Saturday, December 07, 2013


This botanical recorder hasn't been out much for a while - a combination of factors including the weather have contributed to the situation. (Yes I know there have been good days but they always coincided with stuff in the diary or being indisposed.)

But botanical work continues - including a draft list of species new to their hectad* in Brecon - 89 entries in all. But many of these are not of great significance and it may well be that further checks eliminate others. One example of this "lesser significance" (in the sense that the taxon had clearly been there for a long time) is that Paul Green showed me the distinctive characteristics of Urtica dioica subsp. galeopsifolia - not previously differentiated in Breconshire - and I haven't even got round to photographing it yet...

It has to be said that the majority of the species on the list are there because of the people who came out with me this year and only a small percentage are "all my own work" - there are contributions from all my accomplices, expert and / or keen-eyed. I look forward to more such assistance next year !

And my friend John, it turns out, visited Craig Cerrig-gleisiad at the right time to see (probably) truly native Welsh Poppy's this year so his pictures are now on the website - and here:
Welsh Poppy, Meconopsis cambrica photographed at CCG by John Clark in October

I did see this species this year - and it was new to the hectad - but growing in the rubble near a new cattle grid. And, of course it is a common sight in many Mid-Wales towns as a garden escape.

* A hectad is a 10km square on the Ordinance Survey Grid defined by a 2 digit grid reference such as SN86.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


I'm back and have had quite a wildlife week: but the indoors type. First there was the Brecknock Wildlife trust AGM with excellent presentations from all staff and then on Friday a full day discussing the next five years at the Trust's strategic planning meeting. Next year will be the BWT's 50th year so there will be many special event but put a note in your diary now for the 50th AGM next November - it really is well worth coming to hear what they have been up to and meet the staff and other members. The planning meeting was ably led by Phil Sutton, BWT CEO, and there was no option to sit at the back and not take part - excellent!

 As for botany here is a picture of Luma apicilata (Chilean Myrtle) which is well established between Bantry and Glengarriff on the roadsides:

- it probably came from the Ardnagashel estate nearby which has mature trees with this lovely bark:

I also photographed Purple Moor Grass for the first time for me in the wild - I thought it was looking quite nice ! (And there is a LOT of it in south-west Cork...)

But that was it for outdoor botany (apart from noting a few interesting plants I could identify in November). Some of these were beside this lovely lake:

I was walking on an old road way above the current coast road from Bantry to Glengarriff. There were splendid views including this of Sugarloaf on Beara, which my wife and I climbed a long time ago (when family and locals thought it a mad thing to do).

Another view this time from the Kerry side of the Caha range - I just liked the colours and for once the photograph just about worked.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Wet Pasture, Weird Plants and Fungi

Ben Mullen discovered a strange Devil's-bit Scabious at the new Cae Lynden reserve a few weeks back. It reminded me of the Foxglove we saw at Talybont Reservoir at the beginning of August. Both seemed to have proliferating bracts where a flower should be without any sign of a flower. The Devil's-bit Scabious has now managed to flower and I went to see this earlier in the week:
The new reserve looks like a great place to explore next Spring / Summer !

Here is a normal flower from a plant nearby for comparison:

I took a winding route back for several odd jobs (not all botanical) and found roads and sights at this edge of Brecknockshire I still have to explore, ending up at Cwmdu where there was quite of display of Spindle fruits in a hedgerow:
One of the great Autumn sights in my view

Last Sunday was the appointed day for a Brecknock Wildlife Trust Fungal Foray led by David Mitchel. Althouygh always very near Brecon (in Priory Woods and the Cathedral Close) a wide array of species was found (mainly by David).
Oak Bracket, Inonotus dryadeus

Beefsteak fungus, Fistulina hepatica (the holder was going to take it home and cook it)

Dead Man's Fingers, Xylaria polymorpha

White Coral, Ramariopsis kunzei

Finally; I did get out a record a little - while my car was having a disc brake transplant in Builth Wells. Builth Castle mound is fascinating - if not the best botanical habitat known to man - so no pictures of plants - just this view of the Wye. (But all recording is good recording...)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Totting up

I've been reviewing and collecting statistics while I sort out my records for the year. 33 people accompanied me on a botanical field survey at least once and 9 of them came along 3 or more times. If the support continues then recording the vascular plants of Brecon for the next atlas update should be secure (if still a challenge !). It's not just the company or even the extra botanical expertise - having more eyes in the team results in more species recorded I am sure.

