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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Lockdown Botany

The current pandemic has inevitably prevented us from carrying on as planned in recording the botany of Brecknock. Of course, this is of small importance in the scale of the suffering that Covid-19 is causing to many but what does a lockdown botanist do with his time?

In my case, I have plenty of the admin work that goes with being a recorder to get on with and a small garden to take much better care of than normal. However, there is always that itch to be out and seeing what is developing botanically in the countryside. Members of my loyal botany group are similarly restricted, and we are all lucky enough to be living in places where the permitted local exercise still offers opportunities to "see what is going on".

The scramble to record as widely and comprehensively as possible for the Atlas project that finished on 31st December did also lead to an "identify, tick the list and move on" botanical culture that we were looking forward to leaving behind this year. We would have taken things more slowly in any case and now we really must. An interesting young plant spotted on the walk can always be re-evaluated on a future occasion when there is better evidence to be sure exactly what it is. We can also observe and learn from almost daily observations of exactly how particular plants develop.

It has been an incredible spring with rain and heat alternating in the just the way many plants seem to like, and an abundance of choice species has been reported by many of the group. (We cover the county reasonably well - from Crickhowell and Hay via Brecon and Talybont down to Coelbren.)

Reports from all over the county say that it is a bumper year for this usually shy and retiring little plant:

Moschatel, Mwsglys or Adoxa moschatellina
by the Login Brook path, Hay

All these photographs below are by members of the Brecknock Botany Group in the last month.

Meadow Saxifrage, Tormaen y gweunydd or Saxifraga granulata
Early-purple Orchid, Tegeirian coch y gwanwyn or Orchis mascula
Herb-paris, Cwlwm cariad or Paris quadrifolia
(Actually near Monmouth)
Three-cornered Garlic, Garlleg trionglog or Allium triquetrum
Ramsons, Wild garlic, Craf y geifr or Allium ursinum
Water Horsetail, Marchrawnen y dŵr or Equisetum fluviatile
Fringecups, Clychau’r clawdd or Tellima grandiflora

Pavement gems

I have particularly been interested in the plants growing in the pavements (and walls) of Hay-on-Wye. The pavements are much less walked and several species are taking advantage.

Rue-leaved Saxifrage, Tormaen tribys or Saxifraga tridactylites

This is always to be found in small quantities in the spring on Hay pavements and on its walls but the abundance this year is unusual. It's even along Castle Street. Another place to see it in the county is high on the limestone rocks above Llangattock.

Brecknock Axiopytes

One thing we have got on with is producing a list of Axiophytes for the county. "Axiophyte" means "worthy plant" and these are the species that arouse interest and praise from people when they are seen. They are indicators of habitat that is considered important for conservation and, unlike rare plants, will all be reasonably likely to be found if you look in the right sort of place in the county.

We deliberated (online) over lists and argued about their relative merits and came up with a list of just over 200 plants.

Here is a gallery of just a few of the Brecknock Axiophytes we identified:

Green Spleenwort, Duegredynen werdd or Asplenium viride


Giant Bellflower, Clychlys mawr or Campanula latifolia

Marsh Horsetail, Marchrawnen y gors or Equisetum palustre


Three-nerved Sandwort, Tywodlys teirnerf or Moehringia trinervia

Lesser Skullcap, Cycyllog bach or Scutellaria minor

Early Dog-violet, Fioled y coed or Viola reichenbachiana