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Thursday, February 07, 2019

Stanner and Mistletoe

We visited Stanner Rocks yesterday to be guided around the reserve by Andy, the Warden, and shown the elusive "Radnor Lily".

This plant was only discovered in 1965 at the site and misidentified initially as Snowdon Lily (Gagea serotina). It was nearly ten years later that Ray Woods realised it was a previously unknown in the UK European species, Gagea bohemica, Early Star-of-Bethlehem or Seren-Fethlehem gynnar. At the time this was a different genus from the original name - but recently the Snowdon Lily has been reassigned as a Gagea, being Lloydia serotina in the 20th century.

There were two known flowering sites this year at the time we started - the plant is scattered all over the rock outcrops of Stanner and there are many thousands of them - but only a few plants flower each year. The plant dies back to invisibility by April, explaining why fair-weather past botanists didn't discover it.

Here are some of us photographing the two flowers at the first site:

Barbara here took a much better picture than mine from my phone below;

Here is a good patch of non-flowering plants up on one of the rock outcrops:

Andy then showed us around the site including the second flowering site of the plant and this pool which supports a wide range of rare mosses and liverworts around its edge.

Andy also showed us an example of the rare smut fungus he discovered growing on the Gagea leaves at the site. (It also occasionally is found on the more common Gagea lutea in other parts of the UK.)
Vankya ornithogali on Gagea bohemica leaf at Stanner Rocks

Vankya ornithogali is a plant pathogen, also called Yellow Star-of-Bethlehem Smut.

And the up on the crags we found another flowering Gagea bohemica.


The views from the higher crags are superb:

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Last week I took a break from desk work to chase up a species not recently recorded for a particular 10km square near home - Mistletoe. This establishes that the plant is present on this Lime tree and there will be a dot on the 2020 Atlas update map. I did find another tree but just outside the square boundary. A lot of the target square is taken up by the Black mountains - but Mistletoe remains a possibility on the lower slopes there as well. 
Mistletoe, Uchelwydd or Viscum album near Fforddlas

There are not many species in botanical recording that you can search for at this time of year in a car - but this is one!