Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Merioneth Naturalists: Nant Pasgan (SH63N) John Hughes

June 19 2012

Present: Andrew Graham, Rod Gritten, John Hughes, Jenny Lees, Sarah Stille

Nant Pasgan Mawr
David M Jones
In another wet month for VC48 [235.8mm at Llanymawddwy by 19/6], five of us met at Llandecwyn [Cilfor] to share cars for the trip up to Nant Pasgan. It was the sort of day where the weather could have gone either way. Low cloud, a cold north wind and warm clothes to start with. By mid-morning, however, the whole bulk of Manod was clear, Moelwyn by midday and Yr Wyddfa itself by mid-afternoon. So we were again lucky with the weather and had a marvellous sunny day out on the northern slopes of the Rhinogydd.

Myrica gale
thanks to John Crellin
The first port of call was the flat, wet ground by the old mine buildings just east of Coed Caerwych. Here, many of the chacteristic plants of the day were evident: plentiful Myrica gale, Bog Myrtle, with Menyanthes trifoliata, Bogbean, Angelica sylvestris, Wild Angelica, Narthecium ossifragum, Bog Asphodel,  and other wetland specialists, though we did not come across either Scutellaria, Skullcaps, here or elsewhere during the day. On the path up to Hendre Cerrig there was Vulpia bromoides, Squirrel-tail Fescue, and Aphanes australis, Slender Parsley-piert, with its oblong stipule lobes [triangular in A.arvensis].

There were plenty of good flushes to search for Carex species and we got a good haul, although it was not quite base-rich enough for Carex dioica, Dioecious Sedge. Both Carex hostiana, Tawny Sedge, and C.demissa, Common Yellow Sedge, were present in plenty. There was some optimism about finding their cross, C. x fulva, but the wiser heads in the company determined that it was too early in the season to be confident because the young fruits of  C.hostiana had not matured sufficiently to distinguish them from the ‘squeezable’ fruits of the hybrid. In the ‘quite frequent but easy to overlook’ category Isolepis setacea, Bristle Club Rush, was a good find.
The green lane from Nant Pasgan Bach
Barmouth Walking Festival

We had lunch just to the east of Nant Pasgan Mawr, in whose small abandoned garden was Levisticum officinale, Lovage, [presumably planted] and Carex pilulifera, Pill Sedge. After lunch it warmed up considerably and we headed off in the direction of  Llyn Llenyrch. The Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries were plentiful in the sun as was their larval food plant, Viola palustris. We were able to compare subsp.juressi with the commoner subsp. palustris, the hairy petioles of the former showing clearly in the sun even without the use of a magnifying lens. We also had time to determine Anagallis tenella in its vegetative state and to distinguish it from the superficially similar Epilobium brunnescens. Both root at the nodes and have paired leaves: these have stomata on both sides in the former, which is hairless. In the Epilobium, which is often purplish and has two lines of minute hairs on the stem, the stomata are above only. Thank goodness for 'Poland'*!

In the event, we decided to turn back before reaching Llyn Llenyrch, to have time to look at the very different habitat of  Coed Caerwych. In the moistness of the wood there was luxuriant Phegopteris connectilis, Beech Fern, as well as fine ‘shuttlecocks’ of Dryopteris affinis, Scaly Male-ferns. As we were returning to the cars for the many-gated drive back to Llandecwyn, we finally saw Melampyrum pratense, Common Cow-wheat, although Ceratocapnos claviculata, Climbing Corydalis, continued to elude us.

The 147 species we saw made for a comprehensive list, albeit without any particular ‘rarities’ on it. Apart from the sun, the views and the Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, the main non-botanical delights were the Cuckoo and the frequent sight and rich sound of Tree Pipits parachuting down to earth.

*Poland, John and Clements, Eric J. 2009, The Vegetative Key to the British Flora

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Out-of-county botanising

Blysmus compressus
I've had an exciting weekend visiting “foreign parts”  in Hay-on-Wye, to join John Crellin’s field meeting in Brecknockshire, VC42.  The highlight was the Red List species, Flat-sedge, Blysmus compressus, in its only modern site in Wales. It was a great thrill to find it so abundant; it was hard to avoid treading on some of the dozens of plants on the tufa terraces where it grew. 
Potentilla rupestris 
[thanks to www.floralimages.co.uk

The next day, we went to pay our respects to Rock Cinquefoil, Potentilla rupestris, which is also very scarce, growing in only two sites in Wales, here on the banks of the Wye in Radnorshire [VC43], and on Craig Breiddin in Montgomeryshire [VC47].The ledges where it grew were quite easy to scramble over, but the in-spate, dangerous-looking river  roared brown and turbid past them!  The plant itself was well-over flowering, and the colony rather sparse, but it is apparently holding its own.  In the long hot summer of 1976, we were told, some conscientious person used to come regularly to water it!

 River Wye in spate 
below the Potentilla ledges

The last day "abroad", was spent prospecting Cors Maen Llwyd [Denbighshire, VC50] with Jean Green, for the BSBI Welsh AGM excursion on Friday.  The excitement of the day was finding Carex x gaudiniana, the hybrid between Carex dioica and C. echinata, in some quantity with both its parents. This strange plant was known to me from the Sedge Handbook, but I hadn't realised that this was its classic site, so finding it was a completely unexpected delight! I had never dreamt I would find it - it is only recorded in two sites in Britain, this one and one in Ireland.  
Carex x gaudiniana
Carex x gaudiniana
[herbarium specimen]
There was plenty of Carex canescens [formerly C. curta] in the locality so I wonder whether its hybrid with C echinata, Carex x biharica, could also exist here?

