Thursday, 6 July 2017

Montgomeryshire Intensive Recording Sessions

The botanical delights of west Montgomeryshire - a short report on Mont Flora Group's intensive recording sessions, 26-28 June 2017 (Guest post - contributed by Gill Foulkes, photos: Polly)

The weather forecast did not look promising; the intense heat of the previous week had abated and the barometer was dropping rapidly but in fact we escaped the anticipated deluge and over-trousers were mostly worn  to prevent a soaking from the wet vegetation.

On Day 1 we met at Cemmaes Road (some came from home, a couple were staying on a local caravan site and others in a local B & B) and split into three groups.  Kate Thorne, Glenys and Aubrey Evans recording locally and were treated to fine views of Cadair Idris as well as a good variety of plants and a bank of sand martins’ nests. The two other groups recorded further down the Dyfi, just to the west of Llanwrin in a secluded, wooded valley.  John Clayfield, Rachel Meade and Peter Foulkes found the Enchanter's Nightshade hybrid C. X intermedia.  Gill Foulkes, John Thorne and Sheila Turner were pleased to find Red Bartsia Odontites vernus in profusion along a farm track. The third group found Lesser Skullcap Scutellaria minor in a good bog.
Gill Foulkes with Dactylorhiza maculata (Heath Spotted Orchid)
The same groups (joined by Polly Spencer-Vellacott, BSBI Welsh Officer) all recorded in the Talbontdrain area on the second day. Intrepid as ever, John Clayfield, Rachel Meade and Peter Foulkes found Parsley fern Cryptogramma crispa and Brittle Bladder-fern Cystopteris fragilis on some old mine buildings. After a steep climb across thistly fields, Polly Spencer-Vellacott, John Thorne, and Gill Foulkes were rewarded with a small boggy area (someone's private nature reserve by the look of it) with a very large colony of Heath Spotted orchids Dactylorhiza maculata.  The third group found another good bog. 
Acaena novae-zelandiae (Pirri-pirri bur) - possibly a relatively new invasive in the area?
Two different groups in two different monads found Pirri-pirri bur Acaena novae-zelandiae; the second reported record for Montgomeryshire (the Montgomeryshire Field Society found it earlier this year near the Centre for Alterntaive Technology).  This plant can become especially invasive when it establishes in the wild.  Perhaps it should be listed on Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act in England and Wales before it's too late???
The dramatic landscape of Pistill-y-llyn
 On the final day, the group recorded at Pistyll-y-llyn where the Afon Llyfnant marks the border between VC46 (Cardiganshire) and VC47 (Montgomeryshire).  Mark Lawley (county recorder for bryophytes) and his friend Ralph Martin joined us and recorded 105 bryophytes (24 liverworts and 81 mosses). However, it was Ralph who spotted Brittle Bladder-fern Cystopteris fragilis in an old mine wheel pit.  
Cystopteris fragilis (Brittle Bladder-fern)
Five colonies of Wilson's filmy fern Hymenophyllum wilsonii were found (and there were undoubtedly more) by John Clayfield in his relentless search amongst large boulders.  We had hoped to refind Mountain Male- fern Dryopteris oreades, but although a specimen was taken this has not been confirmed.  A steep, gravelly Calluna slope provided great habitat for a delightful small eyebright (possibly Euphrasia micrantha but still to be verified).  At the very end of the day and within sight of the cars, Kate Thorne found more hybrid Enchanter's nightshade C. X intermedia.

In total the three days produced over 1300 records and participants were introduced to the delights of west Montgomeryshire.  It is appropriate that the county flower, the delicate Ivy-leaved bellflower Wahlenbergia hederacea, was found in most monads visited. 
Wahlenbergia hederacea (Ivy-leaved Bellflower)