea trees as we drove to the small village of Adret. From here it was a walk of about 45 minutes to the refuge, so we had to carry full rucksacks. The prospect of a glass or two of wine and/or spirits spurred us onwards and up.


Val Gravio

The Orsiera-Rocciavrè Park occupies the wild rocky high ground between the Susa and Chisone valleys. It is a beautiful place, appearing far more remote than it really is from the valleys below. Two of the peaks exceed 2800 m.

The Val Gravio refuge is situated in woodland at 1390 m on the north side of the park. Another precedent for a BBS meeting was set the following morning when we emerged into the field at 7.40 am! Our route was to take us up the main Gravio valley, with Piano delle Cavalle as our ultimate destination. We began serious bryologising at Alpeggio Mustione, situated at 1670 m in an area of bouldery grassland flanked by craggy slopes, with a rock wall and cascade at its head. Grimmia elatior, G. ovalis and G. hartmanii were on the less base-rich rocks. Many of the boulders, however, were of strongly calcareous schist and supported Tritomaria scitula, Scapania cuspiduligera, S. calcicola, S. aequiloba, Encalypta alpina, Mnium thomsonii, Cyrtomnium hymenophylloides, Myurella julacea, Ptychodium plicatum and Hypnum bambergeri. Also detected in thin humus in a rock crevice was Jungermannia borealis, a species only recently added to the Italian flora.

Towards the cascade the ground became steeper and moister, with stands of Polygonum alpinum. By the stream and on nearby slopes we noted Jungermannia confertissima, Lejeunea cavifolia, Mnium spinosum, and small amounts of Sauteria alpina, Tayloria froelichiana and Amblyodon dealbatus. Grimmia torquata was at the base of the rock wall at about 1900 m.

The path round the cascade led us through green alder scrub to a flat open area with a small in-filled lake, Il Laghetto, at 1970 m. Here there was some mire vegetation on slightly inclined ground. Of course, we soon found our familiar trio of Catoscopium, Meesia and Amblyodon, along with Oncophorus virens, Philonotis seriata, Palustriella decipiens and Drepanocladus cossonii. A Tortella from dried-out turf in the mire has proved difficult to name but may be a form of T. densa.

It was a further short ascent to Piano delle Cavalle at 2050 m. An area of blocky ground en route had Lescuraea saxicola and Hylocomium pyrenaicum. As we climbed, we were hampered for the first time during the meeting by low cloud and mist, and the visibility was poor. We spent a long time on and below a rich schist crag, assembling a good list of species: Sauteria alpina, Athalamia hyalina, Barbilophozia quadriloba, Jungermannia polaris, Anthelia juratzkana, Saelania glaucescens, Blindia caespiticia, Seligeria donniana, Tayloria froelichiana, Plagiopus oederianus, Timmia austriaca, T. norvegica, Myurella tenerrima and Campylophyllum halleri. Further along the edge of the piano we crossed abruptly onto serpentine rock, with a noticeably poorer flora, though Jungermannia confertissima was found on humus. It was difficult to locate further good sites in the dense mist, and Gordon was due to depart in the late afternoon. We therefore began a relatively early descent, in drizzly rain.

There was time during the descent to examine the woodland near the refuge, and this produced some species not seen previously during the meeting, including Anomodon attenuatus, Homalothecium philippeanum and Homomallium incurvatum on shaded rocks and boulders. We also noted Seligeria donniana, Bartramia halleriana, Orthotrichum rupestre, Hedwigia ciliata var. leucophaea, Pseudoleskeella catenulata, P. nervosa and a sterile Cynodontium. Gordon, meanwhile, found Anomodon longifolius during his descent.



We spent the last night of the meeting in the refuge, and therefore had one final walk the following morning to return to our transport at Adret. A different route from our ascent took us via an abandoned monastery, La Certosa di Montebenedetto. Some of us could not resist the local traditional delicacy, chestnuts preserved in a sweet syrup. The old church here once survived a landslide during which it was transported physically some distance down the mountainside! With full rucksacks and not much time to spare, we did not do any serious bryologising during the descent, but it was easy to spot Apometzgeria pubescens and Anomodon attenuatus on rocks in the woods.

So ended a very successful meeting. The alpine flora was a delight and we all saw species new to us. It was also gratifying to be able to make a useful contribution to the bryological exploration of this under-recorded part of the Alps. At the time of writing, not all of our collections have been fully worked, and it is hoped that a formal account of the more significant records will be published in due course.

