Monday, 30 July 2012

Caerdeon - the first Merionethshire recording week

Following on from the Glynhir week in Carmarthenshire, a new venture was tried last week with a four-day recording meeting based at Plas Caerdeon in Merionethshire. There were 15 residential botanists, some from Wales but some from as far as Hampshire and Kent. A few more managed to join us for day trips.

Summer seemed to have arrived for North Wales at last as we had fine weather - although one group did get briefly soaked in a shower, the other groups on the same day saw no rain.

Sarah Stille's organisation over the previous months had paid off, as she had a long list of sites to visit, and the group split up each day so that three sites were recorded. This included woodland, coastal, upland and farmland sites, so plenty of variety was available. 

I spent the first day in oak woodland (plus a bit of farmland); the second day also in oak woodland but with some wet heath and a lake; the third day in upland farmland and the fourth day in meadows. 

Hymenophyllum wilsonii - Wilson's filmy fern
Highlights included finding a good population of Wilson's filmy fern (see above) growing on a rock in oak woodland and some new finds (by other members of the group) including a new record of Sedum forsterianum - rock stonecrop. Many records for Merionethshire are only known at hectad (10 km square) level and so this week was an additional chance to record in tetrads (2km squares) and preferably monads (1 km squares). By the end of four days of scribing, I had 785 records to pass on to Sarah (not by any means all my own work - thanks to all those I spent days with) and so when another two groups were also counted we must have added some detailed dots to the map - and passed four days in good botanical company, with a good chance to improve skills and learn from others. All in all it was a great success and we're looking forward to next year already although it might be a bit different for me with an 8-month baby in tow? 

Monday, 23 July 2012

Glynhir 2012

Last week saw what has become over some years a regular gathering of botanists in Carmarthenshire. Around 16 people stayed in comfort at Glynhir Mansion, where excellent home cooking and the screeches of peacocks combine to make an unforgettable setting. While most of the group were there for a full week, I was only able to spend three days there, but still had three fascinating days out.

On Monday we visited part of the SSSI at Rhosydd Llanpumsaint and were fortunate enough to be accompanied by local CCW staff who were able to give some insight into the management. The site is dominated by pingos or ground-ice depressions, an unusual glacial landform, which have allowed the development of a range of different bog habitats. Unfortunately the weather was very wet, although it did clear slightly in the afternoon.

Perhaps the cool weather had confused this lizard who was probably
trying to get warm -and thought Alison's coat a good bet!

Tuesday saw a visit to the National Wetland Centre at Llanelli, where Barry Stewart was requesting assistance to determine a putative new species of duckweed, Lemna valdiviana. The group recorded especially wetland plants in a number of ponds and ditches, with special thanks to Barry who seemed ever willing to wade in and hook out some specimens for inspection. We finished the day with a sticky muddy trip over the saltmarshes to find the Zostera  (eelgrass) beds - to record this curious plant which is the most marine species found in Britain (compared to most saltmarsh plants, this is found lower in the intertidal zone)

Intrepid Barry hooking out pondweeds

Zostera  on estuarine mud at Llanelli
On Wednesday I spent the day with Andy Jones exploring the floodplains of the Afon Tywi. Our aim was to find Persicaria minor, small water-pepper, which has been recorded around ponds at nearby Dinefwr Castle. Logically, we argued, it should also be found around ditches and oxbow ponds elsewhere on the floodplain. We spent a good day (the rain which was torrential at breakfast-time cleared rapidly once we left) searching along the margins and recorded a reasonable number of species. However, there was no sign of Persicaria minor and so the challenge remains. One reason to search for this species is that it is included in the BSBI's Threatened Plants Project this year, so anyone who knows of a population is requested to fill in a form so we can gain a better understanding of this species.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

BSBI represents Citizen Science on BBC Radio Wales

I have just been to a recording at BBC Radio Wales for a programme called Science Cafe, where the topic was Citizen Science. This will be broadcast next Tuesday 10th July at 7pm, repeated on Sunday 15th July at 6.30am, and available for a week on the BBC iplayer. Follow the link to see any details as they come up. 

It is certainly true that BSBI members and other botanists have been carrying out citizen science since long before the term was invented. Without the contribution of amateur (including many expert) botanists  - and botanists working in their free time - there would be no possibility of projects like the Atlases of the British Flora (1962, 2002), and there would be very little data available for national projects such as the Red Data Lists. So thank-you to all our ongoing volunteers and if anyone reading this is not yet actively recording feel free to contact me, or your local vice-county recorder, to find out how you could become involved.

10th July - the programme was broadcast today and is available now on the BBC radioplayer for 7 days. A great contribution from Dr Goronwy Wynne, the retired vice-county recorder for Flintshire. 

23rd July - the programme is no longer available via the BBC. However, an .mp3 file (with the music removed) is now available here - this can be downloaded at 37MB (so don't attempt it on a very slow connection). 

Anglesey - in the rain again!

Yesterday a day out on Anglesey to round up some of the remaining populations of Tuberaria guttata, spotted rock-rose. Unfortunately the weather was not in our favour but the plants were still quite recognisable although no flowers were visible in the morning in heavy showers. Interestingly in the afternoon about 4.30pm (when the petals would usually have dropped off) we did see some flowers which appeared to be only recently opened; perhaps they were stimulated to open late because of the late afternoon sunshine?

We also saw a large patch of Cuscuta epithymum, dodder. This fascinating and curious plant is completely parasitic on a range of species - especially gorse, as was the case here. With no chlorophyll and hardly any leaves, after germination the wiry red stems twine around the host plant and the roots die off. Specialised organs called haustoria are inserted into the host plant allowing the dodder to extract the water and nutrients it requires.

Note: postscript, this appears to be a site where dodder has not been recorded recently although it was mentioned in R.H. Roberts The Flowering Plants and Ferns of Anglesey. However, there was no grid reference.

Dodder - Cuscuta epithymum on gorse - Ulex gallii