BBS > Activities > Meetings and Workshops > Previous > 1999
Meetings of the BBS - 1999
Abergavenny, Gwent, 14-21 April
The last time that the Society visited this part of Wales was during the 1984 Spring Meeting held at Brecon. Abergavenny is further to the east and whilst most of the excursions were in Breconshire (v.-c.42), we also ventured into Monmouthshire (v.-c.35). The town is convenient for visiting the Black Mountains lying to the north and reaching an altitude of 800m. Like the Brecon Beacons to the west, they are composed of Devonian Old Red Sandstone and can be very base-rich in places. To the southwest lie the Coal Measures of the Welsh valleys, which are overlain by bands of Carboniferous Limestone. These have been heavily quarried in the past and contain an extensive cave system. The final day was spent on the acid conglomerates of the lower Wye Valley.
Our base was Tyr Morwydd Environmental Study Centre, a converted convent school, which lent an appropriate air of moral seriousness to the weeks activities. The meeting was well attended with 34 staying at the centre over the weekend, and about 44 present in the field, although as usual numbers dwindled towards the end of the week. Thanks to some unseasonable weather, members arriving on the Wednesday were greeted with the beautiful sight of sunlit snow covering the Skirrid and the slopes of the Black Mountains, although the local secretary was rather anxious as an upland excursion had been planned for the next day. Shortly after her arrival, Jean Paton lost no time in finding Syntrichia papillosa (reported as new to v.-c.35 earlier in the year) on an ash trunk in the grounds of Abergavenny Castle.
THURSDAY 15th APRIL
Although there was still a good deal of snow around, the area of Cwmyoy (v.-c. 35, SO 2923) was clear. We squeezed into the small car park behind the church, and as the sun came out headed uphill to explore the west-facing sandstone cliffs and the extensive area of block scree. We had hoped to relocate Grimmia longirostris on some of the boulders, but despite prolonged search among the dried up cushions of Grimmia pulvinata, Orthotrichum cupulatum, Racomitrium heterostichum, Schistidium apocarpum agg., Ptychomitrium polyphyllum, Zygodon viridissimus var. stirtonii and a perplexing form of Grimmia trichophylla (fruiting), we were disappointed.
The boulders were quite base rich and in places Pterogonium gracile and Scapania aspera were abundant. A few tufts of Didymodon ferrugineus were noted on the tops of some of the boulders shaded by trees, sometimes growing with Porella arboris-vitae. Other liverworts noted in this area include Leiocolea turbinata, Lejeunea lamacerina, Reboulia hemisphaerica, Scapania compacta and Tritomaria quinquidentata. On stony ground at the base of the cliffs there were several patches of Brachythecium glareosum, and higher up the slopes Weissia brachycarpa var. obliqua. The cliffs themselves were rather dry, but there were a few areas of water seepage where we found cushions of Amphidium mougeotii, Didymodon rigidulus, Eucladium verticillatum and Gymnostomum aeruginosum. There were some interesting epiphyte communities, especially on ash and elder in the sheltered areas at the base of the cliffs. Michael Proctor found a large patch of Leucodon sciuroides, and we also noted Cryphaea heteromalla, Orthotrichum lyellii, O. stramineum, Syntrichia laevipila, and Ulota phyllantha. The latter plant has only recently been recorded as new from v.-c.35 and v.-c.36, so it seems to be increasing in the area. Although no great rarities were discovered, we saw 105 mosses and 28 liverworts at a most pleasing locality.
On the way back, we tried to relocate Bryum gemmiparum at a couple of its old localities on the river Grwyne near Forest Coal Pit, where it had been seen in the 1950s and 60s. Unfortunately there had been considerable disturbance to the river bank since that time, and we did not find the plant either there or further upstream at Coed-dias, although Seán OLeary spotted an interesting plant on the bridge here that turned out to be Grimmia decipiens.
FRIDAY 16th APRIL
Most of the day was spent exploring the lower part of the Clydach Gorge NNR (v.-c. 42 SO 2212) where the river Clydach cuts through the Carboniferous Limestone. We parked beside the disused Llanelly quarry, and walked down the steep wooded slope to the river. The limestone boulders beside the track supported a rich growth of calcicolous bryophytes, including Brachythecium glareosum, Scapania aspera, and some luxuriant Taxiphyllum wissgrillii. Zygodon conoideus was fruiting on elder, and a heap of cinders yielded a puzzling Eurhynchium that provoked much debate, but turned out to be E.schleicheri after all. At the bottom of the track Jean Paton confirmed the presence of Plagiochila britannica, and Mark Pool found a large patch of Hypnum lindbergii. At this point Mark Hill, together with Gordon Rothero, plunged down the steep slopes of the lower part of the gorge. He emerged further upstream with records of Campylophyllum calcareum, Platydictya jungermannioides*, and Lophocolea fragrans*. Nowellia curvifolia was present on a number of logs, and Seán OLeary found Cephalozia lunulifolia*.
We had lunch beside the river close to some low cliffs where Martha Newton pointed out Cololejeunea calcarea. Some more intrepid members managed to cross the river and continued upstream. Orthothecium intricatum was present in some of the limestone crevices, and Gordon Rothero found patches of Marchesinia mackaii*. Others returned to the old quarry, and noted Aloina aloides*, Jungermannia pumila, Leiocolea badensis, Leiocolea turbinata and Scapania compacta.
In the afternoon we visited Landynidr Bridge (v.-c.42 SO1520) and the south bank of the river Usk for about a mile upstream, hoping to relocate the Bryum gemmiparum that had been noted by the BBS in 1984. Unfortunately we were disappointed in this, but we did find Didymodon nicholsonii, D. spadiceus, Leskea polycarpa, Orthotrichum rivulare, Leiocolea alpestris and Plagiochila britannica. Gordon Rothero noted Fissidens exiguus.
SATURDAY 17th APRIL
Bryologists on their way up Craig Cerrig
Gleisiad National Nature Reserve, near Abergavenny
Craig Cerrig Gleisiad NNR (v.-c.42 SN 9621) is a north-facing sandstone Cwm in the Brecon Beacons, that was last visited by the society in 1984. Most people headed straight for the cliffs and worked their way along in scattered groups, exploring the rich bryophyte flora of the rock ledges. It was a good day for lovers of the Bartramiaceae, with B. halleriana, B. ithyphylla, B. pomiformis, together with Plagiopus oederianus all being found in close proximity by Blanka Buryová . Other species from the rock crevices included Amphidium mougeotii, Brachydontium trichodes, Seligeria recurvata and Rhabdoweisia crispata. Some of the area was quite base rich, with large mats of Ctenidium molluscum var. condensatum in the damper areas. There were cushions of Anoectangium aestivum, Grimmia torquata and Gymnostomum aeruginosum in the rock crevices with Bryoerythrophyllum ferruginascens, Plagiobryum zieri, Orthothecium intricatum and fruiting Isopterygiopsis pulchella. Jean Paton homed in on a gemmiferous stem of Leiocolea heterocolpos growing through a cushion of Scapania aspera, and Nick Hodgetts found Scapania aequiloba* and Frullania microphylla var. deciduifolia* in its second British locality. Tom Blockeel vanished up a gully, and was later able to confirm the presence of Eremonotus myriocarpus. Jan Hendey found Racomitrium aquaticum on some exposed rocks.
In the afternoon, various parties split off to visit other localities. Some scrambled up through the gullies and headed over the moorland to Craig y fro (SN9720). The flora is similar here, but Mark Lawley added Seligeria pusilla, Ray Woods Tetrodontium brownianum, and Peter Martin Tortella nitida to the list. Sean OLeary and others visited a ravine at Storey Arms (SN 990200) and found Jungermannia exsertifolia ssp. cordifolia and Plagiochila punctata. A further party stopped at the ravine of the Gawnant Fawr (SO 003131) and noted Anastrophyllum hellerianum, Sphagnum quinquefarium, and Lophozia sudetica. Close by at the edge of the reservoir, Rod and Vanessa Stern recorded Atrichum crispum. Finally, Harold Whitehouse led a dedicated party to admire and photograph Gymnostomum calcareum growing on tufa at Vaynor (SO 050103), at an old locality of Roy Perrys, just downhill from a pub.