We are extremely grateful to Giorgio and Luca for their efforts in arranging the meeting and for their untiring enthusiasm and helpfulness during our days in the field.



Annual General Meeting and Symposium 1997


The campus of Bishop Otter College in Chichester was the setting for this year’s AGM and symposium meeting. Thanks are due to Rod Stern for his efforts in securing the venue and ensuring the smooth running of the weekend. It was something of an occasion, as we celebrated the 80th birthday of Dr Harold Whitehouse with a special dinner and cake on the Saturday evening. It was also delightful to be able to welcome members of Harold’s family to the event. We had fine weather for the Sunday field excursion and a good time was had by all.



The bryophyte flora of the British Isles comprises about 1023 species, of which 17 are endemic and 19 are introduced. This is 66% of the European total and 6% of the world total. The pteridophytes, by contrast, are a mainly tropical group, with 10,000 species worldwide. A relatively small number occur in Europe, of which 50% occur in Britain and Ireland; these are only 0.7% of the world total. The flowering-plant flora of Britain and Ireland is 14% of the European total and 0.6% of the world total.

Bryophyte distributions are characteristically large and often show wide disjunctions. Metzgeria leptoneura, for example, occurs widely on tropical mountains and in humid parts of the Southern Hemisphere. It is also found in high-rainfall mountains of the Northern Hemisphere. Characterisation of such enormous distributions presents difficulties. Following a scheme devised by us for flowering plants (Preston & Hill, 1997), we have assigned bryophytes to floristic elements on the basis of their patterns of occurrence in the non-tropical Northern Hemisphere, especially western Eurasia.

Latitudinal and altitudinal preferences are specified by qualifiers such as Arctic-montane, Boreal-montane, Temperate and Mediterranean. Longitudinal limits are indicated by qualifiers such as Oceanic, Euro-Siberian and Circumpolar. For bryophytes, an extra longitudinal category, Hyperoceanic, has been added to those used for flowering plants. It applies to species whose distributions are western within the Atlantic zone of Europe.

Distributions within the British Isles generally reflect broader world distributions. Thus Arctic-montane species are concentrated in the higher Scottish mountains, Oceanic Boreal-montane species are concentrated in the wettest parts of north-west Britain and western Ireland, and Mediterranean-Atlantic species are concentrated in south-west England. Temperate bryophytes show few marked trends within the British Isles. They are no more numerous than Boreal-montane bryophytes; this is a marked contrast to the vascular plants, among which the Temperate species outnumber the Boreal-montane by more than five to one.

According to Schuster (1983), Europe’s oceanic bryophytes can be divided into two distinct categories, one originating from the tropics and Southern Hemisphere, the other indigenous to the Northern Hemisphere and showing a pattern which he calls ‘disjunct Laurasian’. This division generally works well, but there are some exceptions, notably Metzgeria leptoneura, whose distribution has attributes of both categories.


Preston CD, Hill MO. 1997. The geographical relationships of British and Irish vascular plants. Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society 124: 1-120.

Schuster RM. 1983. Phytogeography of the bryophytes. In: Schuster RM, ed. New manual of bryology. Nichinan: Hattori Botanical Laboratory, 463-626.


The purpose of this talk was twofold: a) to introduce a bryological audience to an overlooked organism, namely the gametophyte generation of the Killarney Fern Trichomanes speciosum, which they are best placed to detect; and b) to look at current patterns of genetic diversity within T. speciosum and attempt to elucidate migration patterns and refugial sites, using this organism as an example of the ‘Atlantic’ element of our flora. This group of mainly bryophyte species includes some of our most interesting taxa, and is of considerable conservation interest at a European, if not global, scale. The history of Atlantic species has been the source of considerable debate, e.g. could taxa with mainly tropical affinities have survived the last glaciation in the British Isles?

Evidence from cpDNA polymorphism indicates that the British Isles supports the greatest genetic diversity, being the meeting point of at least two separate paths of recolonisation from refugia further south. The current genetic diversity of T. speciosum in several possible refugial areas (the Macaronesian enclave near Algeciras, southern Spain; the Alpi Apuane, northern Italy; and the sandstone massifs of the Vosges and the Elbsandsteingebirge) was discussed. All still support nationally significant Atlantic bryophyte elements and almost certainly acted as refugial areas. The possibility remains that south-western Ireland may have maintained certain Atlantic elements throughout the last glaciation but further work is needed to support this. We are now keen to extend this study to include a range of bryophytes, e.g. Dumortiera hirsuta, Cyclodictyon laetevirens and Plagiochila spp., so that we may compare their patterns of genetic diversity with those of the fern element, e.g. Dryopteris aemula, Hymenophyllum tunbrigense, H. wilsonii and T. speciosum.


