Friday, March 28, 2014

Sweet violets

Steph and I tried out the proposed walk for Talgarth Walking Festival this week. This is one of the events celebrating the Brecknock Wildlife Trust's 50th Anniversary.

It's a good route we think and we discovered this ancient Pollarded Oak on the path chosen:

The Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage carpets were already looking great as last year in Pwll y Wrach:
Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage at Pwll y Wrach, April 2013

And we saw Sweet Violets on the paths at the start of the walk:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Another Butterbur and Beating the Weather

Petasites japonicus was recorded by Ray Woods back in 1995 near where the Irfon flows into the Wye at Builth but it now seems to be spreading down the river - even if it was originally a planted introduction.

Tony from the Botany Recording Group spotted some on the Brecknock Wildlife Trust Mammal Discovery Day at Caer Beris a few weeks back so I went along with him to see it flowering (and hence confirm the identification) on Monday. I walked into a patch, however, soon after leaving my car at Builth Bridge Car Park.

We found five sites in all from Caer Beris down to the car park - and I wonder if this newly naturalised species has spread further down the Wye.

Close up of Petasites japonicus, Giant Butterbur or Yr alan mwyaf

Like the native Butterbur I featured in the blog last year this plant sends up a flower spike before the true leaves but, as the picture above shows, this week's species has large leafy bracts below the inflorescence. 

Later in the year large leaves will appear which are similar to but distinguishable from the native Petasites hybridus. If you are walking along the Breconshire bank of the Wye in the next weeks do please look out for more of this. (Or for that matter the Radnorshire bank !)

Beating the Weather

Today, four of the group had sufficient faith in my interpretation of the Met Office predictions to accompany me to Park Wood near Talgarth and we got back to the cars just as the rain came in earnest at about 2.30 - entirely as planned. It was a good morning with even some sun and we made some good finds including several Early Dog Violets:
Viola reichenbachiana,   Early Dog-violet or Fioled y coed

We got as far as the old Bradwys Wood (included into Park Wood by the Woodland Trust who own both) and this was more damp and unkempt (in a good way) than the part near the car park with the path flanked by last-year's dead Angelica stems and Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage.

 A gully in Bradwys Wood with Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage

Possibly our best find (by Vicky) was Adoxa moschatellina, Townhall Clock, Moschatel or Mwsglys

We were either too early or the grid references were slightly off or maybe Herb Paris isn't there any more but we must look again - some year.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Out in the sun

No even informal outing this week but I have been chasing a tree and helping one of members of the Recording Group with her squares. At least I have managed to get out in a glorious week despite several indoor meetings.

The tree is one that I first noted on the horizon high up above the Wye in the view from our bedroom window several years ago. We cannot see the Wye itself (too much Hay in the way) but you can readily see where it is on some mornings from the snaking mist.

The tree is very prominent, if far, and obviously rather on its own on a some high ground which turned out to be Brechfa Common or thereabouts from examination of the map.

You can see the turrets of Maesllwch Castle below it...

What I found was a biggish Beech on the corner of two fields on the edge of the common - a little below the high point of the common between it and Hay. What seems remarkable to me is that a Beech in such an exposed location is so symmetrical and upright.

The tree with Pen y Fan visible to the left

It is near some pools higher up than the well-botanized Brechfa Pool but I am sure worthy of exploration later in the year. The tree turns out to be 7 miles away from our house. (And OK - in this view the tree has grown slightly in deference to the prevailing wind I think.)

The walk around Brecon next day was again in glorious weather and there was plenty to see already together with some more foliage that we agreed would need certain identification later in the year. Here are some of the things Joan and I saw - all near to the Usk in Brecon:

Alder catkins
A flowering currant
Crocus vernus
And Bristly Oxtongue, maybe - or Teasel others have suggested... Time will tell.

Friday, March 07, 2014

River Gorge and Filmy Ferns

No takers this week for my planned walk so I found my way to my first sighting in the UK of Filmy Ferns alone up the River Nedd Fechan from the Pont Melin Car park. It will be easier going later in the year I hope and there will be more to see - so I do hope to go back - but accessing the well-recorded site for Hymenophyllum species wasn't difficult.
Hymenophyllum wilsonii on a cliff near the Nedd Fechan
and closer

Now I need to start spotting them in new sites to justify my role !

I have always delighted in finding and examining these in Western Ireland so it was good to do the same here - even if the ground under foot was rather mobile after the recent rain - making examining with a hand lens interesting. Also I find I am more and more uncertain about the exact species the more I investigate these - and I suspect there are hybrids where they occur together. (Hybrids have relatively recently been found by proper botanists in Cumbria.)

Hymenophyllum tunbrigense

These ferns are fascinating because amongst other things they have very thin leaf blades one cell thick - and the cells are quite large as this picture shows (click on it to see full size):
This picture also shows the characteristic toothed sorusof  Hymenophyllum tunbrigense which makes identification of this species easy enough when they are present.

They demand high humidity and cannot survive drought for long but I've found they also don't seem to grow in the dripping wet areas either like this tufa outcrop I passed on the way:
So north facing, near running water and as often as not on a vertical rock face it seems. 

I explored further up the river, increasing my species count slowly as I went but wasn't able to access the river edge at all points. Certainly I didn't manage to find any more Hymenophyllum - even if I was momentarily confused by a non-vascular similar:
Plagiomnium undulatum I think

It made me realise I'm not as solid on the differences between the Bryophytes and Vascular Plants as I should be - this seemed to have a leaf vein - but no, consulting my Penguin Dictionary of Botany I discover that is a "nerve" and consists of a "narrow thickened strip of tissue down the middle of a moss leaf". The vascular plants have differentiated veins and are altogether much more sophisticated in their ability to move water around. (Even if the filmy ferns are still pretty fragile with respect to coping with drought.)

There were many other interesting sights along the way including this Pellia species (?) in fruiting mode - spores came away in a cloud when I touched a "ripe" fruiting body as below.
Some more pictures:

And finally I stopped off at Maen Llia on the way back...

Saturday, March 01, 2014

A walk in the woods

Two intrepid botanisers joined me yesterday despite an inauspicious start to the day. My second-guessing of the weather had failed spectacularly with forecasts predicting "Friday better than Thursday" right up until Thursday morning by which time it was too late to change the plan. But the rain finally stopped at about midday and was never that heavy. (It was the cold on my pencil hand I disliked most.)

Coed Cefn near Crickhowell (Woodland Trust) is certainly worth a visit at any time of year and there will clearly be a very good and extensive Bluebell display later on in the year.

Joan and Heather look at a Wood-rush

I stumbled on a nice patch of Adoxa moschatellina (Moschatel, Mwsglys) early on which was a bonus and probably the only significant find I was first to see, my companions being invaluable in finding the rest of the 50 or so taxa we recorded.

Adoxa moschatellina (Moschatel, Mwsglys)

We did pretty well with trees, including several determined from last year's leaves underneath them. All in all it was a satisfying outing.

Among the many non-vascular things that we noted with interest was this dainty little moss:
Pogonatum aloides, Aloe Haircap we think
Evernia prunastri and a Stereum (fungus) species on a log.

And finally some good views - even if a little misty. ("Table Mountain" beyond the tree).