Thursday, December 13, 2007

Rhos Goch

A magic place that is now "access land" but you need to take great care in visiting. I was fortunate that the warden, Andrew Ferguson, showed me around and pointed out the pitfalls. Now I know where to go (with a companion - it's that sort of place) next year for the flora.

At this time of year it was all ankle deep at least and there were plenty of places to get stuck if not careful. "Rhos Goch" means Red Moor but it is actually a bog (in fact several varieties of bog) that is "intriguing to some and respected by all" in the local community. There are very few places like this left now and it is being managed carefully by the Countryside Council for Wales to preserve its nature and the rare plants that grow there.

Not much to photograph this time (I was busy keeping upright anyway) except for the lovely
lichen, Usnea florida on old marker posts.

Oh - and Cowberry - I nearly forgot.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Offa's Dyke

Not the best time for flowers - and not even much in the way of fungi in evidence where I have walked recently - so pictures last week were of Offa's Dyke !

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A reserve along an old track

It's not too late yet - and Llandeilo Graban Nature Reserve in Radnorshire will be even more worth visiting next year at peak time. The reserve is along the verge of a road that was part of the railway line from Three Cocks to Llanidloes. Must have been a wonderful railway trip. Amongst the signs of it's past use - the most obvious is that to get onto it you drive under the road and then do a double left to actually get on it.

The cars that use it now don't see anything as they flash past - they are not a danger though - bikes are (but NOT their fault !) as they approach unannounced from behind. The verges / cutting sides provide a variety of habitats and Welsh Stonecrop grows here amongst many other wild flowers. (Of course it wasn't flowering this late.)

Amongst other flowers not recorded by me before was Wavy Bitter-cress.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

It's always worth taking the camera

Even is that means an extra load up Pen y Fan.

The highlight (botanically) was finding a rush in full flower - but my preoccupation with catching up the rest of family meant poor details recorded and a difficult identification. (Actually rushes are always a difficult identification for me - but they are very worthwhile plants at the interface between the grasses and more conventional flowers.) Luckily Rodney Burton on the UK Botany Yahoo forum was able to help me.

And all the way up I noticed an unusual flower not quite open - found one open eventually - and it was obviously a Willow-herb on closer examination - turns out to be a New Zealand one that is spreading along paths like this one in the Brecon Beacons.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Tricky genus

After the first walk with no photographs for some time last week at least I found things to investigate and record in Cusop Dingle today.

Mainly Hypericum spp. (the St. John's Worts) - a tricky genus and no easier for finding different species all close together as is often the case for these. At least they have the good manners to flower (a bit) even at this time of year.

But my field guide (Rose), in my hands, is inadequate for these and although I am getting better at recording all the important features for checking in Stace later it still was hard to be totally sure what I found - so several this week have the "uncertain" flag in the database and resultant warning on the site.

Continued up to meet the modern road into the Llanthony valley and came back down that way, finding a Hawkweed on Offa's Dyke path that I think I was able to identify to the section (only amazingly erudite botanists go beyond this for this genus).

The road up from the Dingle is I think the older route and clearly traceable (and a public footpath) up to the modern tarmac road. I think Kilvert will have come up this way as well as on the Welsh side.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Mixed day

"Private woodland - please don't start fires" - great attitude and very botanically rich paths into it. Just a pity they hadn't added to the notice "logging in progress" ! So I had to divert.

But then I got back and my pictures weren't that great. Realised I hadn't photographed Galeopsis tetrahit before (and so should have taken more pictures of it with more care !) and had probably seen G. bifida (a closely related species) as well ! (The carry-able book I take with me in my rucksack doesn't mention G. bifida.)

And my Heath Speedwells in this locality were blue, not lilac as usual. I still think they are that species, after careful checking in Stace when I got back - and the species is "highly variable".

I was partly hoping to get near Kilvert's Graig Pwll Du - not to see the waterfall which I know is regarded as a dangerous exploit these days** but just to see the scenery around. Well I did the latter briefly before diverting from the public footpath because of the logging and a lot of confers have just been cleared from the land above the area - hopefully to be replaced by broad-leaves...

** No doubt Kilvert was in full Victorian gentleman's garb when he climbed down to it with the Mole catcher...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Walking to Clyro

You don't have to walk along the road - the walk over the fields that Kilvert described is still a public right of way and reasonably easy to find. (Not much trodden though - the usual way to see where a path crosses a field from trodden grass doesn't work - at least at this time of year.)

Nice to come across a Welted Thistle at last - it's not particularly rare but eluded me until now. Because it is a tricky identification I took plenty of pictures of the "relevant bits".

And the marshy area by the Clyro Brook was a delight - particularly for the blue of Skullcap all over parts of the area. I must look out for mention of it in Kilvert's Diary - but I wonder was it called Skullcap then in this area ?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Nothing new

A lovely day for a walk along the Wye Valley Walk towards Glasbury.