Trudy Side’s Bryophyte Atlas of Kent was published in 1970 by the Kent Field Club (KFC), the county’s natural history society. It was my privilege to have been introduced to the Club and the BBS by Trudy herself. Our correspondence began in 1986 when I studied the bryophytes for a survey of the flora and fauna of the local district, the Isle of Thanet. After Trudy’s death in 1988, I continued my interest and joined the Society in 1990. The following year, Roy Hurr and I became the recorders for the two Kent vice-counties.

At this time, Roy started the South-east Area Group meetings, some 25 of which have been held in Kent to date. A handful of the meetings of the KFC have also been devoted to bryophyte studies. The ‘active bryologists’ of Kent are widely distributed, with a significant cluster around Orpington, where there is a keen local Field Club. Most of us are members of the KFC and the BBS; our meetings and individual efforts have produced some interesting finds:

New records for vice-county 16 (West Kent)

Platygyrium repens: Basset’s Wood (Howard Matcham & Jeff Duckett, 1995).

Nowellia curvifolia: Friezeland Wood (Sylvia Priestley, KFC, 1996).

New records for vice-county 15 (East Kent)

Zygodon conoideus: Kearnsey, Dover (MCW, 1990).

Weissia condensa (W. tortilis): Langdon Cliffs, Dover (MCW, 1990) (first record for over 50 years).

Pottia commutata (now subsumed within Microbryum davallianum): Botany Bay, Broadstair (MCW, 1992).

P. starkeana ssp. minutula (now subsumed within Microbryum davallianum): Gorsely Wood, Canterbury (MCW, 1993).

Hennediella (Hyophila) stanfordensis: Ramsgate (MCW, 1993).

Tortula vahliana: Ramsgate (MCW, 1993).

Other interesting records

Warnstorfia (Drepanocladus) fluitans and D. aduncus: new 10 km square records near Crayford (KFC, 1990).

Scorpiurium circinatum: the colony at Hythe revisited (KFC, 1990).

Racomitrium fasciculare: second record for Kent at Ightham Mote (Roy Hurr, BBS, 1990).

Atrichum tenellum and A. angustatum: Combwell Wood (Francis Rose, KFC, 1990).

Mnium stellare and Orthotrichum lyellii: new 10 km square records at Loose, Maidstone (MCW, BBS, 1994).

Hennediella macrophylla (Tortula brevis) and Pohlia camptotrachela: Beacon Country Park (Jeff Duckett & Roy Hurr, BBS, 1995).

Atrichum angustatum: refind of old record at Kingswood, Maidstone (MCW, BBS, 1996).

All of the VC 15 records except the Pottia starkeana have since been found in other places locally. Zygodon conoideus has proved to be widespread but scarce, with seven records so far.

The county of Kent is divided geologically, with chalk to the north and the Weald/Romney Marsh to the south, but the bryologically more significant division is from east to west. The climate becomes considerably drier to the east, greatly reducing the range and abundance of species. Nevertheless, the theory that the distribution of bryophytes reflects the distribution of bryologists seems to be supported by my experience at the extreme eastern end of the county. In areas of coastal semi-natural and man-made habitats, scarcely worthy of a bryological meeting, there are occasional small suitable niches which the local resident can explore in his spare moments! The following have recent new 10 km square records in the far east of Kent: Riccia fluitans, Didymodon umbrosus (Trichostomopsis umbrosa), Pterygoneurum ovatum, Tortula acaulon var. pilifera (Phascum cuspidatum var. piliferum), Plagiomnium cuspidatum, Leskea polycarpa, Campylium stellatum var. protensum, Amblystegium tenax, Brachythecium mildeanum, Eurhynchium speciosum and even, in Thanet, Atrichum undulatum, Mnium hornum and Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus.

