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!

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