Shropshire Botanical Society Newsletter - Autumn 2000 - page 4
Compiled by Alex Lockton
This year we have the welcome addition of numerous significant bryophyte records for the county, compiled and sent in by Mark Lawley. These follow the rules of the British Bryological Society, which are very stringent in requiring voucher specimens for all new county records. However, in Shropshire we have over 130 years of bryological recording and apparently very little communication between the local and the national scene, so here I have listed the required "new" records but included details of earlier local recording where possible.
First and Second County Records (VC 40)
Cramer Gutter continues to add rare plants to the Shropshire list, this time with the discovery of the liverwort Cladopodiella francisci (Hook.) Jørg. there by Mark Lawley in June 2000 (SO648795), BBSUK. This is a distinctly uncommon species of lowland heath, with a sparse distribution throughout Britain.
The liverwort Gymnomitrium obtusum (Lindb.) Pears. is a distinctly upland species, rarely descending below 500m, and occurring in Britain mainly in Snowdonia, the Lake District and the mountainous areas of Scotland. It is therefore remarkable that it should be discovered on Titterstone Clee, SO598782, at an altitude of less than 533m. Jonathan Sleath found it there in June 2000 (specimen at BBSUK), adding it to the impressive list of montane species recorded on this hill.
Another plant found on Titterstone Clee by Dr Sleath (SO598782, June 2000, BBSUK), was Andreaea rothii Web. and Mohr. Like G. obtusum this is an upland species, but not nearly so rare, and it has been recorded at this site since 1866, when Henry Webb collected a specimen later seen in J.E. Bagnall's herbarium by W.P. Hamilton (Record of Bare Facts, 1899). Most recently it was recorded there by the Border Bryologists in 1999, but a specimen is required for full recognition of the record. Elsewhere in Shropshire it has been recorded at the Wrekin (SJ60) (but not since 1892), at Ashes Hollow and Carding Mill Valley on the Long Mynd (SO49) in 1975 and 1994 respectively, and on the Stiperstones by Martha Newton in 1992.
A rather interesting discovery by Mark Lawley in 1999, confirmed in April 2000, was of Diphyscium foliosum (Hedw.) Mohr at Coed-detton, SO292739, BBSUK. It is a notably westerly plant, its distribution extending exactly as far as the Welsh border, but barely further. It is also found in Cornwall and mainly western parts of Scotland. There are just two previous records for it in Shropshire: Augustin Ley collected it at Whitcliffe Wood near Ludlow (SO47 or SO57) some time before 1911, and it was later identified by J.B. Duncan from his specimen; and Francis Rose and Charles Sinker recorded it at Earl's Hill (SJ40) in 1960 - although it has not been recorded there since, despite several surveys. This is therefore considered the first confirmed record for the county since 1950.
Jonathan Sleath found the moss Weissia longifolia Mitt. var. longifolia in an abandoned quarry at the north end of Wenlock Edge, SO608999, in February 2000, BBSUK. Curiously, this variety is the one that is not supposed to occur on calcareous substrates, according to the textbooks; but it was apparently there anyway. This species is recorded mainly in the south-east and south of Britain, although it has been found as far north as Scotland.
Tortula marginata (Br. Eur.) Spruce was found on a wall in Benthall Edge wood, SJ668035, by Mark Lawley in March 2000, BBSUK. This has to be registered as a first record since 1950, but it is probably a plant which has been overlooked. Previous records include one at Humphreston Hall (SJ80, 1897, W.P. Hamilton); three by J.B. Duncan in 1906 at Mor Brook (ca. SO69), Hampton Loade (SO78) and Badger Dingle (SO79); and even one from the BBS meeting at Alberbury (SJ31) in 1992.
Schistidium crassipilum H.H. Blom was also found by Mark Lawley, on a concrete drain cover in the corner of Cramer Gutter nature reserve, SO649795, in June 2000, BBSUK. This is not only a new plant for Shropshire, but one that is newly introduced to the British list. Mark suggests that it is probably not an uncommon species.
Another of Mark's discoveries was the moss Ephemerum recurvifolium (Dicks.) Boul. in the same quarry as the Weissia longifolia, at the north end of Wenlock Edge, SO608999, in February 2000, BBSUK. Happily, it is typical of this habitat, being a plant of bare ground on chalk or limestone soils. It occurs mainly towards the south-east of Britain, so it is towards the edge of its range this far north.