I didn't actually find any species I had not photographed for FloralImages before but several good examples of some I need better photographs of.

The slight surprise was Marsh Woundwort in what seemed a dryish place. But it was near the Wye and a baby frog did leap out of the undergrowth as I positioned myself !

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A disappointment (and worry)

The point of my first meeting with the Radnorshire Wildlife Trust was to find and count Bog Orchids.

So it was a disappointment to hear from the warden at the start that there were very unlikely to be any as they had been stolen.

It's sad that such people are still around (and worrying to hear that this sort of thing is on the increase again). Those, like me, who seek out rare plants to photograph undisturbed are going to have to be careful about revealing locations.

Hopefully some of the bulbils that grow on the leaf edges will have been scattered in the plunder.

But such meetings are never wasted - I would not have been able to identify White beak-sedge without having it pointed out (at least not without hours with a lens and book and some swearing) ! And it is an interesting little "grass" - declining in most places but increasing in the Elan valley.

This was my first encounter with flowering Marsh St-John's Wort as well.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

How to pick the wrong day.

I don't let a little rain stop my quest - oh no !

Friday 20th July seemed the day to call in near the Witney bypass for a rare sight (unique to Oxfordshire and possibly declining).

I had family reasons to visit Oxford anyway and the rest of the week had been spoken for.

The rain was relentless even in the morning - I gave up soaked in this botanically rich area soon after getting some tolerable pictures of the Woundwort. Made my family visit in Oxford and set off for home at about 3 pm with my daughter, coming to stay for the weekend.

We eventually got back to Oxford at about 10 pm - which made us some of the lucky ones - many got stuck overnight around Gloucester.

Made it to Hay the next day via the M4 and superior Welsh roads from the new Severn Bridge up through Talgarth - a 50% increase on the usual distance travelled !

Oddly we never encountered rain requiring "fast" wipers. Just several flash floods at the limit of my preparedness to venture. But I heard that after the false lull in the early afternoon many people encountered monsoon rain such as they had never seen before.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Getting there late

This week was far too late for Globeflowers at Cae Pwll y Bo Nature Reserve but I went anyway and enjoyed getting to know the place. Several not uncommon but new to FloralImages species were added. And all was not lost with Globeflowers as I got to see a straggler with all petals lost - exposing the working parts of the flower to view. So my cultivated example still leads the FloralImages resource and it will have to wait for next year to get wild examples.

Vicarage Meadows nearby was also rewarding, if wet, and I saw Dyer's Greenweed for the first time together with some past their best Orchids. Another great reserve clearly but I will have to consider upgrading my walking boots to cope with Welsh wetness. (I'm not complaining - I gather Wilson's Filmy Fern grows in the area and I would not want that to be deprived of its preferred conditions. I must seek it out some day.)

On the (not direct) way back I stopped to investigate some spectacular spikes I noticed on the Brecon - Hereford Road (just after Brecon where there is a turning on the right for T******* 3 m - I can't reconcile my notebook scrawl with anything on the map but the turning is before Felinfach and the Orchids are on the left opposite the turning.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Dashing about after flowers

Fate is conspiring to keep me away from Hay and its environs at the moment - and the weather is not inviting for local foraging in any case - but I do find increasingly that going to known sites to see a rare-ish plant is oddly dissatisfying.

Necessary to some extent to increase FloralImages' scope but getting there to find you are too late / too early / the thing just isn't performing well this year can be a bit deflating.

So a half way house is to try to stop off on other trips that happen to go near. But then you don't really have time to do the job properly.

So actually the real buzz comes in such conditions when you either stumble across something unexpected or a good friend agrees to take you on a tour of his finds. The latter happened on a visit to Plymouth (young son to be visited). David Fenwick (see his site) bustled me around the area allowing me to add 20 more species to the site. I found another five or so, partly by accident as above, on the rest of the trip so it's been quite a productive week. (See them all at this link.)

But I can't wait to spend some days exploring the nature reserves and roadsides of Powys and Herefordshire at a more leisurely pace...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Getting wet

My early forays to explore the local botany seem always to end up focussing on pools.
Exploring The Begwns - a local National Trust open area above Clyro - I soon stumbled upon one and spent the next hour or so getting soaked as I strove for the best angle on the delights around the shore.

Shoreweed doesn't throw up a flower stem unless conditions are right (and then only a male one) so on spotting this I had to get a good picture. It's only when you get up close (and wet !) that you can appreciate that this is a flower of standard construction - just rather differently proportioned from most - and a very unusual Plantain (because that is the family) in having a solitary flower on each stem - hence the Latin name Littorella uniflora. Then I got wetter trying to get a good shot of the female flower lurking at the base of the plant.