The day concluded at Tyr Morwydd with a meeting of Council, whose proceedings were rendered even more eventful than usual by the throwing of a stone through the window (from the outside!).
SUNDAY 19th APRIL
Permission had been granted by Welsh Water for us to drive up to the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir (v.-c.42 SO2330) deep within the Black Mountains. We spent some time investigating the outcrops of dripping base rich sandstone below the dam. There were large cushions of fruiting Gymnostomum aeruginosum, and Blindia acuta was also plentiful. Graeme Smith found a fine patch of Isopterygiopsis pulchella, and Scapania umbrosa* was present on some of the larger pieces of rock that had fallen to the ground. On the soil nearer the dam were found Bryoerythrophyllum ferruginascens, Entosthodon obtusus, Campyliadelphus chrysophyllus, and Barbilophozia attenuata. Orthotrichum cupulatum var. riparium* was abundant on the dam masonry.
We walked alongside the reservoir to reach the stream inflow and nearby low cliffs at the far end. Tim Blackstock noted Scapania subalpina and Leiocolea bantriensis beside the stream, and Mark Lawley recorded Plagiochila spinulosa. Angela Newton pointed out some good patches of negatively geotropic Tetrodontium brownianum as we sheltered from a hailstorm. This grew in association with Brachydontium trichodes and Seligeria recurvata, and Gordon Rothero also found Campylostelium saxicola. Other plants seen included Drepanocladus cossonii, Mnium marginatum, Mnium stellare, Tortula subulata var. graeffii, Barbilophozia floerkei, Leiocolea alpestris and Scapania scandica.
Some stopped on the way back to explore a ravine at SO 247291. All of us except Tom Blockeel walked past a large patch of Riccia beyrichiana. Picking our way through the macerating sheep corpses that littered the stream, we found a similar flora to that noted earlier in the day, although Didymodon spadiceus, Orthothecium intricatum and Cephalozia lunulifolia were additions. As it was Sunday, a number of the party visited the church at Partrishow, in order to admire the fine pre-reformation rood screen.
MONDAY 20th APRIL
A much smaller group met to explore the Carboniferous Limestone escarpment and old quarries of Craig y Cilau NNR (v.-c.42 SO1816). The path led past the small raised bog of Wern Ddu (SO 185165) which although common land and degraded by heavy grazing was still of interest. Both Calliergon giganteum and C. stramineum were present, together with Sphagnum flexuosum, Scapania irrigua, and some rather depauperate Polytrichum strictum. Seán OLeary impressed us with his previously hidden credentials as a freshwater biologist, by finding a water scorpion.
Ron Porley headed straight up to the limestone cliffs, and recorded Seligeria trifaria and Platydictya jungermannioides before leaving early. The majority of the party continued up towards the old quarries along a more gentle path. Scapania aspera and Scleropodium cespitans were present on the boulders, and on the soil between Harold Whitehouse noticed a Funaria that turned out to be F.muhlenbergii. Not for the first time during the meeting, we found ourselves following in the footsteps of E F Warburg, who had visited Craig y Cilau in the course of his work on the apomictic Sorbus spp. He had recorded Bryum mildeanum, but the best candidate for the plant, found in short turf by Mark Pool, turned out to be only B. pseudotriquetrum. Also in the turf, Michael Proctor found Mnium marginatum, and Mark Lawley Fossombromia ? incurva, but unfortunately there was not enough material to make a confident identification.
The limestone of the old quarries was rather hard and dry, but John Blackburn found Seligeria pusilla. On soil near the cave of Eglwys Faen we admired good material of Reboulia hemisphaerica with inflorescences. We also noted Aloina aloides, Brachythecium glareosum, Dicranum bonjeanii, Plagiomnium elatum, Blepharostoma trichophyllum and Leiocolea alpestris. Whilst heading back to the cars we were met by Graham Motley, from CCW Abergavenny, who had found Splachnum sphaericum in a bog above the escarpment.
TUESDAY 21st APRIL
The last day was extremely wet and put the dedication of the much-dwindled party of bryologists to the test. We visited two Gwent Nature Trust reserves in the lower Wye Valley, although it was impossible to do them justice given the weather conditions. The first, Prisk Wood (v.-c.35 SO532090) is an area of woodland that has grown up around a complex of small quarries in the acid conglomerate. A magnificent display of bluebells cheered us up almost as much as Mark Pools discovery of Lophocolea fragrans that he plucked from a rock crevice beside a stream. Plagiochila britannica and P. spinulosa were noted, and Orthotrichum pulchellum and more Ulota phyllantha were found on elders. Leucobryum juniperoideum was present on the woodland floor.
As we sat in our cars having lunch, the rain pounded against the windows, and we were joined by Peter Martin who had left his warm dry office to join us for the afternoon. We proceeded to the wooded ravine at Llandogo known as Cleddon Shoots (v.-c.35 SO523041) which had previously been visited by the Society in 1968. The stream was so full of water that it was difficult to explore it properly, but we were pleased to note that Jubula hutchinsiae and Fissidens rivularis were still present, and there were good mounds of Hyocomium armoricum. Beside the stream we recorded Plagiothecium laetum, Metzgeria conjugata, Pellia neesiana and Plagiochila spinulosa. Finally, Peter took us a few miles south to Lower Wyndcliff (v.-c.35 ST5297) where the opportunity to pay our respects to bryophytes of such stature as Seligeria campylopoda and Gymnostomum viridulum provided a fitting climax to the week.
I am very grateful to Ray Woods for the help he gave in organising the meeting, and for putting the resources of CCW at my disposal. Graham Motley kindly provided maps and lists of interesting species for some of the localities. Welsh Water gave permission for us to use their access road to the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir, and Gwent Nature Trust were happy for us to visit their reserves. Jean Paton kindly advised me on the organisation of the meeting, and scrutinised the draft of this report. My thanks are due to all those who sent in records and to those who verified material. Finally I would like to extend my personal thanks to all who attended the meeting, in the hope that they obtained as much interest and pleasure from it as I did.
Dungarvan and New Ross, 1999
The 1999 Summer Meeting was held in Ireland from 8 to 20 August. It was based at Dungarvan for the first week and at New Ross for the second week. As most of the people attending the meeting could only join part of it, daily numbers fluctuated. Present at various times were Tom Blockeel, Sinead Callaghan, Conor Clenehan, Maria Cullen, Helena Durwael, Howard Fox, Daniel Kelly, Neil Lockhart, Petra Mair, Margaret OBrien, Grace ODonovan, Claire Parkes, Roy Perry, Phil Stanley and Dan Wrench. A few participants took the opportunity to go to Killarney National Park and Dingle for a few days bryology in oceanic habitats. Results from these excursions to south-west Ireland, and fungal distractions throughout the BBS meeting, are not reported in detail here.
The British Bryological Society has previously held field meetings in south-east Ireland in Clonmel in 1966 (Synnott, 1967) and Arklow in 1975 (Synnott, 1976), when many vice-county records were made. Though fewer, the number of new records and updates made in 1999 was still substantial. Many interesting sites of very high quality and of conservation importance for mosses and liverworts in this region of Ireland were studied.
The first week of the meeting was spent entirely in Co. Waterford (VC H6), except for a small incursion across the boundary with East Cork (VC H5) during one afternoon.