He also found Pohlia bulbifera (Warnst.) Warnst. at Pattin's Rock Quarry at Benthall Edge. Unlike the other species discovered this year, this is a northerly species here approaching the south-easterly limit of its range. Like the Weissia, it is a calcifugous plant found uncharacteristically in a limestone quarry.
Leucodon sciuroides (Hedw.) Schwaegr. is not an uncommon plant at all, but owing to the extremely demanding standards of the British Bryological Society, was not listed as having been recorded in Shropshire since 1950 until Mark collected a specimen at Coed-detton, SO289742, in April 2000. It occurs on trees and rocks throughout Britain, but is more common in the south. In Shropshire it was first recorded by R. Anslow on ash trees near Crudgington (SJ61) in 1870, and has since been noted many times, most recently by Roy Perry in two places along Wenlock Edge in 1995.
The moss Drepanocladus cossonii (Schimp.) Loeske has only recently been added to the British list, having previously been lumped together with D. revolvens as var. intermedius. The official first county record is from Titterstone Clee, SO607787, and was collected by J.D. Sleath in June 2000, BBSUK. However, there are old records for Hypnum cossoni Schimp. for Wilderley Green (SJ40, R. de G. Benson, 1893), the Long Mynd (SO49, Benson, 1893), and Stapeley Hill (SO39, W.P. Hamilton, 1893). Specimens are probably at Shrewsbury School and Shrewsbury Museum awaiting confirmation.
The county list of conifers continues to grow. We do not have enough information about the status of these - whether they are reproducing successfully nor not, but at least we are beginning to get records about the taxa that occur in the county. Kate Thorne recorded Monterey Pine, Pinus radiata D. Don, in the hedges at Church Pulverbatch, SJ431029, on February 20th; and Sequoia sempervirens (Lambert) Endl., Coastal Redwood, at Pontesford Hill, SJ409054, on March 10th. John Thompson added Chamaecyparis pisifera (Siebold & Zucc.) Siebold & Zucc., Sawara Cypress, from Little Dawley churchyard, SJ687065, 19th April 2000.
A rather unfortunate first county record is for the Hybrid Water-lily, Nuphar x spenneriana Gaudin. This is the cross between Least Water-lily, N. pumila, and Yellow Water-lily, N. lutea. It was found at Cole Mere by Sarah Whild during the BSBI field meeting on July 1st (conf. J.J. Day, specimen in herb. SFG). As readers probably know, Cole Mere is the only native site in England for N. pumila, which must now be considered under threat from hybridisation. It seems that the pure species disappears after a while when the Yellow Water-lily arrives. The only solution is to remove any hybrids or invaders altogether.
Rob Stokes noticed a vigorous patch of Orange-peel Clematis, Clematis tangutica (Maxim.) Korsh, established on the railway sidings at Coton Hill, SJ492137, on 28th September 2000. This species is widely grown but rarely survives for long in the wild.
One exciting find this year was the evergreen shrub Darwin's Barberry, Berberis darwinii Hook, naturalised at Craig Sychtyn (SJ233255, R.A. Dawes, 20th April 2000 1st) and at the foot of the Wrekin (SJ639094, R.M. Stokes, 4th may 2000, 2nd).
Dave Buckingham found Pick-a-back-plant, Tolmeia menziesii Torr. & A. Gray, naturalised alongside a stream in Leaton Knolls, SJ470167, on 28th May 2000. Another thrilling addition to the flora…
Japanese Quince, Chaenomeles speciosa (Sweet) Nakai, was found at Acton Scott churchyard by John Thompson, SO454895, 28th April 2000, SFG.
Hedera colchica (K. Koch) K. Koch, Persian Ivy, is a commonly cultivated species that has not previously been formally recorded in the county. John Thompson found it in the churchyard at Stirchley, SJ699067, on 19th April 2000, and subsequently in several other localities, including a woodland at Harmer Hill. In each locality it is doubtless planted or introduced with garden waste.
Symphytum caucasicum M. Bieb., Caucasian Comfrey, is a blue-flowered comfrey commonly grown in gardens. It turned up this year on the Shropshire Wildlife Trust's Monkmoor Sewage Works Reserve, SJ523136 - S.J. Whild, 7th May 2000, conf. F.H. Perring, SFG.