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Welsh Bulletin

The postman has just brought my copy of the Welsh Bulletin.  This magazine is published twice yearly  and received free by members of the BSBI living in Wales.  Other people can subscribe at a cost of £2.00 per issue. To subscribe, contact me via http://www.bsbi.org.uk/merioneth.html first, please.

This issue, No 90, contains interesting Welsh records of new or updated finds from 2011, listed by county;  I am pleased to say that  over a quarter of our Merioneth records were made by our local recording group, Merioneth Nats, which shows what a great contribution you are making.  Thank you all again for your support.

The front cover has a magnificent photograph by Richard Pryce of Anacamptis [Orchis] morio, Green-winged Orchid, which is another plant in this year's Threatened Plants Project [TPP].
Sadly one of the Merioneth populations is known to have disappeared and the other recorded sites have not yet been visited.  So if you have seen it this year, please let me know!

Another item in the Bulletin is an obituary of Dafydd Dafis, a giant of 20th Century natural history in Wales.  I was once privileged to be sent off on a walk with him so his wife, Joan, and our mutual friend Penny Condry could catch up together.  Dafydd, at over 80, easily walked me off my feet as he showed me the farmhouse where Penny and Bill had stayed to keep an eye on the Kites' nest in the Rhandirmwyn valley in the 1950s, and told me the story of Llyn Brianne and the campaign to prevent its construction. [The flooded valley was of considerable botanical interest: there are a number of herbarium sheets of Augustin Ley's from that area on the Herbaria@Home website. [see for example http://herbariaunited.org/specimen/288442/]

Dafydd was founder and President of Cymdeithas Edward Llwyd, which is dedicated to Welsh naturalists. "Mae'n gweithredu'n gyfangwbl trwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg. Mae Cymru hefyd yn ei ddyled, a hynny oherwydd iddo sefydlu Cymdeithas Edward Llwyd a chychwyn y cylchgrawn, y Naturiaethwr."
[Bethan Wyn Jones]

Among other interesting articles in the Bulletin are ones by Tim Rich [Poa bulbosa, Bulbous Meadow-grass] and Andy Jones [Carmel Woods NNR], and a report on last year's AGM in Pembrokeshire. Happy memories - what a lovely event that was!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Caerau Uchaf SSSI

I stole an afternoon away between the showers to visit Caerau Uchaf, a small [2.4ha] SSSI near Bala.  It's a group of unimproved meadows on a south-facing slope and is a stunning example of the sort of flowery fields we have mostly lost.  The lower land is very wet, with abundant Carnation Sedge, Carex panicea  and other wetland plants such as Bugle, Ajuga reptans, Lousewort, Pedicularis sylvatica, Marsh Hawk's-beard, Crepis paludosa, Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil, Lotus pedunculatus and Cuckoo flower, Cardamine pratensis, and dotted about with Heath Spotted-orchid, Dactylorhiza maculata.
The first Euphrasias of the year

 The dryer upper slopes were bright with Red Clover, Trifolium pretense, Bird's-foot-trefoil, Lotus corniculatus, Pignut, Conopodium majus and an abundance of  Euphrasia arctica subsp borealis, the first Eyebright I'd seen this year. Other parts of the fields had excitements such as Rough Hawkbit, Leontodon hispidus and an abundance of Pale Sedge, Carex pallescens, and in the shady edges of the fields were masses of Wood Horsetail, Equisetum sylvaticum. There were vetches such as Vicia cracca, Tufted Vetch and Lathyrus linifolius, Bitter-vetch, but no sign yet of the vascular plant feature of the SSSI, Vicia orobus, Wood Bitter-vetch. 
I hope that it's just too early for it and that it will appear in a month or so, and I will look forward to a return visit later in the summer, when I  expect to be able to add to the list of >100 species I recorded there last Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

County Web page

The big excitement is the setting up of the web page - see http://www.bsbi.org.uk/merioneth.html.

Also please note Caerdeon Residential   [July 24-27 incl]   The Centre is now fully-booked but non-residents will be most welcome
Suggested Venues [a full programme will be posted soon]
Ffordd Ddu, Tyrau Mawr, Nant y Gwirddail  SH61R SH61W, Waun Oer SH60A
Llyn Aran and Afon Aran SH71G and SH71H
Tyrau Mawr photo: W M Condry
Llyn Cau SH71B
Llwyngwril coastline SH51V and SH61A

Pistyll Cain SH72I

Dduallt SH82D and SH82E

Head of Afon Mawddach SH72Y and SH72Z

Caerdeon SH61P

Sylfaen SH61J

Bennar and Dyffryn Ardudwy SH52R

Rhoslefain SH50S

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Looking for threatened plants

On Monday, Polly Spencer-Vellacott* and I went to look for Meum athemanticum, Spignel, one of this year’s Threatened Plants, on a known site near Llanuwchllyn. 
* [see http://bsbicymru.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/spignel-in-merionethshire.html]
 It is thriving on the raised banks surrounding the two fields, which are perhaps overgrown walls from the past.  Here, in spite of added fertility, it seems to be surviving well:  we managed to avoid being sprayed by the slurry spreader during our visit! The photo is not very clear, but shows the brilliant green of the plants standing out among the duller green of the surrounding vegetation.

We estimated the populations in thousands and at all stages of development with plenty of young and non-flowering plants.  In one field we also found Stachys officinalis, Betony and a very few Rhinanthus minor, Yellow Rattle, plants.

Some of the fields we crossed to get there are undrained and are rich examples of such wet habitats – we were delighted to find Crepis paludosa, Marsh Hawk'sbeard and Dactylorhiza maculata, Heath Spotted Orchid, among the Sphagnum, Bog Moss, Vaccinium myrtilis, Bilberry, Succisa pratensis, Devil's-bit Scabious  and Eriophorum vaginatum, Hare's-tail Cotton-grass.  These nice finds rounded off a successful afternoon’s recording very happily.