Friday, June 26, 2015


We made a start on my National Plant Monitoring Scheme square on Thursday. "SO1522" or a 1 square kilometre of land mostly above the small village of Bwlch on the A40 and conveniently accessible. We had to select three 5m squares from a grid of suggestions (with licence to move them for convenience) and two linear plots 25m long and 1m wide.

In addition I had every intention of trying to record everything we could see anywhere in the square as I normally do.

We were greeted on the Beacon's Way as we entered the square by festoons of Ground Elder in flower. (I'm much more used to seeing leaves.)
Ground-elder, Llysiau’r gymalwst or Aegopodium podagraria

The moorland high up looked uniform and selecting places to record wasn't easy, but convenience and ease of locating the site again in the future suggested we set up our first square by the cairn:
Our first recording square with 5m square laid out using a rope with knots every 5m.

Doing this proved a long process - mainly as it took a while to work out which grasses we had in the square - but this proved to stand us in good stead for the rest of the day with it being quite easy at each subsequent area to tick off most of the species quickly and then explore for "new" ones.

In fact I now feel this is quite a good approach for recording in relatively uniform landscape
- pick a likely patch and do all the grasses before moving on...

We moved on over the hill to the next area and found a suitable recording area near the second path across the hill and then went downhill where we came upon a deeply cut stream, not on the OS map, that presented an ideal natural line for the first linear plot.

And very productive it was with:
Slender St John's-wort, Eurinllys meinsyth or Hypericum pulchrum

Tufted Forget-me-not, Sgorpionllys siobynnog or Myosotis laxa

Bog Pimpernel, Gwlyddyn-Mair y gors or Anagallis tenella

Then further down the track Sue spotted this - which I had already passed by:
Trailing St John's-wort, Eurinllys ymdaenol or Hypericum humifusum

Not one that gets onto the NPMS data but a definite record for the square for BSBI Atlas purposes.

And so to Bwlch Quarry - long since abandoned and freely accessible with one of the 5km suggested squares right on the quarry floor:

Here we set up a square exactly where proposed by the NPMS map and found this plant amongst many others. There is a definite sign here that quarrying Old Red Sandstone releases rich interstitial rock which can support a wide flora:
Common Cudweed, Edafeddog lwyd or Filago vulgaris

There was also abundant Fairy Flax and Carline Thistle.

There was plenty to record on the way back to the car along the lanes - we identified the second 25m linear plot but didn't formally do it - out of time...

This was definitely a garden escape in this environment:
Monk's-hood, Cwcwll y mynach or Aconitum napellus

Monday, June 22, 2015

Gilwern Hill and Small White

Gilwern Hill

A small group of us assembled for this BSBI Recording Meeting on Saturday in rather uncertain weather. The idea was to record on Gilwern Hill for both Monmouthshire and Brecknockshire Vice Counties. We parked just in Monmouthshire so started with that county while I noted species that I would hope to find on our side of the invisible line across the hill.

We certainly found plenty of good species to record and there was plenty of knowledge and expertise to tap into in the group.

Early on we got our feet wet in a marshy bit with abundant Marsh Horsetail - this is one we failed to find on our side - but I know it is in the area now and will try to identify a suitable marshy place in future visits.
Marsh Horsetail, Marchrawnen y gors or Equisetum palustre

We also saw Southern Marsh Orchids on the Monmouth side:
Southern Marsh-orchid, Tegeirian-y-gors deheuol or Dactylorhiza praetermissas (probably)

But we did find a lot after passing the invisible line - just as the heavens opened leading one wag among us to say "let's go back to Monmouthshire". It cleared up soon enough; Stephen guided us to the right place to find and record some very-small-as-yet Autumn Gentian plants and then we explored via a quarry right up onto the top of the hill.
On Gilwern Hill
... with Common and Hare's Tail Bog-cotton
... and plenty of open space.

Then Steph found something I might well have overlooked (or refused to believe even) but actually unmistakeable when inspected close-up:
Common Cow-wheat, Gliniogai or Melampyrum pratense growing among Bilberry

Meg was used to seeing this in moorland - underlining the value of BSBI members travelling around to go to meetings out of their county.

Vicarage Meadows

On Sunday then my wife and I decided to go to Vicarage Meadows to see if the elusive Small-white orchid was yet in flower. It didn't look too good at first as Butterfly Orchids were still at a very early stage but the Fragrant Orchids were at least just into flower:
Heath Fragrant-orchid, Gymnadenia borealis or Tegeirian pêr
(was Gymnadenia conopsea subsp. borealis)

Spotting a Small-white Orchid before it flowers is hard but there was one spike in full flower:
Small-white Orchid, Tegeirian bach gwyn or Pseudorchis albida

Hopefully more are on the way. Oh and this is one to note the scale I put at the top of my pictures - it is quite small !)