My own copy of Trudy Side’s Atlas is annotated with new records showing eastward extensions of the ranges of several fairly widespread species, notably Pseudocrossidium revolutum (Barbula revoluta), P. hornschuchianum (B. hornschuchiana), Didymodon luridus (B. trifaria), Plagiomnium affine and Eurhynchium pumilum. This Atlas is currently being updated and revised by members of the Kent Field Club, with tetrad rather than 10 km square maps.

The Thanet bryophyte atlas resulting from the 1986-7 survey is based on 1 km squares and covers the corner of Kent containing the resorts of Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate (an area of nearly two 10 km squares). Comparison of this and the Kent Atlas shows useful local detail, especially in habitats like rivers and woods, which are scarce here.

Thus, the already extensive knowledge of Kent bryophytes has been steadily added to by those of us recording here. With another full season of meetings planned, this seems likely to continue.


Whereas in recent years the vast majority of experimental studies on moss protonemata have focused on elucidating developmental phenomena, such as the cytoskeletal basis of tip growth, graviperception and side branch formation, and have been almost totally restricted to three taxa (Funaria hygrometrica, Aphanorhegma (Physcomitrella) patens and Ceratodon purpureus) grown in axenic cultures, we have accumulated comparative data on both wild and cultured protonemata of over 200 mosses. These encompass all the major groups from Sphagnum, Andreaea and the Polytrichales through the Eubryales from the Archidiales to the Hypnobryales. This body of new information permits for the first time the exploration of the following major questions: Do protonemal features shed any new light on the classification and phylogeny of mosses? If so, are protonemal features congruent with other forms of data? How far on the one hand do protonemal characteristics reinforce traditional classifications based on peristomes, and on the other how far do they support new information from molecular biology?

This novel synthesis of protonemal and molecular data, the latter comprising nucleic acid sequences for nuclear-encoded 18s RNA and the gene rps 4 plus the chloroplast encoded gene ter L-F spacer region, is a particularly apposite tribute to Harold Whitehouse. He is both a most distinguished geneticist and the only person to have previously gathered comparative information on gemmiferous protonemata (Whitehouse, 1987). It is his indomitable enthusiasm for things difficult to find in unprepossessing places that has led many of the members of the BBS, including one of us (JGD), on the downwards path to arabology.

Apart from the reassignment of Takakia from the liverworts to the Andreaeopsida (Renzaglia, McFarland & Smith, 1997), current classifications of mosses, apart from what might be described as ‘minor tinkering’ with orders and families, are much the same as those of the nineteenth century. The isolated position of Sphagnum, originally based on traditional morphological criteria, has been reinforced in more recent times by new data on features like spermatozoid ultrastructure (Renzaglia & Duckett, 1988), the gametophyte/sporophyte junction (Ligrone, Duckett & Renzaglia, 1993), and its unique mode of stem elongation involving both apical and subapical meristems (Ligrone & Duckett, 1998). Its thalloid protonema, with bud formation and responses to growth regulators very different from all other mosses, further separates Sphagnum from all other mosses (Goode, Stead & Duckett, 1992).

The only other group of mosses lacking typical protonemata and rhizoids (defined as tip-growing uniaxial filaments with new cells being added by division of the apical cell or laterally via side branch initials) are the Andreaeopsida. The juvenile stages in both Takakia and Andreaea comprise ill-defined, sometimes multiaxial, axial to almost parenchymatous ‘filaments’ which are difficult to equate with the highly ordered protonemata and rhizoids of other mosses. Indeed, these juvenile stages more closely resemble the filamentous structures produced by the germinating spores of a few jungermannialean liverworts, e.g. Cephalozia. Even the so-called rhizoidless mosses (Calliergon trifarium, Pleurozium, Pseudoscleropodium, Rhytidium, Hylocomium, Scorpidium) always produce typical protonemata from spores and from rhizoids during regeneration in culture from gametophyte fragments.

Apart from Sphagnum, the only other well-documented non-filamentous protonemal structures are the plates in the Tetraphidales (Goode, Duckett & Stead, 1992) and the funnel-shaped upright appendages in the Buxbaumiales (Duckett, 1994). It therefore came as a considerable surprise to discover Tetraphis-like protonemal plates around colonies of Oedipodium griffithianum. A fossick through the literature revealed a passing mention of these in Goebel (1905) which was then tracked down, via Goebel (1889), to the original and apparently only first-hand description by Berggren (1873), whence they appear to have been forgotten. Culturing of Oedipodium, from both gemmae and spores, confirmed the Tetraphis-like protonema. Oedipodium is almost invariably placed with the Funariales - solely, it seems, on the basis of supposed similarities in capsule shape. However, Oedipodium lacks a peristome, and the quadrifed structure in Tetraphidales cannot be sensibly reconciled with the peristomes of other mosses. Molecular data now place Oedipodium and Tetraphis close together, and far removed from all the Eubryidae. In contrast, three of the four genera in the Gigaspermaceae (Gigaspermum, Oedipodiella, Chamaebryum) which all lack peristomes and are also placed close to the Funariales, all have unremarkable protonemata.

