Monday, 28 May 2012

Cwm Hesgyn SH84X Merioneth Nats, 24 May 2012

It was a beautiful early summer’s day when we, Rod, Sarah and Polly, collected Jacky after her marathon drive from Kent to the hamlet of Fron Goch, where there is a plaque commemorating the several thousand Irish prisoners interned there after the Easter Risings.  We travelled in one car to our second meeting place where we found Jenny Lees waiting, making 5 botanists in all in the group which set off towards Llyn Hesgyn.

First sight of Llyn Hesgyn with most of the team!
We decided not to record until we got into our target monad but in the event that was not too difficult as we set off over rather dull improved grassland and then into dry heather moorland - the whole day was notable for the paucity of records, so we were not too tempted!  We reached the Llyn just about midday, and at the very damp spot where we ate lunch we began to see a few interesting plants – but although it was very hot by this time no-one was moved to follow Rod’s example in going for a swim.  Sadly he didn’t produce any extra records from the deeper water than the Myriophyllum alternifolium and Littorella uniflora which fringed the lake.

Eriophorum vaginatum in full flower
Walking round the lake to the only willow we saw [from which the eponymous warbler entertained us], we were able to get nearer to the Water- lilies and to determine that both the Yellow Water-lily Nuphar lutea and the White, Nymphaea alba, were there. They turned out to be first hectad records, as was the Carex canescens [C. curta] White Sedge we found by the outflow stream.

The journey back was as hot and unproductive as the way in, but some of us were rewarded with a cream tea in the Hen Siop Fron Goch before setting off home.  Sadly we failed to make the half-century – even the Sheep’s Sorrel, Rumex acetosella, in the neighbouring monad on the way home made our score for the day only 49 recorded species!


Merioneth Naturalists: Aberdyfi Dunes (SN59) 26 April 2012 John Hughes

Present: Sarah Stille, Helen Bantock, Andrew Graham, David Elias, Isobelle Griffith, John Hughes

On a mercifully rain-free day in what, even by Meirionnydd standards was a pretty wet month (248.7mm of rain for April at Llanymawddwy at the top end of the Dyfi valley) six of us met at the car park at SN597972 to see the spring ephemerals on the Aberdyfi dunes. In the event, they proved to be past their best, perhaps because of the exceptional March warmth this year, but we had a marvellous day nevertheless.

We knew the day was going to be a well-paced one when it took us well over an hour to get west of the railway line, a mere hundred yards or so from the parking spot. The main attractions at this initial stage were some splendid stands of  Smyrnium olusatrum, as is usual quite close to the road/path edge, and abundant Valerianella carinata,with its beautiful pale mauve flowers showing at their best. It was also interesting to be able to compare a flowering clump of Urtica urens, not at all common in VC48, with the ubiquitous Urtica dioica.

Urtica urens in flower April 2012
The golfers were out in some numbers, taking advantage of the break in the wet weather, so we did not linger on the links but headed straight for the dunes. At Aberdyfi these are quite narrow compared with those at Ynyslas to the south and at Harlech to the north but one interesting fact of distribution was immediately apparent : there was frequent Eryngium maritimum, which is absent from Ynyslas, but no Euphorbia portlandica, which is quite frequent there. Indeed, the only euphorbia to be seen was Euphorbia paralias, which was common.  Carex arenaria was the only Carex that we could see on the dunes, displaying very clearly its ability to fix sand by means of its far-spread rhizomes.  Lurking here and there were clumps of  Cynoglossum officinale. After careful search, We found both Cerastium semidecandrum and Cerastium diffusum and, in particular, noticing the scarious tips to the bracts of the former, smaller species by which it may most certainly be distinguished from its slightly larger cousin.

The wind was strong off the sea so we moved into the lee of the dunes for lunch, interrupted only by the plop of the occasional golf ball, the result of a sliced shot from the links to the east.

After lunch, we moved north into SN5998 also owned by the golf club. This was mercifully free of both golfers and also ruminants at this time of year (grazing is confined to May to September). The flora was rich and provided a very welcome contrast to the bright green of the reseeded farmland just to the north. We had a thorough though fruitless search for Moenchia erecta, which had been previously recorded from this area. However, it was so refreshing in this part of the day was to have time to investigate the ecology of the frequent ant hills at first hand and in the relative warmth provided by the shelter of the dunes. It could be seen how Thymus polytrichus, in particular, was thriving on the tops of the anthills on the richer, less leached, soil brought up by the ants from below. It was also interesting to pick out the well-named Stellaria pallida, another dune-system specialist, and to come across Viola canina, which again is confined in VC46 to the Ynyslas and Penyrergyd dunes.

