Monday, November 14, 2016

Not just botany but studying miners

Last week the botany group joined Norman Lowe who was looking for leaf miners near Talybont Reservoir. We got a good list of botanical records (including at least one we would probably have missed if out on a solely botanical walk) and we also learnt a lot about leaf miners and their identification.

There were several that feed off Hazel leaves including these two which are, I believe, (the mines of) Stigmella floslactella and Phyllonorycter coryli
Here "we" are examining mined leaves:

Here are two more we saw and had identified for us:
Stigmella anomalella on a Rose leaf. The yellow grub is clearly visible in this case (an ID feature).

Stigmella assimilella on Aspen, Populus tremula  leaf. 

This last is the one we might have missed the host for. It was Norman who spotted the mined leaf below a large tree. This is only the fifth record for the county I think he said.

Thanks to Steph for the pictures. I was too cold / busy with my plant card to get my camera out of the bag!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Sheep, fungi and fossils (with a tiny bit of botany)

I forgot to include this picture of the new Soay sheep at Henallt Common in the last post. They introduced themselves to me when I was photographing the berries. Hopefully they will increase in number and get the common under control in the coming years...

We did find Fly Agarics when out doing some late recording on Buckland Hill where we found, but didn't photograph, one Common Centaury plant in flower, some dead but recognisable Red Bartsia and several other species well worth recording especially on the rocky outcrops there.
Fly Agaric or Amanita muscaria on Buckland Hill

Earlier I joined James Cresswell for a Geologically themed walk in the Taf Fechan valley at Merthyr Tydfil and photographed these anthills in the large quarry there:

We did see these Great Horsetails on a landslip along the valley:
Great Horsetail, Marchrawnen fawr or Equisetum telmateia

Dog Lichen or Peltigera spp.

It was hard to remember at times how close we were (for the entire walk) to busy roads and Merthyr town as we walked the secluded valley. There were only occasional glimpses of the trappings of civilisation high above us on the valley edge.
The Taf Fechan
We encountered fossil coral:

and an abundance of Maidenhair Spleenwort behind the derelict Cyrfartha Ironworks furnaces:
Maidenhair Spleenwort, Duegredynen gwallt y forwyn or Asplenium trichomanes

This is an under-appreciated gem in Merthyr:
The Pont-y-Cafnau (English: Bridge of Troughs), sometimes written Pont y Cafnau or Pontycafnau, is a 14.2-metre (47 ft) long iron truss bridge over the River Taff in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. The bridge was designed by Watkin George and built in 1793 for his employer, the Cyfarthfa Ironworks, to support both a tramway and an aqueduct to carry limestone and water into the works. A Grade II* listed building and Scheduled Ancient Monument, the Pont-y-Cafnau is the world's earliest surviving iron railway bridge.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Common plants, Berries and Pools

Passing a field by the A40 nearing Sennybridge I noticed a field with a spectacular (from the road) display of a white flower. I couldn't think what is might be but about a week later had time to investigate.

The field was planted with Turnips (or similar) and turned out to have a footpath through it but the intensity of the white flowers was already waning by the time I got round to investigating. I had to get nearer than the road before the penny dropped - Yarrow!
Yarrow, Milddail or Achillea millefolium

But it was good to realise how a good stand of this can be quite stunning. Better botanists I know could have identified it from the road (at speed)...
Some of the Yarrow in the field

But it turned out to make a good circular walk through varying habitats as I continued on the path to loop back to the car by a different route - and a definite route for recording next summer as the route passes through four 1km squares all in the same tetrad (a bit for a first for awkward Brecknock) in an area not recently recorded.

Next I went to Henallt Common in search mainly for the Fly Agaric I have been told can be abundant there. It was too early for them but there was an abundance of berries on several different trees and shrubs - a cold winter due? How could they tell?
Holly, Celynnen or Ilex aquifolium
Hawthorn, Draenen wen or Crataegus monogyna
Rowan, Criafolen or Sorbus aucuparia
...Somewhat past its best the last one.

Then two of us set out on a cold day to search for Pillwort in pools on Llandefalle Common. We didn't find any but there was lots of other interest and we found this which I hadn't seen for a while in a rather dried up pool:
Marsh Speedwell, Rhwyddlwyn culddail y gors or Veronica scutellata

This pool was the most water-filled but still had no Pillwort. It is abundant in a pool not far away at all on Brechfa Common.

And here is some Pillwort I photographed (much) earlier:
Pillwort, Pelenllys gronynnog or Pilularia globulifera

You can tell it's a fern from the way the fronds unfurl...

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Out with the experts

I've been out with experts recently - so this blog features more than just the vascular plant world thanks to them.