SUNDAY 8 AUGUST
Lismore Woods and Owennashad River (S00)
We began in Lismore woods and the first observations were made in the car park, where the humid climate was nicely illustrated by Microlejeunea ulicina growing on the wooden picnic tables! Zygodon rupestris* was on a large oak here. The Atlantic flavour of the flora was soon indicated by Harpalejeunea molleri on the trees, Lophocolea fragrans on a damp stone, and the notable occurrence of Telaranea nematodes* under rhododendron. (Fortunately, because of their old and undisturbed nature and the lack of heavy grazing pressure, rhododendron has not taken strong hold in these woods.) Other species in the woods included Anthoceros punctatus by the main path, Zygodon conoideus* on an oak twig, and Leucobryum juniperoideum* and Plagiothecium denticulatum* on banks. We then went into the oak woods in the valley of the Owennashad River. This stunning area is an oasis for oceanic species, marred slightly by an unsightly dump of rubbish on a steep bank below the road. It was a surprise for many to see Breutelia chrysocoma growing happily on a wall-top! Dumortiera hirsuta and Jubula hutchinsiae were particularly impressive on a dripping rock bank with Saccogyna viticulosa and Trichocolea tomentella. Porella pinnata and Isothecium holtii were by the stream, and Plagiochila killarniensis and P. spinulosa on shaded rocks. Neckera pumila grew on trees. Other records included Nowellia curvifolia* and Riccardia palmata* on rotting wood, Bazzania trilobata* in the rocky woodland, and sterile Diphyscium foliosum* in a rocky cleft.
MONDAY 9 AUGUST
Mine Head, Ballymacart and Monaneea Lough (X28)
The objective was to record some unknown sites. We started at Mine Head, east of the lighthouse. Some descended the eutrophic ravine to the shore, finding Tortula viridifolia on an earthy ledge and Schistidium maritimum on rocks, while others ranged over disturbingly steep friable coastal crags. Scapania compacta and Lophozia excisa were found in a small disused quarry, and Plagiochila killarniensis* and Frullania microphylla* on a crag high on the slopes. For lunch we went on to Ballymacart, a lightly farmed and bushy valley, with tufa seeps into the river. This is a very pleasant area with lots of niches packed together, each with a good range of bryophytes. Young ash trees supported Cryphaea heteromalla, Neckera pumila and Cololejeunea minutissima. Leiocolea turbinata* was on tufa, and colonists of bare soil included Ephemerum serratum var. minutissimum, Bryum subapiculatum* and B. klinggraeffii*. The most unexpected find was a second Irish station for Fissidens rivularis*, growing on rocks in the stream under the roadbridge. In the late afternoon we went on to Monaneea Lough, passing through conifer clearfell before crossing the rushy bog, alive with wasps, which supported several Sphagnum species together with Odontoschisma sphagni*, and both Warnstorfia fluitans* and W. exannulata*.
TUESDAY 10 AUGUST
Coumfea and Coumalocha (S20, S21)
We went into the Comeragh mountains and visited Coumfea and Coumalocha, parking in the Nier Valley. Neil Lockhart joined us for the day, and with his help we began the day with an unsuccessful search for Hamatocaulis vernicosus, known to occur here, but we probably joined the R. Nier at too high a point. Dicranum scottianum was seen on boulders during the ascent, but most of the bryology began after the tramp upslope at the moraine blocks and the corrie lake at Coumfea. Both Barbilophozia floerkei* and B. atlantica* were found here, the latter in apparently only its second confirmed Irish station. Also on rocks about the lake were Hedwigia stellata, Racomitrium sudeticum* and Jubula hutchinsiae. The cliff behind the lake was a rewarding place to eat lunch, and though not especially rich in bryophytes produced a little Gymnomitrion crenulatum, Rhabdoweisia crenulata, and in a gully Anoectangium aestivum*. Colura calyptrifolia was an exciting find on the bare rock. One or two bryologists traversed around the next coum recording the very few Atlantic hepatics left (including a little Bazzania tricrenata). The sheep have almost totally removed the protective heather cover on wet and damp steep slopes, and as a result the Atlantic hepatic mats are drying and dying out in this part of the Comeragh mountain range. The paternoster lake shores were quite engaging, with much Isothecium holtii, and one participant swam in a lake. Pohlia bulbifera* was found on dried-out peat in an overspill pool. On the return downslope more time was spent in an effort to relocate Hamatocaulis vernicosus, this time successfully in another known site on the slopes below Sgilloge Lochs.
Owennashad River (X09)
Roy and Phil later explored the E bank of the Owennashad River just N of Lismore. Here there is a public path in open wet woodland with broadleaved trees and shaded sandstone boulders. Lophocolea fragrans was on a decorticated log, and Hookeria lucens, Dumortiera hirsuta and Saccogyna viticulosa were on shaded soil on a bank under rhododendron.
WEDNESDAY 11 AUGUST
Various localities in Co. Kerry
Roy and Phil left on this day of the solar eclipse for a few days bryologising in Co. Kerry (VCs H1 and H2). Here, over the course of three days, they saw many of the exciting bryophytes that this part of Ireland is renowned for, including Telaranea nematodes, Cephalozia hibernica, Eremonotus myriocarpus, Sematophyllum demissum, S. micans and of course Dumortiera hirsuta, with male and female receptacles; they also recorded the adventives Leptotheca gaudichaudii Schwaegr. and Calomnion complanatum (Hook.f. & Wils.) Lindb. on the trunks of tree ferns, probably introduced from Australasia. The classic site, Torc Waterfall (VC H2, V9784), is within easy reach of Killarney and is now a major tourist attraction with the inevitable car park. However, Roy and Phil saw most of the bryophytes for which it is famous and the bryologically interesting habitats are more-or-less intact. Amongst other localities they visited the broadleaved woodland (oak/holly/birch) at Galways Bridge (VC H2, V9180) on the N side of the Galways River and found that the rhododendron had been cut down and removed, leaving a pitiful open community which will take a long time to recuperate. The same was observed in Derrycunihy Wood further west, made famous in the 1930s by Paul Richards. It is to be hoped that the rhododendron will not be allowed to re-invade the sites and their stumps be destroyed, and that the re-establishment of native trees is encouraged.
Glendine Woods (X08)
Back in Waterford, the main party visited Glendine Woods. We were joined for the first part of this wet day by Margaret OBrien, the head gardener. We studied the river just above tidal influence in the estuary, in deep shade of the woods. Despite the thick cloud cover and rain, we sensed the much heralded solar eclipse darkening the sky at 11.11 a.m. In spite of the gloom, Dumortiera hirsuta, Lophocolea fragrans, Plagiochila spinulosa, Porella pinnata, Jubula hutchinsiae and Lejeunea holtii were found, showing the richness of the riverside banks. However, the owners are distressed by the deteriorating water quality, resulting from an elevated sediment load engineered upstream. The impact is most directly seen by examining the response of a few species of saxicolous fluvial-zone hepatics. The shoots and leaves of Porella pinnata, for example, were unusually scrappy; the damage was caused by sediment scouring. Other species noted in the woods included Porella arboris-vitae, Neckera pumila, Trichocolea tomentella and Cololejeunea minutissima.
Tallow Bridge (X09) and R. Bride (W99)
In the afternoon, we studied some very different habitats. A flood meadow east of Tallow Bridge was muddy and produced Physcomitrium pyriforme*, Aphanorhegma patens*, Bryum klinggraeffii and Leptobryum pyriforme*. However, we were prevented by deep watery ditches from entering the wet woodland which had been our objective. At Tallow Bridge, wall mortar produced Gymnostomum viridulum, and the bridge foundations supported Fissidens crassipes* at water level. We examined the banks of the R. Bride at several points, including a small stretch within East Cork (VC H5). These banks proved to have a very interesting riparian flora, with Syntrichia latifolia* (H5 and H6), Didymodon nicholsonii, Orthotrichum sprucei* (H5 and H6), O. rivulare* (H5) and Leskea polycarpa* (H5), all in good quantity. Epiphytes higher up the tree trunks included Syntrichia papillosa* (H6) and Cryphaea heteromalla.