Also striking is the closeness in molecular terms of the Polytrichales and Buxbaumiales. Here again, the protonemata have a notable commonality; buds are produced from the centre of upright parenchyma-like branches, though these are not funnel-shaped in the Polytrichales. We have never seen protonemal gemmae in either group.

Within the Eubryidae examples of remarkable and sometimes totally unexpected congruence are now emerging between molecular and protonemata data. With their highly-structured basal tmema (abscission) cells and attenuated sticky acumina, the protonemal gemmae of Calymperes, Octoblepharum and Syrropodon (Ligrone, Duckett & Egunyomi, 1992) in the Dicranales are the most highly structured yet described in mosses. But very similar gemmae also occur in the supposedly unrelated moss, Schistostega (Edwards, 1978) which, like Oedipodium, is eperistomate. Both molecular data and the protonemal propagules indicate that Schistostega should now be transferred from the Diplolepideae into the Dicranales.

Pointed chloronemata are a characteristic feature of the Pottiales, a few members of the Dicranales, and the supposedly funarialean, but again eperistomate, Ephemerum (Duckett, Goode & Stead, 1993). Molecular data indicate strong affinities between these taxa, and support the transfer of Ephemerum to the Haplolepideae. Schizolytic separation of protonemal foliar and cauline gemmae throughout the Pottiales (Ligrone, Duckett & Gambardella, 1996) contrasts with the more widespread liberation mechanism involving tmema cells, and suggests that this is a natural order.

Molecular affinities between the Grimmiaceae and the Ptychomitriaceae are reinforced by similar protonemata, which in both these families comprise attenuated filaments bereft of gemmae. To date the Grimmiales is the only group which does not comply with the ‘Whitehouse Rule’ (Whitehouse, 1987) - mosses that produce protonemal gemmae also produce these elsewhere and vice versa. Short-celled transversely-septate protonemata and molecular data unify the Orthotrichales (Goode, Stead & Duckett, 1993) and Isobryales, whereas hypnobryalean protonemata appear to be singularly uninteresting taxonomically. All have typical funarialean chloro/caulonemata, and gemmae are remarkably rare, two notable exceptions being Pseudotaxiphyllum (Isopterygium) elegans and Eurhynchium hians (E. swartzii). In the latter species their occurrence could well explain the arcane occurrence of these rarely-fruiting mosses in transient habitats.

The new data from molecular biology and protonemata suggest major revisions will be needed for future moss Floras.


Berggren S. 1873. Om proembryots utveckling och byggnad hos slägtena Diphyscium och Oedipodium. Botaniska Notiser 109-112.

Duckett JG. 1994. Studies of protonemal morphogenesis in mosses. V. Diphyscium foliosum (Hedw.) Mohr (Buxbaumiales). Journal of Bryology 18: 223-238.

Duckett JG, Goode JA, Stead AD. 1993. Studies of protonemal morphogenesis in mosses. I. Ephemerum. Journal of Bryology 17: 397-408.

Edwards SR. 1978. Protonemal gemmae in Schistostega pennata (Hedw.) Web. et Mohr. Journal of Bryology 10: 69-72.

Goebel K. 1889. Ueber die Jugendzustände der Pflanzen. Flora 72: 1-45.

Goebel K. 1905. Organography of plants. Translated IB Balfour. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Goode JA, Duckett JG, Stead AD. 1992. Morphogenesis of the moss Tetraphis pellucida Hedw. in culture and in the wild. Annals of Botany 70: 519-530.

Goode, JA, Stead AD, Duckett JG. 1993. Studies of protonemal morphogenesis in mosses. II. Orthotrichum obtusifolium Brid. Journal of Bryology 17: 409-419.

Ligrone R, Duckett JG, Egunyomi A. 1992. Foliar and protonemal gemmae in the tropical moss Calymperes (Calymperaceae): an ultrastructural study. Cryptogamic Botany 2: 317-329.

