Sunday, June 02, 2024

Mid Year Catch Up

We have encountered Buck's-horn Plantain twice in the last few weeks, which rather contradicts the Stace distribution information: "mostly near sea ... inland in scattered lowland places mainly in England".

The first was at 260m near the Caban Coch Dam above the Elan Valley Centre.

Buck's-horn Plantain or Llyriad corn carw (Plantago coronopus) at Caban Coch

The next encounter was along the road across Llangynidr / Llangattock Mountains at nearly if not quite 500m.
As above - this time found by Anne and Joan

But note how hairy this one is. Stace is helpful here: "Variably hairy annual to perennial ...". We love and depend on Stace's "New Flora of the British Isles" - Fourth Edition and the remarks above should be taken in the spirit of a quest to update the knowledge for further editions...

The plant is now known along at least a mile - probably more - of that mountain road.

I spotted the next find when taking a short walk in Talgarth, there on the Ennig was a familiar Willow, or was it ? The look and feel was Bay Willow which we started getting to know at its few sites in the county last year. But this one has longer leaves than the descriptions and keys allow. The answer was in the book - it must be the hybrid with Crack Willow:

Shiny-leaved Willow (Salix x meyeriana or Salix pentandra x fragilis)

Confirmation was impeded by it being inaccessible for samples (that is a long telephoto picture) but on a later visit I found more of it downstream in an accessible place.

Also in Talgarth was this:

Dewberry or Mwyaren Fair (Rubus caesius)

One of the few members of the genus that ordinary mortals can name with some confidence. There is plenty of it about in Hay also.

It was nice to see this through the fence in an adjoining field at Craig y Nos on a quick visit:

Marsh-marigold or Gold y gors (Caltha palustris)

A new record for the 1km square with only one record in 1998 anywhere near.

And this (grown from seed last year) flowered:
Carline Thistle or Ysgallen Siarl (Carlina vulgaris)

Not that common and a shy flowerer. It only opens up fully in full sun and sulks when clouds come over...

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Pillwort to Nonea

 We continue to have a botanically eventful start to the year.

Just after the last post several of us met up near Twyn y Beddau under Hay Bluff. I expected to easily show the group the Pillwort that grows up there but that wasn't how it turned out as the pools were very full due to recent rain and not a sign to be seen in most of them of the rare little fern in the water or at the edges. But we did find it at the last pool we looked in which had been thoroughly trampled by horses or cattle, churning up some floating examples:

Pillwort, Pelenllys gronynnog or Pilularia globulifera

(We did put this back!) Pictures from previous years:

Showing the characteristic unfolding of a small frond.

Then the following week at Capel y ffin we saw an abundance of Moschatel which we had been looking for and also happened on this patch of "ALGS" by the road:

Alternate-leaved Golden-saxifrage, Eglyn bob yn eilddail or Chrysosplenium alternifolium

The ALGS is to the right (about 3/4 of the frame) with the much more common OLGS (Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage) to the left. I only noticed the change in background texture when I viewed the photograph later. The basal leaves are quite different for the two species.

On the first trip up from Hay, my passenger, Anne, noticed "Alexanders!" on the way back. So I had to look for myself the next time - it's a narrow bit of the road so the drivers eyes have to be on the road ahead but we did spot it again, unfortunately with a car on our tail so couldn't stop. (If you know the road you will understand.) We managed a short stop for a photo on the way back that time.

Alexanders, Dulys or Smyrnium olusatrum

Not at all common in the county - our third record ever. It is more common in coastal areas and is thought to be a Roman introduction - their version of Celery - but quickly dropped when modern Celery was developed.

And today I heard of this, not 100m from where I live, from a group member who was in Hay yesterday:

Yellow Nonea or Nonea lutea

Growing at the edge of a pavement and spotted by Joan. New for the County but almost certainly a garden escape.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Some early botany

Several of us visited the Hutchinsia at Craig y Cilau on Wednesday. I like this picture because the Rue-leaved Saxifrage nearby, a small plant itself, gives a sense of the tininess of the Hutchinsia on the right.

Hornungia petraea, Hutchinsia, Beryn y graig.

Why Hutchinsia? - see this: Ellen Hutchins

The other main delight (apart from the spectacular views of course) was an abundance of rosettes of Early-purple Orchid - definitely to be visited again soon.

The team are out recording again with, for instance, four monad 20 year updates for Moschatel (or better - one monad was new).