THURSDAY 12 AUGUST
The day was spent in Coomshingaun, ending at the steep ground and imposing cliffs on the south side of the lough. This area is still of superb quality, as first indicated by the 1966 BBS visit (Synnott, 1967), and the hepatics and mosses were very engaging. For most of us, this was the best locality of the week, and happily the corrie was found to have been less severely damaged by sheep grazing than at Coumfea. We spent all of the morning on the bouldery slopes below the corrie, an area with many springs and rivulets among the rocks. Atlantic species were much in evidence, with Lepidozia cupressina, Plagiochila punctata, P. spinulosa, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Dicranum scottianum and Isothecium holtii. Particularly pleasing were the excellent patches of Lejeunea holtii growing with Jubula hutchinsiae on rocks by the rivulets. Some of the boulders were strongly base-enriched and supported Hedwigia integrifolia, Pterogonium gracile, Porella obtusata and P. arboris-vitae, as well as commoner calcicoles. Trichocolea tomentella was also found.
In the afternoon we proceeded along the rock walls on the south side of the corrie. These were strongly acidic and produced Grimmia curvata, Cynodontium bruntonii and Rhabdoweisia crenulata. Late in the day a few of us reached the gully in the south-western corner of the corrie, which proved to be very exciting. There were indications of base-enrichment, and we saw Palustriella commutata var. commutata* for the first time during the week. There was a fine array of Atlantic liverworts here: Herbertus aduncus subsp. hutchinsiae (sparsely), Bazzania tricrenata, Plagiochila exigua*, Radula voluta, R. aquilegia, Colura calyptrifolia, Aphanolejeunea microscopica, Harpalejeunea molleri, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Jubula hutchinsiae, Frullania teneriffae and F. fragilifolia. The mosses included Anoectangium aestivum. It was late in the day and we had to leave this excellent place sooner than we wished, sensing that there was much we had not yet seen.
FRIDAY 13 AUGUST
Fenor Bog (S50)
A foray into Fenor Bog revealed rather few species between the large fen tussocks, both on trees and at groundwater level. One highlight was the fen specialist Calliergon giganteum*. The concrete well cap on the way in added Syntrichia papillosa. However, this is quite a swampy place to get around in, and we probably missed a few species. A few more bryophytes were scraped up in the adjacent conifer stand, including Orthodontium lineare* and Cololejeunea minutissima.
Tramore Burrow (S60) and Bunmahon (X49)
We moved on for lunch, and spent the afternoon on Tramore Burrow, a rather inhospitable saline place for mosses, with Hennediella heimii. The sand dunes were mostly very dry, but Tortella flavovirens was present. In the evening, the Bunmahon coast and mines were studied, and Cephaloziella massalongi was refound by Dan Wrench after an intrepid descent into a deep rocky hole. An old mine adit was stained bright blue by the copper deposits.
SATURDAY 14 AUGUST
At the end of the first week, we moved on to New Ross and Co. Wexford (VC H12). In the morning we had to bid farewell to Tom Blockeel, and later in the day to Dan Wrench.
Ballyknockcrumpin and R. Barrow (S73)
On his return north after leaving the rest of the party at New Ross, Tom recorded at two places in the extreme south of Co. Carlow (VC H13). The first site was at Ballyknockcrumpin on the north bank of the Pollymounty River, which forms the county boundary for a short distance here with Co. Wexford. The stream is bordered by scrubby woodland and is unexceptional, and the discovery of Lejeunea holtii* on a boulder near water level was therefore a big surprise. Porella pinnata* nearby was the only other strongly Atlantic species present. Amblystegium fluviatile, Fontinalis squamosa and Fissidens pusillus* were in and by the stream, and Heterocladium heteropterum var. flaccidum* was on a small boulder in the woodland. The epiphytic flora was rather rich, with Metzgeria fruticulosa*, Cololejeunea minutissima*, Microlejeunea ulicina*, Orthotrichum pulchellum*, Zygodon conoideus*, Cryphaea heteromalla, Neckera pumila* and Hypnum andoi*. The second site was on the banks of the River Barrow at St Mullins. Tortula marginata* and Eurhynchium crassinervium* were on a derelict building and mortared bridge respectively, and Anomodon viticulosus* on the embankment wall by the river. A little to the north, Orthotrichum cupulatum var. riparium* was on sycamore on the river bank. Wet ground by a section of canal had Jungermannia pumila (surprisingly on damp humus), Cololejeunea minutissima on Salix, and Leptodictyum riparium* on a log. The canal path had Physcomitrium pyriforme and several ruderals, including Dicranella staphylina*, Tortula acaulon*, Bryum subapiculatum*, B. klinggraeffii and B. violaceum*. A copse, mainly planted with conifers, produced Leucobryum juniperoideum* and, on a trackside bank, Bryum sauteri and Fissidens bryoides*.
New Ross and environs
Meanwhile, the remainder of the party in New Ross spent the morning looking about Rosbercon on walls in the town, and along the east bank of the Barrow upstream from New Ross. In the late afternoon, they visited Ballyanne wood, a wooded patch just above tidal influence in a creek off the Barrow estuary. This place is still humid, despite having the timber recently cut out of it for firewood, and it has most of the pioneer corticolous hepatics one could expect.
SUNDAY 15 AUGUST
The second week of the meeting was less productive, mainly because of the small number of participants and a drift away to the attractions of Killarney in the latter part of the week. Only a brief account of the itinerary can be given here.
Various localities (S93)
The travellers from Kerry (Roy and Phil) were now back and went on a general tour of Wexford (VC H12) in order to fill in field record cards in areas previously unrecorded: Carrig graveyard S of Enniscorthy, The Soldiers Hole and the Boro River SW of Enniscorthy (which had vast quantities of Metzgeria fruticulosa), Bree Hill, and Raheennahoon Hill, the latter two forestry plantations with grassy forest tracks, were all visited.
The main party went to Mount Leinster. The bryology here was a bit of a struggle, though the Urrin flushes were wet. The heather turf on the mountain slopes was generally dry and burnt, but once we got to the cloud base above 500 m and on towards the summit, granite blocks were fine for Racomitrium, and the wet lips of peat hags were quite rich.
MONDAY 16 AUGUST
Great Saltee Island (X99)
This sunny day was spent by the main party on Great Saltee Island, recorded for its bryophytes by H.W. Lett in 1913. Mosses and hepatics were hard to find, largely because the island is so dry and bracken infested. We followed Letts advice on where the best damp ground was, and we looked at trees and ruins around the well by the house, along the boulder clay bank on the north coast, and in drainage ditches between fields. A few species were found in short turf near the Princes Seat. The bryophytes were poor, and we barely found half the species listed by Lett. The rest of the day was spent pursuing seals, gannets and coastal plants.
Various localities (S92)
Roy and Phil recorded bryophytes in S92, visiting a spruce plantation with wet hollows 5 km NW of Barntown and a green lane S of Harristown. Later, the lane to St Munnas Well, W of Browncastle Bridge, was worked. Here, steeply-banked lanes with dripping shale rock cuttings provided a pleasant bryological venue.
TUESDAY 17 AUGUST
Doo Lough (T12)
The morning was spent in Doo Lough kettlehole. The vegetation was remarkably intact with limited grazing pressure. The Sphagnum carpet (which included S. capillifolium, S. denticulatum, S. fimbriatum, S. inundatum, S. palustre and S. papillosum) was interspersed with Aulacomnium palustre, Polytrichum commune and Calliergon stramineum. Odontoschisma sphagni turned up in open areas in the centre, and the sallows supported Ulota phyllantha and Cryphaea heteromalla. Weissia brachycarpa var. obliqua was on a bank at a field edge. We met the farmer who owns this bog, and had an interesting discussion on agricultural policy and conservation.
The Raven (T12)
Later we went to The Raven, sand dunes on the east Wexford coast, for lunch, and looked around the dune system afterwards. Tortella flavovirens was found, but the dune bryophyte carpet and conifer plantation did not sustain our interest long, and with the failure to locate damp slacks, we moved on.