Ligrone R, Duckett JG, Renzaglia KS. 1993. The gametophyte-sporophyte junction in land plants. Advances in Botanical Research 19: 231-317.

Ligrone R, Duckett JG, Gambardella R. 1996. Serial development of foliar gemmae in Tortula (Pottiales, Musci), an ultrastructural study. Annals of Botany 78: 305-315.

Ligrone R, Duckett JG. 1998. Development of the leafy shoot in Sphagnum (Bryophyta) involves the activity of both apical and subapical meristems. New Phytologist 140: 581-596.

Renzaglia KS, Duckett JG. 1988. Different developmental processes underlie spermatozoid architecture in mosses, hepatics and hornworts. Journal of the Hattori Botanical Laboratory 64: 219-235.

Renzaglia KS, McFarland FD, Smith DK. 1997. Anatomy and ultrastructure of the sporophyte of Takakia ceratophylla (Bryophyta). American Journal of Botany 84: 1337-1350.

Whitehouse HLK. 1987. Protonema-gemmae in European mosses. Symposia Biological Hungarica 35: 227-231.


In the morning, 36 members explored the steep north-facing slope of Didling Hill, including chalk grassland and semi-natural mixed broadleaved woodland. The banks of the track through the woodland had Eurhynchium schleicheri and there were plenty of chalk stones with Seligeria calycina (S. paucifolia) and Tortella inflexa. All the more interesting chalk grassland liverworts known from this site were refound, including Frullania tamarisci, Scapania aspera (locally abundant), Porella arboris-vitae and Jungermannia atrovirens. We failed to refind the mosses Racomitrium lanuginosum and Antitrichia curtipendula from the top of the hill, in spite of careful searching led by Francis Rose, who knew these from the site previously. A good colony of Hylocomium brevirostre, not seen before at Didling, was some compensation. A remarkable find was a patch of Aulacomnium palustre on steep chalk grassland (the pH of this was determined by David Streeter as 8.4).

After lunch, a visit was made to Chalkpit Lane near the Trundle from where there is a fine view over the West Sussex coastal plain, Chichester Harbour and the Isle of Wight. Thuidium abietinum ssp. abietinum and ssp. hystricosum were seen growing near each other in the only extant locality for both on the South Downs. The excursion finished by Midhurst Common in an old brick pit where Lophocolea bispinosa (first found there by Howard Matcham a few years ago) is still abundant. Fossombronia foveolata and Blasia pusilla were also seen there.


Bryological Workshop 1997

University of East London 15 - 16 November

Nine members attended this meeting at the University of East London on 15-16 November at which Mark Hill took the opportunity to review taxonomic problems in the genus Sphagnum, particularly in the light of the work of Flatberg on the much more extensive and variable continental populations - giving us an erudite breakdown of the problems engendered by inconsistent lumping and splitting, and by using characters that apply well enough to British plants but fall down in the case of American or in some cases continental material of supposedly the same taxa. Galvanised and inspired by the meeting on the Saturday, for which he had gathered a large quantity of illustrative living material, Mark then spent the Sunday revising the Sphagnum list in preparation for the second edition of Tony Smith’s Moss Flora.

Participants were pleased to meet and welcome Allan Green, who popped over from New Zealand, via Germany, at just the right moment to attend the meeting, and who needed little persuasion to give us a fascinating account of the mass propagation and production of Sphagnum (dried) for the Japanese market, collected by the helicopter load from the bogs along the narrow but very wet west coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

Finally, Ken Adams summarised the distinguishing characters separating our two Leucobryum taxa, based on a study of the two species in Epping Forest over many years, and attempted to unravel the confusion engendered by conflicting descriptions in the literature. In discussing Yamaguchi’s recent revision of the Asiatic taxa in the genus it became clear that our two species are much more closely circumscribed than Yamaguchi’s sensu lato aggregate of L. juniperoideum. His Asiatic ‘L. glaucum’ has setae in the range 8-11 mm, about the range of our L. juniperoideum, whereas our material of L. glaucum has setae roughly double that length. Similarly, Asiatic material of the two species is said to have capsules of roughly the same size, at 1.5-1.6 mm, whereas our L. glaucum has capsules on average twice the size of those of L. juniperoideum. Thus the crucial characters that we use to satisfactorily separate our two Leucobryums would seemingly not work on Asiatic material.



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