Friday, 22 March 2013

Constitution Hill, Aberystwyth

Aberystwyth lies at the centre of Cardigan Bay and, therefore, also at the midpoint of the Welsh coastline. A small seaside town with a picturesque Victorian promenade Aberystwyth is populated mostly by students and aged holiday makers. It is bounded north and south by a pair of small hills with that to the north being  Constitution Hill. Composed of friable sedimentary rocks know as the Aberystwyth Grits this small hill is scaled by a short funicular railway and is topped by a run down café complex.

Loose shaley areas at the bottom of the cliffs just above the pebble beach support the fleshy maritime subspecies of Common Sorrel, Rumex acetosa subsp. biformis. Unusually for a subspecies this taxon has been granted a common name: Overlooked Sorrel. As can be seen for the BSBI distribution map this moniker is well deserved. The preponderance of Cardiganshire records is a frequent anomaly for critical taxa and is the result of one botanist. Arthur Chater lives in Aberystwyth and has, during his 35 years as county recorder made Cardiganshire one of the most thoroughly recorded counties in the UK. His recent book, Flora of Cardiganshire, is a heavy slab of detailed information on the flora and botanical history of the county that sets the standard for county floras.         

Rumex acetosa subsp. biformis Constitution Hill, Aberystwyth.
SN 58284 82617. 17/03/13

Also among the shale are a few plants of the beautiful coastal species Yellow Horned-poppy, Glaucium flavum. The leaves of this species are coated in a thick growth of multicellular hairs giving them a hoary appearance. This coupled with the leaf's waxy surface makes the plants 'almost unwettable' (Scott, 1963) an important adaptation for a species that is often subject to salt spray or inundation. 

Glaucium flavum Constitution Hill, Aberystwyth.
SN 58284 82617. 17/03/13

Slightly further up the slope the bright little flowers of Coltsfoot, Tussilago farfara are already peaking trough the grey of the scree. This pioneer species produces flowers early in the spring before the leaves have developed.

Tussilago farfara Constitution Hill, Aberystwyth.
SN 58281 82636. 17/03/13

At the top of the hill an area of trampled ground with perforated rubber matting supports a diminutive community. As seen in the picture below the tiny plant Blinks, Montia fontana is in flower and Sea Mouse-ear, Cerastium diffusum is budding among the moss.

Montia fontana & Cerastium diffusum 
Constitution Hill, Aberystwyth.SN 58281 82636. 17/03/13

A frequent occurrence on the rocks of Constitution Hill is the moss Coscinodon cribrosus. This small moss is local in the British Isles mainly occurring on the western coasts. It forms small white tipped cushions on shaley rocks.

Coscinodon cribrosus Constitution Hill, Aberystwyth.SN 58281 82636. 17/03/13

Scott, G. A. M. "Glaucium flavum Crantz." Journal of Ecology 51.3 (1963): 743-754.

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