River Sow (T02)
In the evening, we visited a damp estuarine wood on the River Sow, a creek in the inner Wexford Harbour 1.5 km WNW of Castlebridge. Here there is a deeply shaded broadleaved woodland on the south bank of the river. We were thankful for waterproof boots, because the ground was extremely muddy, but we were rewarded with Dumortiera hirsuta, which grew in several places on the muddy river bank not far from Pellia neesiana. Radula complanata and fruiting Physcomitrium pyriforme were other finds.
WEDNESDAY 18 AUGUST
Hook Peninsula and Slade Castle (X79)
A valiant attempt was made to find bryophytes on the Hook Peninsula, where we examined the very exposed coastal walltops near the lighthouse, with no reward. A small group looked at the ruin of St Dubháns church a little further inland but their only success was interesting a local holiday maker in mosses growing on his cottage wall; he became very enthusiastic when offered a lens to examine moistened Syntrichia ruralis. Later, Slade Castle nearby was explored, but unsuccessfully. Part of the afternoon was spent looking at and photographing Cottonweed Otanthus maritimus on Ladys Island (T10), now confined to this locality in the British Isles.
John F. Kennedy Arboretum (S71)
Roy and Phil, again sensing a lack of records in another grid square, made for the John F. Kennedy Arboretum south of New Ross where they searched diligently on and among the planted trees. Their complete list of 18 species, a pathetic total, is perhaps indicative of this part of the country, but included Microlejeunea ulicina and Neckera pumila.
THURSDAY 19 AUGUST
The Irish contingent departed, one group to Killarney, another back to Dublin, leaving Roy and Phil to wind up the meeting on their own, two days before planned.
After the very interesting and successful first week, it was a pity that more could not have been made of the second. Much of it consisted of square-bashing, a frequently unrewarding recreation, and on this occasion resulting in poor lists in bryologically-depleted terrain and lots of wasted petrol. Many new vice-county records were missed in the second week, because no-one had brought with them a Census Catalogue or a wants-list, so relatively common species, such as Saccogyna viticulosa, Sphagnum fimbriatum, Syntrichia ruralis and Weissia brachycarpa var. obliqua, though recorded by us in VC H12, were not collected. It is to be hoped that the excellent records made in Waterford will encourage more bryologists to visit this part of Ireland.
We would like to thank Monsieur and Madame Serge Boissevain for kindly giving the BBS permission to study Glendine woods, Peter Foss of the Irish Peatland Conservation Council for providing a base map for our visit to Fenor Bog, and Jim Hurley, South Wexford Coast Promotions, for mentioning the British Bryological Society visit in the local newspaper, the Wexford Echo. We are grateful to Daniel Kelly, Neil Lockhart and Donal Synnott for help with choosing sites for our itinerary, and special thanks are due to Grace ODonovan for taking on the difficult task of organising the meeting. The guest accommodation was most satisfactory in Dungarvan and New Ross, and we thank all our hosts for catering so effectively for the unusual requirements of bryological tourists.
Synnott D. 1967. The summer meeting 1966. Transactions of the British Bryological Society 5: 428-431.
Synnott D. 1976. The summer meeting 1975. Bulletin of the British Bryological Society 27: 5-9.
HOWARD FOX, TOM BLOCKEEL & ROY PERRY
University of Manchester, 10-12 September
MARK LAWLEY (LUDLOW, SHROPSHIRE): THE BORDER BRYOLOGISTS AND THE BRITISH BRYOLOGICAL SOCIETY
The Border Bryologists meet to look for and identify bryophytes in Shropshire, Herefordshire, and east Wales. We found it easy to start up our group because the Herefordshire Botanical Society was already providing a forum for active local botanists, to whom we could advertise. And since the Border Bryologists have come into existence, the Shropshire Flora Group has constituted itself into the Shropshire Botanical Society, which also advertises our activities to its members. So, with free advertising and postage provided by two local botanical societies, the Border Bryologists enjoy negligible running costs. Long may our two sugar-daddies remain solvent.
Why have a local group? What purpose does it serve? We wanted first to learn how to identify bryophytes in the field, which necessitated regular meetings close to hand, with an accomplished bryologist in attendance. During our first two years (1994 and 1995) Roy Perry attended nearly all our meetings, and provided the required expertise. Without Roy we would have struggled to identify the plants we found, and quite likely lost heart. Instead we gained sufficient momentum for lift-off. Latterly, Ray Woods and Jonathan Sleath have given expert help, despite busy professional careers. Gradually, the other members of our group have gained in confidence (if not in competence), even though it sometimes seems that the partly sighted are leading the blind.
And what of our future? Rather than allow our group to become a coterie of experienced bryologists, too daunting for beginners to join, those of us who have acquired a little bryological knowledge are trying in turn to help novices gain some bryological ability. Indeed, our most important function is to help interested but ignorant botanists gain a foothold on the lower rungs of cryptogamic competence. Collecting and compiling records for a site or grid-square, and finding uncommon species, are of secondary importance at our arranged meetings, and better catered for during ad hoc or solo sorties.
To further this educational gearing, the Border Bryologists have arranged an indoor workshop at Ludlow Museum this winter. Both the Museum and the bryologists stand to gain. The Museum benefits because getting more people in through the front door this year brings a bigger grant from local government next year. Consequently we have not been asked to pay to hire the museum's facilities. And budding bryologists will also benefit by acquiring confidence in examining and identifying bryophytes under the microscope: how to dissect leaves off stems, look for auricles on Plagiothecium stems, prepare peristomes for examination, search for stomata on Orthotrichum capsules, or for gemmae and gametangia.
So by getting beginners started - both in the field and indoors - an active Local Interest Group may serve a different function to that of the British Bryological Society. A local group is better placed than the BBS to cater for beginners, who are more likely to become aware of and attend local meetings than make the effort to travel long distances for national meetings. In this way a local group can act as a nursery for L-plate bryologists, who may subsequently join the BBS and the national scene. Indeed, several people from the Welsh borders have recently joined the BBS, apparently as a consequence of interest generated locally.
On the Welsh borders, as elsewhere, local natural history societies and wildlife trusts arrange meetings quite independently of each other, and indeed often seem entirely ignorant of each other's programmes. I certainly met with genuine rather than merely polite surprise and interest when mentioning the Border Bryologists to local wildlife trusts, and improved communication between groups of local naturalists may well bring more potential bryologists on to the scene. The Worcestershire Wildlife Trust has recently expressed interest in the Border Bryologists as a convenient local vehicle for introducing their members to bryology. At present, no one regularly records bryophytes in Worcestershire, and it will be interesting to see if anything develops in the county as a result of the Trust's initiative. I suspect that members of other local wildlife trusts would like to learn about bryophytes, but that neither the Trusts nor their members know who to approach locally, and understandably blanch at the prospect of going it alone.
By regarding local groups as nurseries for budding bryologists, one sees the role of our national bryological society in a new light. The British Bryological Society is better placed than local groups to promote bryology to a wider public. My tip as top priority for the BBS's publicity arm in the coming century is publication of a popular, user-friendly field guide to genera of British and Irish mosses and liverworts: a guide with life-like drawings of the forms of bryophytes and any of their other characteristics which are visible through a lens, while leaving microscopic details for Floras which distinguish species. Its key might also have line-drawings instead of (or at least, as well as) polysyllabic tongue-twisters. The guide would also have distributional and habitat notes as in the three-volume Atlas of the Bryophytes of Britain and Ireland.
A well-produced field guide to genera of British bryophytes could not fail to become the BBS's flagship publication, and would do far more to attract the public to bryology than any coffee-table book or symposium volume of abstruse scientific articles. Bookshops abound with popular guides to vascular plants, birds, mammals and insects. It is time bryophytes joined them. The Border Bryologists will certainly find it much easier to introduce beginners to bryology once we have a good field guide to take out with us on our excursions.