We recorded 3300 individual records of about 600 different species in the period from march through to a few weeks ago. In addition records are still coming in from individual efforts - this is especially welcome.

Meanwhile I haven't entirely stopped botanising. These unusual ferns on the Hay Railway path needed to be properly identified:
This it turns out is a Shaggy Shield Fern, Dryopteris cycadina

Also known as Black Wood Fern and certainly escaped from a garden. It's well-established and holding its own against the general scrub. The species is native to northern India, China, Taiwan and Japan but grows well and is popular in British gardens. I am grateful to Dr Fred Rumsey for identifying this.

Fortune's cyrtomium, Cyrtomium fortunei var. fortunei

Also known as Japanese holly fern, this is more commonly found established in the wild and again is from the Far East. I had noticed both these ferns back in 2011 and thought this one might be this species but again Dr Fred Rumsey confirmed that it really was and added the "var".

I am a little more sure of my native ferns now and noticed a fine stand of Soft-shield fern nearby:
Soft Shield-fern, Polystichum setiferum

The same again underneath the fronds.

Ferns are just one of the groups I can continue to seek out during the winter...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Preparing for next year and walking

Steph and I visited a farm in the Nedd Valley where we will be holding a botanical recording meeting next year in association with the National Trust who own it. We were more focussed on searching out habitats to visit than recording botany - and we did find a most amazing variation of habitat types from wet pasture to classic unspoilt hay meadows and limestone pavement. 

There were some varied fungi on display.
 This is I think a Geoglossum or Trichoglossum
 Some waxcaps
 and, as Steph observed ironically, "maybe a coprophilous fungus"
This at first glance seemed like a nice soft cushion to sit on and observe the Nedd gorge below, which would not have been a safe thing to try as it is a mat of a brittle lichen.
And we had our lunch sitting on these massive limestone pavement boulders in woodland on a higher part of the farm.
We saw Small-leaved lime growing natively sprouting from the rocks of the gorge and also some Wych Elm (not pictured) with very large leaves.
The Lime trunks corresponding to the photograph above.

Then yesterday Martin Wibberly and I reprised our "History and Flora of the Digedi Valley" walk for the Hay Walking Festival. This time the weather looked good on the forecast as well as when we set out only to deteriorate to about the level we had last year from a very wet start. This led to some philosophising on weather and walking - it somehow seemed more disappointing to be sheltering just where we did last year for lunch having set out hoping to do so on the common under Hay Bluff. But it went well with Martin, as usual, full of fascinating anecdotes as well as hard facts about the history of this area and the fate of the farms. I managed as before to find just enough visible botany go get by in a difficult month !

Friday, October 04, 2013

Still plenty to find

I was drawn to a particular area near Erwood today by an old record of Campanula patula - the flower that has been seen again this year in that locality. I didn't find any but there was still plenty to identify and record in the area.

There were also some great fungi - including this one I cannot identify:

I'd been mildly chastising myself for failing to record several common species this year so far - high on the list was the bindweeds - and lo and behold both common Calystegia species presented themselves today within about 100 yards.

This is Calystegia silvatica, Large Bindweed with bracts that entirely hide the sepals behind the flower. The Calystegia sepium, Hedge Bindweed I saw wasn't in a photogenic state. Of course when I was a gardener I hardly cared which species they were as I zapped them !

I was also pleased to see both common and water Figwort in the area.

Scrophularia nodosa, Common Figwort fruits

It helps enormously to keep at the botanical recording regularly making it possible to identify several species from leaves and stems alone, having got familiar with them earlier in the year when in flower. So there's a reason to carry on through the winter !

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.