The land became increasingly wet as we went north, past Carex nigra in flower and a profusion of  Caltha palustris. At the edge of  a lake that probably dries out in hot summer there was Equisetum fluviatile, Potentilla palustris and Alisma plantago-aquatica.Two of our number also almost stepped on a nestful of lapwing chicks.

The final part of the day took us to an alder wood, complete with rookery. Here we found Carex riparia, distinguished from Carex acutiformis (rarer in VC48) by its blunt (not acute) ligules.

And so back to the car park just as the rain started up again, to emphasize who is boss in VC48, and the luck we had had with the weather..

Meirionnydd Naturalists: Trawscoed, 23rd February 2012 Andrew Graham

A narrow band of Ordovician ‘limestone’ can be traced for many miles across the Meirionnydd countryside, south from Llyn Celyn, (where it has been named the ‘Derfel Limestone’) down to the Bala fault and then, with a three kilometre sideways displacement, it can be picked up again and followed along the eastern side of the Arans. This narrow stratum was laid down in shallow water conditions which supported a shelly fauna whose physical remains still influence the plants (and animals) occurring here. The word limestone is rather an exaggeration and would not be used by a modern geologist but, to the botanist, the difference between this rock and the acidic rocks that dominate the surrounding areas is very apparent.

Four members of Meirionydd Naturalists Group (Rod Gritten, David Elias, Annie Seddon and myself) assembled at Trawscoed farmhouse and spent the morning examining the bryophytes and lichens growing along this ‘limestone’, mostly on and amongst ash trees. We were fortunate that the weather was dry and pleasant but the previous day had been exceptionally wet so both the bryophytes and the lichens were in fine condition. Indeed they looked so splendid it would have been hard for anyone not to be enthused.

All four British Lobaria species were found though, it was pointed out that some of these were present as the result of transplants carried out in the 1990s. Lobaria virens, in particular, was not known from the area previously and is a definite introduction. All the lichens seemed to be growing vigorously with the orbs of Lobaria amplissima evidently doing particularly well. Two Sticta species were found, with one ash tree supporting an impressive growth of Sticta fuliginosa. This lichen was on a horizontal branch quite high above the ground and would be easily missed by anyone simply staring at the trunks. Mosses characteristic of basic conditions were noted, especially by Annie, e.g. Ctenidium molluscum, Cirriphyllum piliferum and carpets of Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus.

Rod pointed out an interesting fungus, Hymenochaete corrugata, that ‘glues’ together hazel branches. This fungus has been recorded previously at this locality but the extraordinary gluing feature was new to the rest of us. One hypothesis is that the twigs that get stuck together stay above the ground and are thus out of the reach of competing fungi. For once the invented vernacular name Glue Fungus, is so appropriate and memorable that I, for one, will find it hard to avoid using it in future.

We walked on into the Trawscoed flower meadow, which was looking rather dull at this time of year, and a Plagiomnium species was collected and examined. This moss seems impossible to name confidently as it has a mixture of characters, some suggesting P. affine and others closer to P. elatum. Even after microscopic examination doubt remains as the cell size and shape is in the middle of the overlapping ranges given by the Moss Flora of Britain and Ireland, 2nd edition. The habitat and growth form probably favour it being P. affine but the long, broadly decurrent auricles are picked out in the books as a feature of P. elatum. The suspicion remains that bryophytes have been studied so intensively that species have been split to the point where specimens can no longer be assigned to one taxon or another except possibly by a handful of specialists.

After lunch, in comfort indoors, Rod had to leave but the rest of the party visited Coed Gordderw. This old estate woodland is not a natural wood – though it is becoming naturalised - and is dominated by the tree species favoured by a past generation of foresters, e.g. Beech, European Larch, Scots Pine and Norway Spruce. However, the trees are now so old that they have acquired an interest and the whole wood is unmanaged and very little visited so that it has the feel of an ancient woodland. Of particular interest is the abundance of Usnea filipendula in the higher parts of the wood, i.e. extending up to almost 500m a.s.l. This beard lichen is not especially rare but it is unusual to see such a luxuriant growth and, in fact, the comment was made that there was a resemblance to woodland in other less polluted parts of the world such as on African mountains.