Border Bryologists, 1999-2000 Copies of our programme are available from Mark Lawley (address below).
The Bygone Botanists of Herefordshire traces the social and personal histories of botanists who explored Herefordshire, with accounts of several accomplished bryologists, including Augustin Ley, Eleonora Armitage and Charles Herbert Binstead. £3.75 (inc. 50p p&p) from Heather Colls, The Steppes Cottage, Jingle Street, Wonastow, Monmouth, Gwent, NP5 4DL. Please make your cheque payable to 'Herefordshire Botanical Society'.
A Botanical Stroll through North Herefordshire describes the plants of interesting botanical sites in the countryside between Ludlow, Leominster and Presteigne, with annotated lists of bryophytes and vascular plants. £4 (inc. 50p p&p) from Heather Colls (address above); cheque payable to 'Herefordshire Botanical Society'.
All proceeds from sales of these booklets will help defray costs of publishing a projected Herefordshire Plant Atlas.
TOM L. BLOCKEEL (SHEFFIELD): NOTES FROM A TOURIST IN MEDITERRANEAN LANDS
The author has visited many countries in the Mediterranean region over a period of nearly 30 years, primarily during family holidays. In spite of recent and exciting advances in the state of bryological exploration in some Mediterranean countries (notably in Spain), other regions remain poorly known. There are still many territories where exploration has been conducted largely by visiting bryologists, and the literature is therefore fragmented and difficult to obtain. There is no modern comprehensive Flora for a Mediterranean country.
Much of the Mediterranean region is characterised by hot dry summers and cool moist winters. However, it is a large and varied region, with extensive mountain ranges. Rich bryophyte communities can be found at all altitudes and there is much for the visiting bryologist to see; even casual and opportunistic collecting can result in significant advances in our knowledge of these countries.
The author's interest first began as a student of classical Latin and Greek, and many of his visits have taken in the classical antiquities. There is much of interest to be seen in and near such places. Equally, however, it is not difficult to gain access to the Mediterranean countryside to explore natural and semi-natural plant communities. A little research prior to a visit, both in the botanical and tourist literature, will often suggest areas of potential interest.
Examples of archaeological and other tourist sites where the author has found interesting bryophytes include: ·
Sooner or later the bryologist in Mediterranean lands is likely to encounter distributional and taxonomic problems. While recent advances have solved some of these problems, others need further research. ·
Bizot M. 1954. Remarques sur Tortula papillosissima (Copp.)
Broth. Revue Bryologique et Lichénologique, nouvelle série
DR ANGELA E. NEWTON (NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM, LONDON): BRYOPHYTES IN AMBER FROM THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
The Paleobotany Department at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institute) in Washington DC has a large collection of amber from the Dominican Republic. Many of these pieces of amber contain bryophytes, some with two or more species and several individuals. In 1995 I worked with collections from La Toca and Palo Alto mines, preparing them for microscopic examination and, as far as possible, identifying the taxa represented.
Amber is formed when the resin from certain trees undergoes fossilisation. The resin in this case comes from Hymenea protera Poinar (Leguminosae), which has close relatives still extant in the Caribbean. During the first stage of fossilisation the resin becomes polymerised and brittle, but remains soluble in alcohol. In this state the resin is known as copal, and is frequently dug up in large quantities to be used in varnishes or as incense. After several million years of exposure to heat, high pressure, and also seawater, the copal becomes transformed into amber. The age of the Dominican amber is uncertain, and may be anything from 20 to 40 million years old. Some of the amber deposits are overlain by Miocene reefs, so must pre-date these, giving a minimum age of 20-25 million years. Examination of associated fossils in the substrate gives an age of 30-45 million years for the La Toca mine, and 23-30 million years for the Palo Alto mine. However, the pieces may be older than this, as they show evidence of reworking, and so must have been redeposited some time after fossilisation. Nuclear magnetic resonance dating of the amber gives similar ages (30-40 million years for La Toca, 20-30 million years for Palo Alto), but these dates are relative to dates based on the fossil stratigraphy (Poinar, 1992).
Bryophyte specimens preserved in amber consist of little more than impressions and there is very little tissue present. Since amber is not soluble, and is too brittle to cut, preparation of amber for study usually involves grinding and polishing to provide thin sections and smooth surfaces. The resin when fresh is a viscous liquid, which will drip and flow across the substrate, usually either bark or soil. As a consequence the amber is full of flow lines, curved surfaces, bubbles, and various kinds of debris. All these artefacts cause tension and stresses in the amber, and exposure to shocks and vibration can cause sudden fracturing and fragmentation. The flow lines and curved surfaces also cause light diffraction that can prevent clear resolution of details.
The bryophytes themselves differ in the visibility and clarity of features. For example, in Lejeuneaceae many details of taxonomic importance may be visible. The plants grow in a single plane, and if exposed on both ventral and dorsal surfaces it may be possible to see features such as underleaves, lobules, rhizoids, stem epidermal cells, leaf shape and margins, cell shape, trigones and papillae, ocelli distribution, gemmae, and branching patterns. However, if the plants are attached to bark all the ventral details are obscured, and if the plants are curved or twisted it can be impossible to see anything clearly. Most moss specimens are much more difficult to work with, due to the tufted and three-dimensional growth form, imbricate leaf bases and curving leaves. Important details for identification, such as presence, distribution and shape of alar cells, are usually obscured by the overlapping leaves. Even the presence or absence of a costa can be impossible to verify unless it is very robust and extends beyond mid-leaf. Many mosses in amber appear to be desiccated, and therefore the leaves are usually in-rolled or collapsed, further obscuring details of the leaf margin and cell shapes. However, despite the impossibility of extracting and dissecting the bryophytes, it can be possible to find or make stem and leaf sections. In brittle-leaved species of Octoblepharum and Leucobryum there may be exposed sections within the amber. It is also possible, with care, to grind the amber in such a way as to cut through the bryophyte material and provide sections. These can then be stabilised by the use of certain resin-based glues.
Several of the taxa occur in other collections of Dominican amber (Frahm, 1993). For example, one of the most abundant mosses is a branching and weakly complanate member of the Neckeraceae, possibly Neckera (Frahm, 1993). In the Smithsonian material examined there appeared to be a weak, mid-length costa in some leaves, but this was extremely difficult to confirm due to leaf curvature and refraction in the amber. However, the presence of a costa would indicate that the plant belongs to Porotrichum, a common neotropical genus with several species extant in the Dominican Republic. Several species of Leucobryum have been found. In several of the specimens the cell layers can be seen in leaf sections resulting from natural breakage and from cross sections resulting from grinding. These show a pattern of cell distribution consistent with that seen in Leucobryum crispum. The leaf shape and posture also match this species.
Many of the species are very close to extant species, despite being 20 to 45 million years old. However, these are really very recent fossils, compared with the evolutionary history of the bryophyte lineages, which may cover 400 million years or more (Kenrick & Crane, 1997). These fossil assemblages, which include a wide range of taxa from many different plants and animals, provide insight into the past ecology of the Caribbean.
Frahm J-P. 1993. Mosses in Dominican amber. Journal of the
Hattori Botanical Laboratory 74: 249-260.
NICK HODGETTS (JOINT NATURE CONSERVATION COMMITTEE, PETERBOROUGH) & DR CHRIS PRESTON (INSTITUTE OF TERRESTRIAL ECOLOGY, MONKS WOOD): DEVELOPMENTS IN BIOLOGICAL RECORDING
Chris Preston briefly reviewed the recent recording activities of the BBS, which culminated in the Atlas of the Bryophytes of Britain and Ireland and a database of 770,000 records held at the Biological Records Centre (BRC). This database is currently being updated with records submitted since the completion of the Atlas. It has been used in a number of research projects, including the Society's own epiphyte survey, studies of hot-spots and complementary areas in different taxonomic groups, the identification of biogeographical zones based on environmental factors and species' distributions, and the classification of bryophyte species into floristic elements.