I have ignored a few new varieties and subspecies recorded this year, especially where these are the common ones, but the following is probably worth a mention: Juncus conglomeratus var. subuliflorus (Drejer) Asch. & Graebn. is a variety of Compact Rush with stalked flower-heads rather like Soft Rush, Juncus effusus. This was collected at Merrington Green, SJ4620, on 23rd July, A.J. Lockton, det. A.O. Chater.
Snow-white Wood-rush, Luzula nivea (L.) DC. is a garden woodrush that has established itself along a footpath in Church Stretton, SO457934, where it was found by Edna Allbutt on 19th June (det. S.J. Whild conf. C.A. Stace). It is not known to be established anywhere in the wild in Britain, so if it persists we could have a first British record here, but Clive Stace has not yet accepted it as such for the Vice Comital Flora.
Finally, congratulations are due to Mark Lawley, who spotted the nationally scarce grass Dense Silky-bent, Apera interrupta (L.) P. Beauv. (det. C.A. Stace), alongside a farm track an arable field near Preston on the Weald Moors (SJ680173) in 1999. This plant is considered native to East Anglia and a few other places in eastern England, but an introduction this far west. Although the area in question was under Arable Stewardship, there is little evidence that it was deliberately introduced.
Apium inundatum (L.) Rchb.f., Lesser Marshwort, joins Shoreweed, Littorella uniflora (see last newsletter) as a colonist on the Long Mynd. It is not a very common plant in the county, and generally occurs in lowland situations, but this year was found by Kate Thorne in pools at SO447953 & SO458668. As we have previous records for these pools, we can be fairly sure that this is a genuine addition; a pleasant antidote to the conventional belief that rare species only ever decline…
What is rapidly becoming Shropshire's most celebrated plant, Scarce Prickly-sedge, Carex muricata L. ssp. muricata, has now been found to be even more abundant than at first believed. Following its discovery at Jones's Rough last year, it has now turned up elsewhere on Moelydd hill, SJ2425, S.J. Whild, 18th June 2000. It is not easy to estimate population sizes, but the team from English Nature who looked at the Jones's Rough plants estimated that there were 500 clumps, and we think there may be even more in Moelydd, in at least nine distinct areas. This compares quite favourably with the combined population in the rest of Britain of just 49 plants - although, to be fair, at the site in Wales recent favourable management is said to have produced 200 new seedlings. What is needed is someone to scour the south-facing slopes of Ruabon Mountain just over the border near Chirk, where it seems most likely to turn up.
Venus's-looking-glass, Legousia hybrida (L.) Delarbre, was considered extinct in the county by Sinker, having not been recorded since Edward Rutter recorded in along the Wenlock Edge in 1961. But this year was a good one for it. First it appeared in a farmyard near Wem, SJ52, where Dave Buckingham's sharp eyes spotted a single plant on June 1st (conf. S.J. Whild, SFG). Then, on July 15th a group from Preston Montford, led by Sarah, found a field full of it on Wenlock Edge, SO607996, SFG. John Swindells deserves particular credit for this joint discovery. It is highly likely that these all arose from dormant seed, not from any deliberate introduction.
Following my appeal in the last newsletter, Kate also kindly obliged by re-finding the Greater Broomrape, Orobanche rapum-genistae Thuill., on the Long Mynd, but still only outside the National Trust boundary, at SO456961, 13th June 2000.
Another welcome re-find this year was Yellow Mountain-pansy, Viola lutea Hudson, on the golf course on the Long Mynd, SO4495, by Kate Thorne in May. It hasn't been recorded there since the Flora.
In the spring of this year Kate Thorne was commissioned by the National Trust to survey the U1 grassland on the Long Mynd. This grassland community occurs over very dry, thin soils, and contains the uncommon species Upright Chickweed, Moenchia erecta, and Teesdalia, Teesdalia nudicaulis. In the NVC this grassland type is considered characteristic of the Breckland of East Anglia, where it is now rare and declining, but the stands in Shropshire - which are slightly different in their species composition - were not sampled, and until recently were unknown.
Dr Thorne has studied our unique form of this vegetation community at a number of sites over the last few years, and so she was the natural choice to trek up and down every batch on the Mynd assessing the extent of the grassland. It turns out that there are some 27 hectares of U1 grassland. Some of it is under threat from encroachment by gorse, but mostly this is a thriving area of another of Shropshire's specialities.