Sunday, 22 July 2012

Glyceria maxima

I had found Glyceria maxima, Reed Sweet-grasson a previous visit to this site but not in flower, so I left the laptop and phone last week to collect a voucher. This is a first vice-county record.  Ian Bonner [pers. comm] says it is unlikely to be native in Anglesey and in Cardiganshire it is probably or certainly introduced [Chater, 2010]. 

It is an unusual site, the garden of a former farmhouse which stood beside the Corwen to Bala branch of the railway where it crossed the Dee.  The disused line can be seen continuing in the trees at the middle right of the picture and one of the stanchions of the bridge forms an island just visible above the gate.

 Hubbard [1984] says of G. maxima "....of value on river banks for the prevention of erosion."  It  grows on the bank just behind the gate, with Phalaris arundinacea, Reed Canary-grass, which Hubbard says also helps prevent erosion. I wonder if they were both planted here for that reason? 

The willow on the left was certainly planted during the present owners' tenure [c. 25 years], and has been identified by Desmond Meikle as Salix x fragilis L. with its partner [out of sight] as the Bedford Willow, Salix x fragilis L. var. russelliana (Sm.) Koch.

Chater, A O,  2010, Flora of Cardiganshire, Aberystwyth
Hubbard, C E, 1984,   Grasses, 3rd Ed revised by Hubbard J C E, Penguin Books

Friday, 13 July 2012

Wood Bitter-vetch - Vicia orobus V

I went back to Caerau Uchaf [see blog on 11th June] to see if this lovely and scarce vetch had appeared.  I made my way through large tussocks of Molinia into an unpromising corner of the field and there I found it in rough grassland below a stand of bracken.  It wasn't in flower and looked rather overwhelmed by the surrounding vegetation, common plants such as Holcus lanatus, Yorkshire Fog, Potentilla erecta, Tormentil,  Anthoxanthum odoratum, Sweet Vernal Grass and Carex binervis Green-ribbed Sedge.  It clearly seemed, as The New Atlas* says "...  adversely affected by overgrazing and undergrazing. "
Vicial orobus in flower
Thanks once again to John Crellin for both images

It has neat pinnate leaves with a short point instead of tendrils and the flowers are a lilac-pink veined with darker purple.  The whole plant has a bronze-ish tinge even before the calyx has  matured  and the pods are ripe, which helped me to find it even without flowers, but although I found more than two dozen clumps scattered through the grass, I left feeling concerned about it. 

V.  orobus, immature pods

"Britain has a significant proportion of the world population of this species" says the *Atlas, and I didn't feel confident that it was going to survive here.

The rest of the SSSI still looks as wonderful as before - I wonder what features of the habitat have led it to grow in this least special part of the site?!

*Preston, C D, Pearman, D A and Dines, T D, 2002, New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora. Oxford University Press, Oxford

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Far West

Llyn Llynerch  photo: Eric Jones
Another wet day  - and another bog!  I wanted to look at Llyn Llenyrch [SH6537] which we had failed to reach last week, so I made a date with Heather Garrett to go there last Friday.  It is very acid and very wet - but unspoiled and remote and surrounded by a fine bog and we made a good list. 

 The highlights were lovely patches of Hypericum elodes, Marsh St. John's-wort, with very small amounts of Carex pulicaris, Flea Sedge, and C. dioica, Dioecious Sedge [all  female]

Rain water lying on the leaves of Hypericum elodes,
with Juncus acutiflorus, Eriophorum angustifolium  and Carex echinata  
In the lake itself we found lots of Lobelia dortmannia, Water Lobelia, just coming into flower, with Littorella uniflora, Shoreweed, along the shore line.  We did a bit of grapnelling but the water level was very high and we didn't even find any interesting 'bits' washed up.  As we were deciding to give the weather best, we looked along the roadside verge and were rewarded with patches of Wild Thyme, Thymus polytrichus, and an Eyebright, Euphrasia confusa.

The next day I led a botanical walk [in Welsh] from Plas Tan-y-Bwlch to Llyn Mair for Llen Natur and Cofnod. It was their Bioflits event, the idea being to combine an open event for the general public with intensive recording of a site.  All sorts of wildlife are included from spiders to mammals to higher plants and bryophytes.  

It went quite well but I might have been a little more coherent if I hadn't got lost on the 'reccy' and had to miss lunch!  We walked through the great Japanese cedars, Cryptomeria japonica, amid some typical woodland plants but some odd ones too.  The strangest, which I had never seen before, was Sheep-laurel, Kalmia angustifolia, looking perfectly natural beside the lake.  Its single remaining flower was enough to help us to identify it later.  A strange record to add to the county list!