Since the completion of the Atlas there have been major changes in biological recording. The current BSBI 'Atlas 2000' project illustrates how the ability of recorders to send data on disk has transformed the number of records which can be processed. The National Biodiversity Network (NBN) is a partnership which provides a framework for future recording activities. One aim of the NBN is to provide internet access to distributional data, including that held by BRC. It is hoped that, with the agreement of the BBS, the bryophyte data can be used as a pilot dataset in the development of this access.
In the years since the completion of the Atlas there has, inevitably, been a period of recuperation for bryophyte recorders. It may now be appropriate to review the Society's recording activities, with a view to developing projects which would help existing members develop their field and identification skills and recruit new members. A number of possibilities were suggested.
Nick Hodgetts then explained how recording by BBS members could contribute to the conservation of threatened species through a scheme similar to the Threatened Plant Database Project (TPDP) that is currently under way as a co-operative venture between the statutory conservation agencies, the BSBI and Plantlife. Records of threatened species need to contain a higher level of information than records of species which are not threatened and, if a dataset of records of threatened species is to be useful for conservation purposes, it needs to be a 'live' database, not just an archive. The idea behind the TPDP is to co-ordinate BSBI membership to provide data on threatened species and, in return, to provide the membership with data as required. It was envisaged that it would be relatively straightforward to set up something similar with the BBS, given the existing network of vice-county recorders.
An important principle behind such a project is to devolve responsibility for data inputting and validation to those who actually know the plants - the BBS membership, in the case of bryophytes. This fits in well with the NBN, which is envisaged as a network of communicating databases rather than an unwieldy monolith. It was then explained how the information from such a database could be used effectively for conservation through Biodiversity Action Plans.
A further JNCC project just starting is the Species Status Project. This seeks to establish a more rational basis for assigning threat status (i.e. the IUCN threat categories of Endangered, Vulnerable, etc.) to species. As with the database project, the rationale is to devolve responsibility as much as possible to the experts, with an expert group for bryophytes (for example) being established to produce a draft list of species statuses, this being disseminated for consultation, and a 'final' list being published on a website. The list will be updated over an agreed timescale. The expert group will also have a role in ensuring that the latest bryophyte checklist is the standard used in NBN software such as Recorder 2000.
To summarise, bryological recording is in a transitional period, with increasing numbers of recorders becoming au fait with computers, and technology just beginning to do the things we want it to do. The future of bryophyte recording is still entirely in the hands of the BBS, but potential partnerships with other organisations, and initiatives such as the TPDP and the NBN, can potentially make our recording more useful and our records more usable. Atlases will always be useful, and increasingly easy to produce, but will be only one possible product; others include using bryophyte data in wider environmental studies and in analysing hotspots, biogeographical zones, etc. The BBS now has an opportunity to increase its influence and use its expertise more effectively by full involvement in these initiatives.
J.G. DUCKETT, A.M. SCHMID (QUEEN MARY AND WESTFIELD COLLEGE, LONDON), R. LIGRONE (UNIVERSITY OF CASERTA, ITALY) & K.S. RENZAGLIA (UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN ILLINOIS, USA): CONDUCTING TISSUES IN BRYOPHYTES: CORNERSTONES IN LAND PLANT PHYLOGENY
Some 35 years ago, when one of us (JGD) was young, enthusiastic and impressionable, he asked a wise bryologist for his views on evolutionary relationships between bryophytes and tracheophytes. The answer: bryophytes don't work in the same way as vascular plants, and the deeper you investigate the greater are the differences. This is very much the current situation concerning conducting tissues; the more one studies their structure, development and function, the more differences one finds. Critical to reconstructing land plant phylogeny is the establishment of homologies, or lack of these, between the conducting elements of the various lineages.
The substantial literature on the structure of bryophyte conducting elements is reviewed in Hebant (1977). However, as with many things bryological, from purely structural data speculative functional and phyletic inferences have tended to become engrained in the literature without any developmental or experimental functional foundation. Establishment of homology requires structural, developmental and functional congruence (Ligrone, Renzaglia & Duckett, 2000).
Internal conducting tissues in bryophytes are restricted to the gametophyte generation in liverworts, are unknown in hornworts, but may occur in both generations in mosses. The key character of water-conducting cells (WCCs) is that they lack cytoplasmic contents and are dead at maturity (Raven, 1993). In liverworts these occur in the Calobryales and Pallaviciniaceae. The peg rhizoid-containing grooves on the stalks of the carpocephala of Marchantiales are an 'internalised' external water-conducting system. The WCCs in Calobryales are similar in shape to ordinary parenchyma cells and are perforated by plasmodesmata-derived pits, features shared with Takakia in the mosses. Those in the metzgerialean genera Hymenophyton, Pallavicinia and Symphyogyna are highly elongate with thickened pitted walls. These perforate WCCs most likely evolved independently in Calobryales, Metzgeriales and Takakia. In contrast, moss WCCs (hydroids) are very highly elongate cells with imperforate walls. Their differentiation includes obliteration of plasmodesmata and modification of the original transverse walls. Because of their loosely fibrillar appearance, in transmission electron micrographs, it has been generally assumed that the maturation of these walls involves enzymatic removal of non-cellulosic carbohydrates, though direct evidence for such 'hydrolysis' has never been produced. Our current studies have revealed that these walls contain a proteinaceous moiety that renders hydroids highly resistant to cavitation. Hydroids should now be regarded as a specialized WCC unique to mosses and related to poikilohydry. Homology with tracheids is highly implausible.
The food-conducting leptoids of polytrichaceous mosses, and the less specialised conducting parenchyma cells in the leafy stems and setae of other mosses, including Sphagnum and Takakia, have a highly distinctive cytology comprising cytoplasmic polarisation, axial arrays of endoplasmic microtubules associated with various organelles (including mitochondria and pleomorphic vacuoles) and numerous, highly differentiated plasmodesmata in their end walls (Ligrone & Duckett, 1994, 1998). Similar organisation, indicative of long-distance transport of nutrients, also occurs in moss rhizoids and caulonemata, in the internal parenchyma of metzgerialean and marchantialian thalli, and in the leafy shoots and underground axes of Calobryales (Ligrone et al., 2000). Although studies with radioactive tracers indicate that long-distance solute transport in bryophyte conducting cells is via mass-flow, the suite of cytological differences between these and sieve elements in tracheophytes almost certainly rules out homology.
Hebant C. 1977. The conducting tissues of bryophytes. Lehre:
DR ELIZABETH SMITH (UNIVERSITY OF NORTHUMBRIA AT NEWCASTLE): THE ROLE OF THE PHOTOSYNTHETIC CARBON CONCENTRATING MECHANISMS IN BRYOPHYTES
Four hundred and fifty million years ago many of the earliest plants possessed a 'carbon concentrating mechanism' (CCM) which increased the efficiency of photosynthesis, particularly in the aquatic environment. However, during the development of terrestrial vegetation the CCM was lost, although biochemical mechanisms which perform a similar function to the CCM (C4 photosynthesis and Crassulacean Acid Metabolism) evolved approximately 50 million years ago.
The Anthocerotae are of interest because they represent terrestrial organisms in which the carbon concentrating mechanism has persisted, at least within some genera. The activity of the carbon concentrating mechanism is correlated with the presence of a pyrenoid in the chloroplast, a region where the CO2-fixing enzyme Rubisco is located. Studies of members of the genus Anthoceros, which possesses a pyrenoid and a carbon concentrating mechanism, and the genus Megaceros, which does not possess a pyrenoid, are providing valuable data enabling us to elucidate the mode of action of the CCM.
