Saturday, March 28, 2020

A Busy Final Atlas Year for Brecknock

We’ve had a good year in 2019 – and, of course, we now have a very slow (recording wise) start to 2020. So here is a summary of our main finds last year. The very first new find was Crocus tommasinianus, Early Crocus, at Gilwern in February, reported by Heather Colls. Not a species I have encountered in the wild but familiar from my gardening days.

 Early Crocus, Saffrwm ar or Crocus tommasinianus
(picture not from Brecknock)

Glabrous Whitlowgrass, Llysiau’r-bystwn llyfn or Erophila glabrescens

We are now familiar with Erophila glabrescens, Glabrous Whitlowgrass and it is common in Hay-on-Wye pavements in March. No surprise then really that we saw it at Sennybridge when doing an early survey around the town and the edge of the Army Camp area.

Italian Lords-and-Ladies, Pidyn-y-gog Eidalaidd or Arum italicum

Arum italicum, Italian Lords-and-Ladies seems to be extending its range in the county and we saw it by the Wye just south of Newbridge early in the year.

Whorled Coralroot or Cardamine quinquefolia
(Bob Gibbons / Alamy)

It’s always welcome to get a report from a neighbouring county about something I have missed near our borders and it helps when they are used to the “new to Brecknock” plant already. This was the case for Cardamine quinquefolia, Whorled Coralroot at Llangattock reported by Steph Tyler in April. Quite a few of our new species take the A40 route into the county from the east. This is a garden escape originating in Eastern Europe but is well established in the wild in Monmouthshire.

 Corncockle, Bulwg yr ┼Ěd or Agrostemma githago

We saw some dead material from obviously Campion Family plants on a rich road verge in Pontsticill late in 2018 and, returning there in June I was surprised to find Agrostemma githago, Corncockle. It must be introduced but is well established. I had been hoping for White Campion!

Coastal Redwood, Cochwydden Califfornia or Sequoia sempervirens

Coastal Redwood was a surprise find in a woodland near Talybont. Certainly planted (in a row) by a past landowner. The picture shows it doing its party trick of regrowing from a fallen trunk.

Pyrenean Lily, Lili ddrewllyd or Lilium pyrenaicum

Pyrenean Lily was reported to me a week before we were going to the location so we certainly checked it out – on a difficult bend on the A40 just east of Halfway. This will certainly be introduced here.

Bifid Hemp-nettle, Y benboeth hollt or Galeopsis bifida

I didn’t mind stepping into a boggy patch up to my thigh at Gors Llyn near Coelbren as it brought me face to face with Galeopsis bifida, Bifid Hemp-nettle, in late July. This was a first for the hectad.

Lesser Skullcap, Cycyllog bach or Scutellaria minor

By August some members of my regular group had decided to go out on their own account in between our planned meetings. Their trip to the recently drained Neuadd Reservoir behind Pen y Fan was miserable in weather terms but very productive (the monads they did were practically unrecorded) and Scutellaria minor, Lesser Skullcap was one of the finds which was new for the hectad. No doubt it had been inhabiting the shores of the reservoir for years.

Tasteless Water-pepper, Y dinboeth ddi-flas or Persicaria mitis

Sometimes it is good to take a break from Atlas recording and I did exactly that when taking a walk out of Hay-on-Wye along the river with my wife one Sunday in August. There was plenty of Persicaria hydropiper, Water-pepper (mental note to record it when back) but what was that rather different one in the long grass? Closer examination showed long whiskers on the ochrae which I had a vague idea was significant, so I tasted a leaf and after the usual wait – nothing. A sample went home and it did seem, after consulting the books, that I had Persicaria mitis, Tasteless Water-pepper. This wasn’t quite a first for the county as A E Wade had recorded it down in the far south west of the county in 1927 – with no records since. I went back over the next few days and found more plants near the original site – which was just as well as the original plant in long grass was gone. (I had only taken a small sample!) Seeds from these plants confirmed the identification.

Small Water-pepper, Y dinboeth fach or Persicaria minor

It neatly rounds off the Persicaria history of my time in the county as Paul Green had found Persicaria minor, Small Water-pepper near Llangorse Lake soon after I started being recorder. He thought at first it was P. mitis (a very rare mis-step!) but was soon emailing me to say it must be P. minor and asking me to check seeds. This was again a second-ever record (same location 1975) and more populations were found in the county of the next two years (mainly by Paul).

I’ve walked the path by the P. mitis site near Hay several times every year since living here – this is an elusive species and our record is the highest ever up the Wye (there is plenty much lower down in Monmouthshire), but I suspect there may be populations higher up that sent seed down to our site.

Apple-of-Peru, Afal Periw or Nicandra physalodes (Nicandra physaloides)

If anything significant appears really near to where I live it often takes someone else to point it out. Last year it was Nicandra physalodes, Apple-of-Peru in a car park that I pass every day, reported by Mark Atkinson in early August. 

Fewflower Jacob's-ladder, or Polemonium pauciflorum

Andy Shaw found a plant that’s not even in my books in mid-August. Polemonium pauciflorum, Fewflower Jacob's-ladder was growing as a weed at a Holiday Park near Builth. There were many plants growing on bare ground underneath a cypress tree. No likely source was found in the local area of the holiday park which is dominated by mown grass.

Musk Thistle, Ysgallen Siarl or Carduus nutans in December at some altitude...

One quirky find was Carduus nutans, Musk Thistle found under Hay Bluff in December. It’s not new for hectad as it has been seen before in Herefordshire but it is Atlas significant and new for the county in that hectad. We were looking for Carlina vulgaris, Carline Thistle and identified a suitable looking habitat in the distance (an area of disturbance probably from quarrying). Such was my determination to find the Carline for the Atlas that I at first was trying to make the rather stunted out-of-season plant fit that mould. This was obviously wrong (and pointed out to me by companions as such). So, we never found the Carline but found something new instead! 

Carline Thistle, Ysgallen Siarl or Carlina vulgaris that we were looking for...