New Records

Shropshire Botanical Society Newsletter - Spring 1999 - pages 3-4

Sarah Whild & Alex Lockton


First and Second County Records (VC 40)

Dryopteris x deweveri (J. Jansen) Wachter is a hybrid between Broad Buckler-fern, Dryopteris dilatata (Hoffm.) A. Gray, and Narrow Buckler-fern, D. carthusiana (Villars) H.P. Fuchs. The Broad Buckler usually favours dry, acidic woodland, while the Narrow grows on wet peaty substrates. Both occur at The Moors, Ellesmere (SJ409343) where the hybrid was found by Alex Lockton (conf. A.C. Jermy) on 27th August last year.

The Scaly Male Fern group, Dryopteris affinis (Lowe) Fraser-Jenkins, is a difficult one for taxonomists. The plants are apomyctic, which means that they can reproduce clones of themselves, and each local population could in theory be considered a new species. However, there are broad divisions into which the various forms can be divided, and the parentage of these forms can be deduced from their characters and genetics. Authorities differ slightly about which taxa are recognised, but the account given by Stace (1997) is used here. There are specimens of Scaly Male Ferns in various herbaria which, which properly identified, will no doubt antedate some of these records, but for the present these appear to be the only definite records for the county:-

Dryopteris affinis ssp. affinis. Titterstone Clee, SO5977, 21st September 1998, A.C. Jermy, BM & SHY. 1st.

Dryopteris affinis ssp. borreri (Newman) Fraser-Jenkins. The Mere, Ellesmere, SJ406345, S.J. Whild & A.J. Lockton, 28th September 1997, conf. A.C. Jermy, 1998, herb. Shrops. Bot. Soc. 1st. Dryopteris affinis ssp. borreri (Newman) Fraser-Jenkins. Titterstone Clee, SO5977, 21st September 1998, A.C. Jermy, BM(NH) & SHY. 2nd.

Dryopteris affinis ssp. cambrensis. Titterstone Clee, SO5977, 21st September 1998, A.C. Jermy, BM & SHY. 1st.

Shore Horsetail, Equisetum x litorale Kühlew. Ex Rupr., is the hybrid between Field Horsetail, E. arvense L., and Water Horsetail, E. fluviatile L. It is not an uncommon plant, with a scattered distribution throughout the British Isles, but there is no mention of it in the Ecological Flora, and no properly published record for the county. A number of records sent in during recent years must be considered unconfirmed, especially if they are based on the way the stem breaks, which is a test that one often hears recommended, but which I find unreliable, at least on the plants in this part of the country. The first confirmed record, therefore, is by Richard Lansdown from along the Montgomery Canal, at SJ317250, 13 October 1997 (conf. A.C. Jermy, 13 September 1998).

The Eyebright Euphrasia arctica Lange ex Rostrup ssp. arctica, is described in Stace's New Flora (1997) as occurring in Britain only in the Shetlands and Orkney, but the BSBI referee for this genus, Alan Silverside, of the University of Paisley, has suspected for some time that is one parent of some of the hybrid material found in Wales and the Marches. It was very interesting, therefore, when specimens collected at Pennerley Meadows, in the Stiperstones NNR, turned out to be perfect examples. All the specimens on four herbarium sheets were found to be pure arctica, and Dr Silverside suggests that this taxon can be considered an indicator of old, unimproved grassland.

Euphrasia arctica ssp. arctica, Pennerley Meadows, SO357991, coll. S.J. Whild 5th July 1997 det. A.J. Silverside 12th September 1998, herb. SFG. 1st.

The Eyebright at Pennerley has previously been recorded as E. arctica ssp. borealis by Charles Sinker (1984) and E. officinalis agg. by Ian Trueman (1984). Hay from Pennerley Meadows has been widely used by Professor Trueman for habitat creation exercises on Bushbury Hill in Wolverhampton and elsewhere, so it would be interesting to discover whether the Euphrasia made the transition.

A very interesting old record was turned up by Andy Jones of the Countryside Council for Wales, in a 1949 paper in the Journal of Ecology. Marsh Gentian, Gentiana pneumonanthe L, was apparently collected at "Llanymynach, Shropshire" in 1829, and there is a specimen in the Cambridge University Herbarium to prove it. It is therefore the first record of this species in the county, pre-dating the find at Cramer Gutter by at least a hundred years.

Fred Rumsey and Clive Jermy, of the Natural History Museum, turned up a most interesting find on 11th February 1999 with the discovery of a small population of the gametophyte of the nationally rare Killarney Fern, Trichomanes speciosum Willd., at two sites in Shropshire. Before you all dash out with your fern guides, note that this is the gametophyte, not the fully grown plant, so it unlikely that you will find it. If you wish to recreate the Killarney fern gametophyte experience in the safety of your own home, cut a small square of green baize from a snooker table and look at it under your hand lens…

Kate Thorne has found another new rose to add to the county list. In September 1998 she collected a specimen of the hybrid R. tomentosa x R. arvensis (det. A.L. Primavesi) in a hedge at Forden Heath, SJ4317. This particular hybrid, which does not seem to have any other name, is thought to be extremely rare. When the BSBI handbook on Roses, by Graham and Primavesi, was published in 1993, it was known from only one location in Britain, although apparently it has turned up in a few other places since then.


Rare Plants

The large-flowered form of Nodding Bur-marigold, Bidens cernua var. radiata DC., was found at Hickory Hollow in Whitchurch, SJ535412, by Rosa Ford in September 1998. It has previously been recorded only at Brown Moss. In both sites it is abundant.

The story of the Meadow Thistle, Cirsium dissectum (L.) Hill, at Cole Mere is a curious one. In his book Shropshire Meres and Mosses (Shropshire Books, 1993) Nigel Jones describes it there, but when grilled by Ian Trueman about it he confessed that it might be wrong. However, Chris Walker discovered it there in June 1998 - an extensive patch that was later seen during the Flora Group visit in September. Of course this does not necessarily mean than Jones's record was correct, but it is not a species that is likely to colonise new sites freely, so it seems best to give it the benefit of the doubt. To put this in perspective, meadow thistle does not have any national status, but is county rare.


Other interesting records

I ventured out with a group of intrepid students for a spot of botanising in February, on Old Oswestry. We found the stag's-horn clubmoss Lycopodium clavatum still flourishing on the ramparts, but on searching for last year's heads of greater broomrape Orobanche rapum-genistae we were astounded to find the broom (the host plant for the Orobanche) had been cut down hard just in the area where the broomrape grows. I phoned English Heritage just to check that this was not some new management technique for broom regeneration which also encourages the broomrape (wildly optimistic, I know), but no, it appears that it is the usual story of lack of communication and apathy on the part of land managers when it comes to conserving populations of rare species. Their first priority is of course, to conserve the archaeological features of the site and it was felt that the broom was invading the earth banks. Why then, was the only small area of broom which was cut back, the broom which is host to the Orobanche? And why the fuss? Orobanche rapum-genistae is a Nationally Scarce plant and last year there were over one hundred and fifty flower spikes, making this a nationally significant population. Sorry, English Heritage, but you win my golden ragwort award for bad management.


Corrections & additions

David Pearman noticed an inaccuracy in Tom Preece's article on Alexanders in the last newsletter. He writes:-

Smyrnium - from Greek smurna = myrrh, because of the aroma (Gilbert-Carter, 1955, Glossary of British Flora).

Smyrna - the city - Ismir - is also named from myrrh - but Smyrnium is not named after Smyrna, nor is Smyrna Alexandria.

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