Merioneth Naturalists:Trawsfynydd, 26th January 2012 Jacky Langton

For the first Merioneth Naturalists’ field day of 2012, only two of us ventured out, meeting in the Trawsfynydd Power Station car park, on a day that was cold but dry. We first went down to Llyn Trawsfynydd shore to the east. We trawled through the drift line detritus, finding it to consist mainly of Callitriche stagnalis, with some Littorella uniflora, with its leaves looking spongy in cross section, and began our recording. The meeting was billed for bryophytes and lichens and on bare soil close to the lake we found most beautiful specimens of Pogonatum aloides and P. urnigerum, both plants bearing splendid capsules or with deep red male ‘inflorescences’.

We then followed the road west, towards the dam, and sorted out the differences between Hedera helix and H. hibernica recording H. hibernica with its remarkable stellate hairs, all the rays lying neatly parallel to the leaf surface, and its strong smell of pine. We turned off towards the lake, searching along the shore for marginals, but the water was high, and the wind was blowing waves hard onto the shore, and we had little success.


After eating our lunch, sitting on a rock in the forestry out of the wind, we crossed the dam and followed a wall, which gave us Asplenium adiantum-nigrum, A, ruta-muraria and Phyllitis scolopendrium. We clambered down close to the shore on the far side; it was hard going, rocky, with great bushes of Ulex europea blocking the way, but further plants were added to our list.

We walked back along the tarmacked road, and noted a lone plant of Leycesteria formosa at the edge of the forestry, looking very alien with its multiple tall, chunky stems. We continued recording new species, and finally had a satisfying list of over sixty for an under-recorded monad. The day ended with the near hills turning red in the setting sun, and the Migneint in the distance white with snow. 

Botanising in VC48 Merioneth 2011

Apart from the months of February, May and June, all rainfall averages in 2011 were well below normal, which explains our good luck in holding 5 out of six meetings of Merioneth Naturalists Group unaffected by rain!  This was our second successful season, in which we made 16 new or updated ‘hectad’ [10 kilometre square] records: altogether over 5000 records were added to the county database by all recorders during the year. These records are all forwarded to the Botanical Society of the British Isles main database, adding to the sum of our knowledge of British plants.

The only native first record for the county was a hybrid sedge, Carex x decolorans.  In 2002 Peter Benoit and I searched in vain for its rarer parent, Stiff Sedge, Carex bigelowii, on the over-grazed summit ridge of the Berwyns Now, since the changed grazing regime on the National Nature Reserve, it has been recorded several times. As its range now overlaps with the other parent, Common Sedge, C. nigra, their hybrid has been found at around 600m, which is about as low down the mountains as the Stiff Sedge grows.

Another ‘first’ for the county was Arthur Chater’s find of Large-leaved Avens, Geum macrophyllum near Pantperthog, while he was revisiting a known site for another rare alien, Purple Toothwort, Lathraea clandestina.  It is spreading in VC46, Cardiganshire, but this was its first recorded appearance in Merioneth.

Some new hectad records were made for native species, for example the diminutive Lesser Skullcap, Scutellaria minor and the lovely Ivy-leaved Bellflower, Wahlenbergia hederacea, suggesting that even non-rare plants can still be found in new places for the first time.

Merioneth Naturalists Group [Grwp Natur Meirionnydd] is a faithful band of supporters (several of whom are regular visitors to Wales rather than permanent residents): we are always hoping to find more people interested in botany in the county.  There are such huge swathes of countryside which need recording, and you don’t need to be an expert to join our friendly group. 

If you would like to receive our programme for 2012, please get in touch with the county Recorders,  Sarah Stille:    or Rod Gritten:
And please take special note of our new Merioneth Residential at Caerdeon,  24th  – 27th July, for three or four days of botanising based in the glorious countryside of the Mawddach Estuary, near Barmouth.  The whole event costs only £135 but non-residents will be most welcome [free!] for some or part of the time. Details will be sent to anyone expressing an interest.