Sunday, 16 June 2013

Caerdeon BSBI Recording Week

I spent the last week of May on a BSBI recording week at Caerdeon in Merioneth. The week was organised by the county recorder Sarah Stille the aim of the event was to systematically record species from under-recorded tetrads. A pleasant and productive week was had and as well as renewing acquaintances I saw a few nice species and some very nice sites. 

Botanists in a nice field

The first afternoon was spent on a small craggy hill by the name of Foel Offrwm. The mostly acidic slopes produced little of interest until we stumbled across a slightly base rich area of flushed grass among the rough heather and bilberry. Here we found a few plants of Alchemilla filicaulis subsp. filicaulis. This, by far the rarer of the two subspecies, was a new plant for me and one that I had previously been confused by. In reality it appears very different to the vestita subspecies being much smaller and having more deeply divided leaves as well as the characters of hairiness covered by the keys.       

Contouring around the flank of the hill we found more flushes this time dominated by sedges. Among a suite of common species was plentiful female Carex dioica in full flower. This species became a theme of the week being found by many of the recording parties.  

Alchemilla filicaulis subsp. filicaulis,
Foel Offrwm, VC 48, May 2013

Carex dioica (female),
Foel Offrwm, VC 48, May 2013

We began the second day climbing Rhobell Fawr. While it was an enjoyable walk little of interest in the way of plants was encountered and we moved on shortly after lunch. 

The aim of our afternoon was to update records of the rare Stellaria nemorum subsp. montana. All of the UK populations of this species are in Wales and they centre on the woodlands around Dolgellau. Listed as vulnerable in Wales the species has been somewhat overlooked in VC 48 since Peter Benoit surveyed sites a couple of decades ago for his survey of the rare plants of the area. We visited Coed Cynan a few miles to the east of Dolgellau and before long Andy Jones had located a large patch of the plant growing in typical habitat, damp mossy rocks in slightly base rich woodland. Later the same day we relocated another population this time in a roadside ditch near Arthog.    

Stellaria nemorum subsp. montana,
Coed Cynan, VC 48, May 2013

The third day promised well as we had been granted access to Llanbeder Airfield near the Morfa Dyffryn sand dune system. However the airfield itself turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment botanically consisting mostly of semi-improved grassland with fairly low species diversity. Juncus acutus was conspicuous and prickly as ever in the rough edges, its new heads surprisingly colourful. A resting Grass Snake was quickly annoyed by a barrage of clicking cameras and slithered off into the tussocky fescue.        

Juncus acutus,
Llanbeder Airfield, VC 48, May 2013

Grass Sanke, Llanbeder Airfield, VC 48, May 2013

Leaving the airfield the group climbed awkwardly over a complex barbed wire fence and into sandy rabbit scrapes between the airfield and the dunes. This area proved to be of much greater interest turning up a nice range of the small sand dune species of open sandy areas. Among these were a good number of plants of Erodium lebelii. These stood out from the associated E. cicutarium by way of their paler pink flowers and hoary rosettes and were later confirmed with reference to characters of the fruit (see the Plant Crib article for details).

A little further on from the Erodium came the highlight of the week in the form of Hypochaeris glabra. The great excitement of the Welsh botanists wasn't quite matched by those from southern England where this species is more frequent. A new species for me I was surprised by its small stature and dissimilarity from the common H. radicata.          

Erodium lebeliiMorfa Dyffryn, VC 48, May 2013

Hypochaeris glabraMorfa Dyffryn, VC 48, May 2013

The final day of the meeting was bright and sunny and saw us visit Llwyn-iarth where we wandered through some of the most beautiful upland hay meadows I have ever encountered. The star species of these meadows was Vicia orobus. It was abundant throughout the meadows and just coming into flower. Many other nice species were also present though somewhat eclipsed by the Vicia. These included plentiful Leontodon hispidus and Alchemilla glabra. All in all a very pleasant end to the week. 

Vicia orobus, Llwyn-iarth, VC 48, May 2013

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