Future research at the University of Northumbria will focus on gathering physiological data from this interesting group. We hope to elucidate the mechanism of the CCM in the Anthocerotae, and to carry out comparative studies of this strategy and the CCMs operating in a number of other non-vascular plants. The results of these investigations will enable us to address the question: why did land plants give up the advantage of a CCM only to develop a biochemical equivalent some 2-3000 million years later?
Smith EC, Griffiths H. 1996. The occurrence of the chloroplast
pyrenoid is correlated with the activity of a CO2
concentrating mechanism and carbon isotope discrimination in lichens and
bryophytes. Planta 198: 6-16.
DR JONATHAN SLEATH (KINGSTONE, HEREFORDSHIRE): SOME OBSERVATIONS ON THE BRYOPHYTES OF THE MARSYANDI VALLEY, CENTRAL NEPAL
In July 1998 I had the opportunity to join a group from the Alpine Garden Society on a trek up the Marsyandi valley, in Central Nepal. The trek started from Dumre (450 m), about 75 miles to the west of Kathmandu, and followed the Marsyandi river northwards, behind the Annapurna massif to Thorong Phedi. From here we climbed to the Thorong La pass (5400 m) and retraced our steps back to Dumre. This was not a formal scientific expedition, but I was able to make some bryological observations, take photographs, and perform a little opportunistic collecting.
The track from Dumre to Besi-sahar (820 m) is not passable by vehicles during the monsoon season, which was when we were travelling. This subtropical area has very little natural vegetation, and is intensively cultivated for rice. The bryophyte flora was rather poor, with xerophytic thallose liverworts, such as Plagiochasma appendiculatum, on roadside banks, and Marchantia sp. forming extensive patches along the edges of the paddy fields. The epiphytic Octoblepharum albidum was present on some of the larger trees. Above Besi-sahar the valley begins to become narrower, and the cultivation more patchy. There are more areas of waste ground and disturbed woodland, although the epiphyte growth is poor (presumably due to the very seasonal rainfall) and the richest bryophyte communities are associated with wet rock faces. Mosses found here included Aulacopilum abbreviatum, Gollania schensiana, Racopilum orthocarpum and Scopelophila ligulata.
The path rises steeply before entering the village of Tal (1700 m), which is built on the shore of a lake formed by the Marsyandi when its outflow was blocked by a landslide. The thallose liverwort Exormotheca tubifera is abundant here on the sandy lakeside margins, together with Rhodobryum ontariense. The valley above Tal becomes narrower and more humid, but although there were plenty of waterfalls at this time of year, they had little bryophyte growth. On the moist rock faces there were large patches of Meteorium buchananii, together with Porella sp. and Asterella wallichiana. Fissidens grandifrons was found growing on an ox bone partly submerged in a flush. From Dharapani (1900 m) to Bagarchap (2100 m) there is more cultivation again, and above this point the path enters temperate woodland.
This is the richest area bryologically of the whole valley. The woodland is mainly broadleaved, with some Pinus wallichiana at higher altitudes. The epiphyte growth is relatively rich and includes Anomodon minor ssp. integerrimus, Leucodon secundus and Macromitrium hymenostomum. On the woodland floor were the mosses Plagiomnium cuspidatum, Rhytidium rugosum and Myurella sibirica, together with liverworts such as Jungermannia sp., Plagiochila sp., Chiloscyphus fragilis and the abundantly gemmiferous Lophocolea minor on rotting wood. This area is very unstable, and we had to pick our way carefully across several landslides, where Timmiella anomala was common. In some of the more open areas, Grimmia longirostris was present on the rocks, and thallose liverworts such as Asterella mussurensis and Mannia sp. grew beside the track. Beyond Bhratang (2800 m) the path veers up and away from the river, through some Pinus woodland, and into the lower Manang valley.
This upper part of the Marsyandi valley is much drier, being subject to a rain shadow effect from the Annapurna range. The landscape is more open, rather sub-alpine in appearance, and quite heavily grazed. Both the environment and the people show strong affinities with Tibet. Beyond Pisang (3200 m) there are patches of Betula utilis woodland with a good growth of Thuidium sp. and other pleurocarps. Although dry, some meadows receive moisture from flushes fed by seepage of glacial meltwater. Barbula pseudo-ehrenbergii is found here, along with familiar plants such as Palustriella commutata, Cratoneuron filicinum, Bryum sp. and Philonotis sp.
Above Manang (3500 m) the ground is very dry, most of the precipitation falling as snow in winter. The scrub is dominated by Rosa sericea and Juniperus. What few bryophytes there were seemed to be mainly restricted to deep rock crevices or the occasional flush. Once past Letdar (4000 m) there is more moisture under the dwarf shrubby Juniperus, Rhododendron and Berberis which permits the growth of Didymodon asperifolius, Syntrichia norvegica and Plagiopus oederianus. Many of the large boulders have circinate patches of Macrocoma sp. At higher altitudes, the ground becomes more barren, and the increasing number of unstable screes and landslides permits only limited bryophyte growth.
At Thorong Phedi (4500 m), the track leaves the Marsyandi, and ascends steeply to the pass at Thorong La. This is a silent and desolate arid wilderness of shattered rock and glaciers. Where the scree becomes stabilised there is a fascinating higher plant flora although the number of bryophytes is relatively few and includes Hypnum plumaeforme and Mnium thomsonii.
I have been very much indebted to David Long and Cliff Townsend for their assistance in the determination of the majority of the material collected. I have also had helpful advice from Howard Matcham, Brian O'Shea, Henk Greven, Dries Touw and Philip Sollman.
FIELD EXCURSION TO CHEE DALE AND DEEP DALE, 12 SEPTEMBER 1999
A field excursion was held on the Sunday of the AGM weekend to the limestone dales near Buxton in Derbyshire. The principal venue was Chee Dale, a reserve of the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust which has recently been extended by the purchase of ground immediately to the west of the old Millers Dale railway station. The car park at the disused station was our starting point for the day. We were pleased to be welcomed by Steve Price, the reserve manager, who acted as our guide.
The morning was spent in old quarries on the south-facing slopes near the station. The ground was dry and stony, and this limited the diversity of the flora. Didymodon ferrugineus and Aloina aloides were among the species seen. Many epiphytic bryophytes remain scarce in Derbyshire, so a record of Radula complanata on a tree at the edge of the quarry was very pleasing.
After lunch, members proceeded to Chee Dale proper, a wooded limestone gorge with precipitous crags. It was sad to see the erosion caused by the increasing numbers of rock-climbers who visit the gorge. The relatively dry conditions on the rock walls after recent dry weather permitted some species to be detected more easily than usual. Among those noted on the limestone cliffs and boulders were Preissia quadrata, Apometzgeria pubescens, Leiocolea alpestris, Pedinophyllum interruptum, Porella cordaeana and Cololejeunea calcarea. The mosses included Gymnostomum calcareum, Seligeria acutifolia and Orthothecium intricatum. Fissidens crassipes was in the River Wye. Careful searching on one crag eventually revealed very small amounts of Seligeria trifaria at this recently discovered site. It is unfortunate that this crag lies outside the reserve and is suffering particularly badly from the activities of rock-climbers.
A feature of the epiphytic flora of this part of the Wye valley is the abundance of Sanionia uncinata on some of the trees, fruiting profusely. Pylaisia polyantha, which was seen on several trees, also attracted much interest.
Deep Dale, a narrow valley running south-west from Topley Pike Quarry, had been put forward as an alternative venue for the day. A small group led by Tony (AV) Smith made this their main objective, recording Distichium inclinatum and Leiocolea badensis in the lower part of the dale near the Quarry. Another group made a quick incursion late in the afternoon in search of Brachythecium appleyardiae, found here a few years ago. The population was refound without difficulty on dry stones at the base of a crag. Also seen during this brief visit were Breutelia chrysocoma, in small quantity at a known site, and Scapania aspera.
Our thanks are due to the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust for permission to visit Chee Dale, and especially to Steve Price for his commendable patience at our characteristically slow progress through the reserve.