Saturday, September 28, 2013

Just recording

Two of us set out to record as much of a 1km square as we could last week. We saw and recorded plenty but also learnt about Brecnockshire terrain and its quirks - two blocked footpaths meant some backtracking and no time to complete the task in Dyrysiog wood (a Brecknock Wildlife Trust Reserve). But that I can finish in the spring when there will be some species not even visible now to add. You go up and down a lot even in a 1 km square in an area such as the one we chose with hedgerows giving way to bracken-dominated common as you climb.

Devil's-bit Scabious was in full flower as it is in many places in the county at present.
Succisa pratensis, Devil's-bit Scabious

The sticky groundsel in Brecon Car park is still putting on a good show:

And back at Dyrysiog we spotted this without going into the reserve (it was by where we parked). David Mitchel tells me it is Cystolepiota hetieri "which is unusual but I find it a reasonable bit in this area". David will be leading a fungal foray for Brecknock Wildlife Trust on 20th October in Priory Woods (Brecon).

Lastly - look out for the displays of Cyclamen hederifolium on many verges in villages. They may be escaped from gardens but are well-established everywhere.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mainly Colchicums

... which tend to get called Autumn Crocuses but aren't. (Certainly not crocuses - wrong number of anthers for that and often a bit early for real autumn when the leaves turn.)
Colchicum autumnale, Meadow Saffron at Henallt Common

But the display last week at Henallt Common was magnificent - thanks in great part to the effective Bracken control recently from the Brecon Beacons Park Authority. I've said before this is one of Brecnockshire's "hidden botanical gems" and it was sufficient lure to get the Herefordshire Botanical Society across the border to see its delights on Thursday.
Lunch at Henallt among the Colchicums

I joined the walk in blustery rain but we kept faith with the forecast and ended up having lunch at Henallt in the dry and walked back to the cars in sun. At the Blysmus compressus site at Henallt Common, Jean Wynne-Jones, the Society Chair spotted a Charophyte which I brought home, photographed and identified as Chara vulgaris var vulgaris but that is a pending identification which I will endeavour to get confirmed. As the BSBI handbook says, "The gametangia of the Characeae are quite unlike the reproductive organs of other plants." In the picture the yellow rugby ball is the oogonium - the female organ, the orange, smaller ball, the male bit (I think !).
 Chara vulgaris [now confirmed by Nick Stewart] (the squares in the background are 1mm)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Balsam pulling and exciting finds

The exciting news first. Brecon Botany Recording Group volunteers have made the first sighting in 29 years of a rare Bellflower near Crickadarn. It is also the first sighting in Brecknockshire for some time.
The Cricakadarn Campanula patula (Spreading Bellflower) 
photographed by Ruth Redmond-Cooper on 12th September 2013

Campanula patula or Spreading Bellflower likes hedgebanks and wood borders and occurs only in a few locations centred on the Welsh borders. It has been declining steadily in Brecknockshire for many decades and has only been seen since 1900 in two relatively small areas: the one where is has just been seen and the area around Llanigon, near Hay. It is a Biennial and hence depends on reseeding to survive. It is thought that regular movements of cattle in the lanes helped spread it in the past. Certainly the places where it has been seen relatively recently tend to be little used byways that may well have been popular cattle droves in the past (such as the path up Digedi valley above Llanigon).

But the good news is that it is worth keeping an eye out for these rarities as I had asked the member of the group who found it to watch out for this early in the year. (Other good news is that, in common with many annuals / biennals, seeds of this species can germinate after very long periods of resting in the soil.)

If you would like to join the Brecon Botany Recording Group please contact me. We have regular meetings but I can also come out to assist with monitoring in your local area or to look at unusual plants you may have found.

The weekly meeting this week was to revisit Llangors Lake - on the popular side this time. We recorded a large number of species and also saw some interesting hybrids such as:

Peppermint, a hybrid of Mentha aquatica and Mentha spicata
and Cirsium x celakovskianum, a hybrid of Creeping and Marsh Thistles
(Thanks for pointing both of these out go to Paul Green, BSBI Welsh Officer.)

The Balsam pulling was to try to control this pest (Himalayan Balsam) in a meadow near Crickadarn (again) that is host to some good patches of Globeflower.
Thanks to Steph for the pictures:

In case you need reminding what Himalayan Balsam, Impatiens glandulifera looks like!

Finally I have a correction  to report. Our find of Tasteless Water-pepper at Llangors a few weeks ago wasn't - it was in fact the nearly-as-exciting Small Water-pepper (which is also tasteless). See the corrected blog at

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Exploring the borders

Llyn Fan Fawr
A rather hasty blog this week as I am off to Shrewsbury for the annual BSBI Recorder's Conference tomorrow. No takers for the group again for my Llyn Fan Fawr / Fan Breicheiniog excursion on Tuesday so my wife, Barbara, came along. It proved to be a useful scouting expedition for another recording meeting next year.
We started out from the parking place with this view of our destination. The going proved relatively easy but the path on the map and the actual trodden paths proved to be non-coinciding - and the path on the ground wasn't visible at all at times - but deciding a heading wasn't difficult and the river crossings were all easy as were the boggy bits. It does depend though on a spell of dryish weather for this I guess.

I recorded two 1 km squares on the way up and it proved to be relatively low interest as predicted by Mike Porter. This was disappointing as I was struck by the richness of the streams flowing the other way "round the corner" in Carmarthenshire earlier in the year on a Hay U3A geology walk there. The clue is in the choice of location for the geology trip of course.

Still recording the atlas project requires good lists of what is there - even if not much. By the time we got back there were 70 records altogether but many of these came from up by the lake.

The lake itself wasn't exactly abundant with water life either but the margins proved better and I went to investigate the western shore while B. did some reading.

This was encouraging as getting to the rocks shown was easy and safe - I am the white dot lower right of centre under the first rock outcrop. Getting to the upper outcrop was also easy and, in fact there is a ravine going up to the top here that looks negotiable with care. The rocks here were some sort of conglomerate (geology again) and clearly species rich. I was able to do some vegitatively but another trip next year to see the flowers would be well worth it.

 Amongst the highlights for this short exploration was Fir Club moss - Huperzia selago (above).  And Butterworts (below) were also in evidence - having been conspicuous by their absence on the way up (despite plenty of habitat).

So this will be a good place for a meeting next year - with a quicker 1.5 mile trek to the lake as we won't need to record that part next year.

Today I was called out to see some road verge plants near Crickadarn. The Hypericum (St. John's Wort) proved to be a hybrid between Perforate and Imperforate St. John's Worts but next to it was some Hypericum pulchrum, Slender St John's Wort and also Orpine - so well worth the call out.

Orpine, Sedum teliphium

Do contact me if you see something unusual near where you are (in Brecknockshire) - I'm happy to come and investigate.