See our current challenges here.

Tess has found Tuberous Comfrey straying from a garden into the wild for only the third county record.

Symphytum tuberosum, Tuberous Comfrey, Cyfardwf Oddfynog (Tess Lister)

And I took a new photo of the White Comfrey on a Llangattock verge, spotted by Ray Woods a few years back.

Symphytum orientale, White Comfrey, Cyfardwf wen

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Small-flowered Catchfly

 Not recorded since 1950 but seen last week by Ray Woods at the edges of a Swede field.

Small-flowered Catchfly, Gludlys amryliw, Silene gallica

So the history in the county goes: “Pen y lan, near Brecon” by Miss Bird in 1809, J A Wade (NMW), no date given but between 1930 and 1950 and now this. The species is in decline in the country - as an arable weed but thisfinding suggests there may be a long-lived seed bank.

Sunday, October 01, 2023

The Molinia Horribleness scale

 No exciting finds this week for the group (but a member, Anne found a Musk Thistle on the Usk):

Carduus nutans, Musk Thistle

The main group outing though always looked like a rather dim hope of great finds but at least we got some records for an unrecorded tetrad.

The outward walk was very hard going in boggy tussocky Molinia caerulea, Purple Moor-grass which I decided was at least an 8 on the Molinia horribleness scale* which I had just thought up.

And no rewards of any note for peering into the boggier bits with only a few records on the whole outward journey. We got far enough to see more promising land a further kilometre away but decided we had to turn back. 

We did agree to do a different route which we thought, from our observations coming along, might not be so bad - and it wasn't (7 maybe). Crucially though we did on that route find some "better" plants. (Apologies to Soft-rush, Foxglove and Heath Bedstraw - we do appreciate you really!)

Marsh Pennywort and Lady's Smock among other rather "better" finds.

The view from as far as we got.

* It goes up to 11...

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Quillwort at Llyn Carw


Llyn Carw - about 6 km trek across difficult moorland from Dolymynach.

The Cambrian Mountain Society teamed up their walking expertise with botanists last week on this walk to our most remote lake. 

Quillwort was found there in 1979 by Ray Woods and determined to be the rather more rare Spring Quillwort, Isoetes echinspora by S G Harrison at the National Museum of Wales. (He was a co-author of the book that describes them for Wales.)

It was at that time “Common on north and west margins”.

Gill Foulkes, a botanist member of the recent expedition, did find a Quillwort on the other side of the lake. (None was found where the original sample was taken.)

Here it is:
The Quillwort found by Gill Foulkes last week, which turned out to be Isoetes lacustris

You have to sacrifice a leaf to prove it's a Quillwort:

And knowing which one needs these megaspores to be examined:
They are about 0.5 mm across...

So maybe the lake does actually still have both of these Quillwort species (the north and west has the more suitable habitat for Spring Quillwort).

Further expeditions are required!

And the members of this walk did prove that botany and long walks can be compatible - with a good recce prior to the day...

Friday, September 01, 2023

An exciting find and other matters

 A record popped up on iRecord last week that is a great new find for the Vice County.

We already have the most southerly occurrence of Circaea alpina (Alpine Enchanter's Nightshade) in the British Isles I think but our one small (and somewhat struggling) population at Craig y Cilau is now joined by a substantial and healthy population found by Sam Thomas while visiting the (also very rare) population of Sorbus stenophylla near Capel y Ffin in the Llanthony valley.

Circaea alpina (Alpine Enchanter's Nightshade) picture, Sam Thomas

Sam said "The rain was torrential and we started from the top which was an unwise choice, once we'd seen the Sorbus we decided to cut straight down the cliff to escape the rain as quickly as possible. We found the Circaea on the way down. It was in a very inaccessible location so not that surprising that it hadn't been found before."

There are a good number of plants on at least two levels of a small, mossy flushed cliff . The Brecknock Botany Group will be visiting next year in early July to collect a herbarium specimen and see it for themselves (those up to the intrepid climb...)

Another picture by Jacques Turner-Moss 

In other - less exciting news, the group have been filling in some upland under-recorded tetrads - sometimes with surprising finds - and certainly with many extra map dots for axiophytes of the county.

We have noticed that this year's weather has really suited Hypericum humifusum with many more records than usual of much larger and well-spreading plants than we usually see.

Hypericum humifusum, Trailing St John's-wort above the Irfon river