On the way out there were many of these in the lower meadow:
Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Boloria selene

Thanks to Steph for telling what they were...


Not normally a BSBI recorder's main concern (here in Brecknockshire in any case) - but I was asked by a researcher at the Royal Horticultural Society if we had some plants as they wanted samples from all parts of the country for a DNA study. (There is uncertainly how many different species we have of this plant in the UK.)

I replied that I knoew of only three recorded sites in Brecknockshire - all certainly planted and not showing signed of spreading in the wild. But they still wanted samples so an unusual assignment for me. Here is the rather attractive inflorescence of this monster plant - only suitable in my opinion for the largest gardens with their own lake!
Giant-rhubarb or Gunnera tinctoria (or is it?)

At the time I had the request I was almost literally surrounded by the stuff in deepest West Cork where it is a pest and has already invaded the banks of a road constructed only a few years ago - but the didn't want samples of those!

National Plant Monitoring Scheme

I am going to make a start on my square for this scheme - run jointly by Plantlife, BSBI and others next week and I thought it was an opportunity to show those of you who may be a little hazy about all our talk of recording squares what it all means. For this scheme we are recording five sites in a "1km square" chosen by the scheme. I have selected a square at Bwlch to record and here is how it appears on the OS map - bounded by the blue gridlines on the map:
And this is it on Google Earth with the square marked out in yellow.
It should be an interesting area - although we are not supposed to take interestingness into account in choosing the recording sites!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A nice find, North Wales and more Orchid hunting

A bit of a catch up as we set of for a week's break immediately after the Wildlife Trust guided walk at Ystrad Fawr Nature Reserve. We progressed slowly - there was so much to see in this new and as yet not fully explored reserve!

It was nice to find abundant Changing Forget-me-not - named because the flowers change colour from first opening as the inflorescence unrolls. (Starting yellow and progressing through white to blue.)
Changing Forget-me-not, Sgorpionllys amryliw or Myosotis discolor

And there was a large patch of Northern Marsh Orchids:
Northern Marsh-orchid, Tegeirian-y-gors gogleddol or Dactylorhiza purpurella

Plus plenty of Water Horsetail:
Water Horsetail, Marchrawnen y dwr or Equisetum fluviatile

But the Pearly Everlasting wasn't flowering yet - the first of some "too early" moments this very late season:
Pearly Everlasting, Edafeddog hirhoedlog or Anaphalis margaritacea

And the real find came a week or so later when Steph was out with a volunteer:
Royal Fern, Rhedynen gyfrdwy or Osmunda regalis

This is known in the area but hadn't been seen here before and is not a common find at all in Brecknock.

On the way back we called at Cae Bryntywarch as Phil had alerted us that Petty Whin had been seen (not spotted there in recent years). It proved easy to find from some excellent sight lines provided by Phil. (Not difficult to spot when flowering actually but very hard when not.)
Petty Whin, Cracheithinen or Genista anglica

And it was nice to see one Wood Bitter-vetch had flowered:
Wood Bitter-vetch, Ffacbysen chwerw or Vicia orobus

Then we had our week off in Snowdonia and I photographed only things that took my fancy:
Heath Milkwort, Amlaethai’r waun or Polygala serpyllifolia
(Especially showy this year maybe? Common in our area as well and not easy to distinguish from the "common" species. There are differences in the lowermost leaves and the outer sepal shape.)

Hare's-tail Cottongrass, Plu’r gweunydd unben or Eriophorum vaginatum
Also common with us.

Here is just one snap from Snowdon:

On my return the Botany Group spent a day at Vicarage Meadows - looking for Small White Orchid which is normally in flower by this time - but wasn't. But we had a great time (as one always does there) and particularly said goodbye with cake to Paul Green who is returning to Ireland after his stint as a very helpful BSBI Welsh Officer who the Brecknockshire Botany Group will miss.

I try to photograph all Sedges when a) sure what it is and b) it's looking photogenic (for a sedge):
Carnation Sedge Hesgen lwydlas, Carex panicea or Carex panicea

Steph was delighted to find Marsh Fritillary Butterflys on the way to the cars through the lower meadow. We knew their food plant (Devil's-bit Scabious) was there but it was thought to be too isolated for them - so a great record.

At Cae Pwyll y Bo nearby the Globeflowers were wonderful and just at their peak. A great tribute to the management by staff and volunteers.
Globeflower, Cronnell or Trollius europaeus

And this is now very abundant in the lanes around there from a few small patches seven years ago. It's an alien invader but not by any means one of the worst...
Pink Purslane, Porpin pinc or Claytonia sibirica