But first the botany group were at Henallt Common because it hasn't actually been comprehensively recorded that recently. We recorded 120 species - and will revisit in spring / early summer to jack that total up a bit. But of course the "Naked Ladies" were the star attraction...
Meadow Saffron, Saffrwm y ddôl or Colchicum autumnale
(Some call them Naked Ladies)

The Rowans were very heavy with berries:
Rowan, Criafolen or Sorbus aucuparia

Then I visited the church at Llanfaes as Keith Noble had alerted me of a Broomrape population there. It is the same species as already established around Brecon Hospital - so has now apparently spread over the Usk.
Ivy Broomrape, Gorfanhadlen eiddew or Orobanche hederae
(A parasitic plant living, in this case, on Atlantic Ivy roots.)

Then I joined Steph from Brecknock Wildlife Trust and Hannah from the Freshwater Habitats Trust on Llangorse Lake where I was introduced to these:
Water Spider or Argyroneta aquatica

Lake Limpet or Acroloxus lacustris

And I did manage to confirm (with the help of the referee for Charophytes, Nick Stewart) that Llangorse has Nitellopsis obtusa amongst its vegetation. I didn't get any photographs - in fact I only just managed to get a suitable specimen off to be verified as the samples disintegrated around me. See pictures of the (very primitive) plant here: German site with pictures of Nitellopsis obtusa

Then Steph and I met up with plants-man extraordinaire, Andy Shaw at Brechfa to assess the Crassula invasion which was somewhat depressing (it is taking over very strongly).

But Andy recognised and pointed out this fungus which lives off a dead larva or pupa of a butterfly or moth under the ground.
Scarlet Caterpillarclub or Cordyceps militaris

Andy had recently spotted this plant which is not often seen in these parts at all. So I went to Talgarth to photograph it. We don't even see the common Fumitory species very often in our botanising trips...
White Ramping-fumitory, Mwg-y-ddaear gwyn or Fumaria capreolata

I will finish with some pictures of the experts at work:
 Surveying for Leeches at Llangorse
Monitoring Crassula where mud and rare plants should be at Brechfa.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A wet meadow near Pont Faen

I started this a few days back but didn't finish. Nothing very special - a hot day in a wet meadow!

With Ragged Robin
Ragged-Robin, Carpiog y gors or Silene flos-cuculi
Fool's-water-cress, Dyfrforonen swp-flodeuog or Apium nodiflorum
(which I hadn't pohotographed flowers of in the wild before)

Abundant Corn Mint with no sign of the more usual (for us) Water-mint.
Corn Mint, Mintys yr âr or Mentha arvensis

And another Gall. This may be Geocrypta galli or Dasineura hygrophila but we didn't look inside to see the larvae so can't be sure.
Fen Bedstraw, Briwydd y fign or Galium uliginosum (with gall)

A few patches of:
Great Burnet, Bwrned mawr or Sanguisorba officinalis

And earlier in the day we encountered this strking fungus in the gloom of a pine woodland.
Yellow Stagshorn or Calocera viscosa (I think)

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Mainly Geology

My only outing last week was actually one with Hay U3A Geology Group. But we were at Craig y Cilau so there was plenty of botany to see and I even made a few records.

One such record was for this:
Autumn Gentian, Crwynllys yr hydref or Gentianella amarella

Just where we stopped to look at a this geological feature way below us:
Eroded glacial till at Craig y Cilau

The gentian would certainly be expected there - on the tramway in limestone rich grassland below the cliffs - but hasn't actually been officially recorded recently so it was useful to confirm its presence.

Senior Reserve manager, Jon, told me that it "is actually fairly widespread on the limestone but rarely (easily) visible if there are a lot of sheep about - for obvious reasons.  It appears to be more common than was previously thought, largely due to a decrease in sheep numbers over the last few years."

It also occurs at this time of year at Allt Rhongyr BWT reserve and on Gilwern Hill - always on our Limestone band.

We also saw:
Dwarf Thistle, Ysgallen ddigoes or Cirsium acaule

Fairy Flax, Llin y tylwyth teg or Linum catharticum

And plenty more that I didn't photograph. This picture was taken a while back but from roughly where we saw the Autumn Gentian:

Friday, August 12, 2016

Revisiting the backup plan

One of the excursions for the recent AGM Meeting involved scaling Cribyn and Pen y Fan and, given the weather history of the Brecon Beacons, there needed to be a backup plan for this one. In the event the day was glorious and many interesting species were seen at around 800m altitude on the steep cliffs.

So yesterday the botany group went to see the backup: meadows within woodland on the banks of the Nant Sere lower down the valley - the Sere rises on Pen y Fan.

We spent a lot of the time in a clearing which obviously is often very wet indeed. Yesterday it was still very damp but the tussocks were more of an impediment to progress than the water.

The highlight was probably a good population of:
Meadow Thistle, Ysgallen y ddôl or Cirsium dissectum

What we first spotted was these distinctive seed heads but when we go to the area there were plenty of the flowers as well as shown above.

There were few places suitable for lunch but we found one.

Sneezewort, Ystrewlys or Achillea ptarmica

Thanks to Sue for most of the pictures - only the one with her in it and the flower head of Meadow Thistle are mine.