...And of course all achieved with minimal disturbance - a principle I try to be true to whatever the problems - I know flower photographers have a bad reputation with some wildlife conservationists.

Not that the sheep who graze the area have such scruples - the Marsh Speedwell was holding on bravely despite them.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Local sites you never quite get round to

Eighteen years in the West country and I never once went to see the "Bath Asparagus" in it's flowering season.

So, now that I live in Wales, I decided that I must make a slight detour from a trip to a meeting in Radstock and see them. Well worth a drive through the lanes south of Bradford on Avon at this time of year. The local name reflects the fact that people used to eat it cooked like Asparagus. Maybe they still do - but if it was really great then wouldn't the TV chefs be using it ?

Reminds me of the reports that "Alexanders" used to be eaten as a vegetable "before the introduction of Celery" (I read somewhere). A correspondent who has tried it told me that, now he has done so, he understands why Celery replaced it !

Oh and I noticed that it (the Bath Asparagus) was still showing in the hedgerows towards but not right up to Radstock going back west - in lanes I have often travelled - but that would have been on the way to the pub...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Nice examples

It isn't all about finding rare and obscure flowers. Getting to know my new locality I soon found some old favourites on the Wye bank plus a really attractive spray of a Water Forget-me-not I have seen before but always in less than ideal conditions. So it's nice to be able to add a picture of which I am somewhat proud of a splendid species.

(What's more it is one that you would expect to find in such a location - unlike the Philadelphus near it - must be a garden escape from the houses nearby.)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Back now I hope

Installed in new house and the boxes emptied - and a lot of botanical opportunities missed during the period...

But some were grabbed - see Sticky Catchfly for instance and Lesser Marshwort found while exploring a botanically rich pool that is now "close to home".

But the tragedy was realising - just a little too late that I now live not at all far from one of the four known stations for Rock Cinquefoil - it had finished flowering when I got there !

It's not just the rarities that matter though - I am already enjoying finding relatively common flowers that were not common (or maybe just not spotted) in my old haunts. See the recent additions list.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Getting going again

Life is fraught - with the consequences of house moving (or rather trying to) but it is important to get out now that spring is springing.

Howard Parsons very gamely offered to take me to a Hutchinsia site he had been to on a field meeting I couldn't make. The forecast was dire but we set out down Nightingale valley and along the Avon river path. You need to be shown this plant - or be one of the eagle eyed and expert botanists that first found it - and with Howard's help we indeed found it again. I would not have spotted it I am sure. This is one flower for which I would blow my own trumpet about the calibrations on FloralImages - you need to know how small and delicate it is !

Then as a bonus we thought we would give Bristol Rockcress a try - despite it being a little early for it - success ! The weather was far better than expected and plants were (just) flowering - in fact I nearly trod on one quite far from the rocks and growing in grass nearby as we arrived at the location.

Then to a BSBI meeting to learn more about conifers - long an interest but also a mystery to me. A great meeting - haphazard in the best way - because there was always more to comment on before resuming the plan. FloralImages now has many more trees in it's collection including the rare in the wild Fitzroya. And an amazing illustration of the fact that Coast Redwoods can regenerate from low down on the trunk / stump - see this !

Friday, February 16, 2007

Searching for the few that flower now

It's hard to find much new for FloralImages at this time of year - but Mezereon is one flower that has eluded me so far and should be flowering soon if not now.

Well I failed in the location I tried yesterday. Plants were there in the 1990s but apparently not now (and the woodland in question seemed very denuded of all undergrowth by deer).

But nearby Green Hellebore was flowering beautifully at one of it's native sites - so all was not lost.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Radnor's own flower

A long wait for anything new and therefore well worth a longish drive to the only UK site for Gagea bohemica in Wales.

Howard Parsons and I set out soon after 8.00 am on the 25th January to meet the warden, Andrew Ferguson at the site, having been told by him earlier in the week that a few flowers were now out. It was invaluable having Andrew there to tell us the background and warn us how to avoid damaging the environment in our enthusiasm.

It turns out that "few flowers" does not mean "few plants" as the vast majority of the plants do not flower. The flower was overlooked by Victorian botanists (probably because they botanized in the months when G. bohemica is not visible at all (even leaves). The leaves, even when they are about, are very thin and insignificant.

It's a species which is able to exploit pockets of thin soil on acidic rocks where the likelihood of dessication in the summer is great. Reproduction is largely by bulbils that tend to form in most plants instead of a flowering stem and there is even doubt whether the plant can set seed. The species also grows in isolated sites in Europe - but with significant variations between the sites. A species for which there is more to learn !

We were lucky enough to visit two flowering locations - one easy with the flowers not fully out (despite waiting an hour for midday sun to coax them) and a perilous (ish) location high up at the reserve with two fully open flowers.

Notes on Gagea