Saturday 18 June 2016

Moss and liverwort meeting in the Porter Valley, Sheffield, Sorbyshire, May 14th 2016

Moss and liverwort meeting in the Porter Valley, Sheffield, Sorbyshire, May 14th 2016

Despite a slight confusion about the meeting point, this field meeting was a great success with nine of us plus a dog - appropriately named Moss! Overall, we had a good mixture of learning new identification skills and natural history recording throughout the day.

We first spent the morning in the Alder Carr, upstream of the Forge Dam, where the swampy conditions challenged many of us. There, we manage to see a series of mosses and liverworts, mainly epiphytes, typical of this habitat. We looked at the various characters that enable field identification of the common species encountered.

Much time was also spent around a few willow trees that had fallen down and that were literally covered with mosses. Although most of this epiphytic moss biomass was quite species-poor, the party was delighted to find next to each other, adjacent on the same branch, Ulota calvescens and Pylaisia polyantha. These two species appear very scarce when looking at distribution maps (have a look on the NBN gateway!) but they are known to be increasing across the UK. 

During the quick lunch break overlooking the pond, Joan described to the party how much this water body has changed. She recalls the time where it was possible to hire small rowing boats and spend some time on the water. Today there is a wooded island in the middle and most of the open water is extremely shallow. 

After this stroll down memory lane, we walk up the valley towards Porter Clough and made frequent breaks to look at bryophytes. The waterfall was a highlight with several ‘nice’ species such as Hyocomium armoricum

Our final stop was in the species-rich meadow just downstream of Porter Clough, where a path leads to the Mayfield brook. A small drain or gully turned out to be absolutely covered with Pleuridium subulatum, a minuscule moss species holding its capsules tightly between its long, narrow leaves. After a bit more search along the gully, it proved also hosting a healthy population of Fossombronia sp., a small liverwort looking just like miniature lettuce. 

Many identifications are still pending microscopic examination, mainly because Ambroise lags behind with his specimens. However, without reservation we can already say that we made good progress towards recording all moss and liverwort life in the Porter Valley, with the discovery of several species new to the local area. 

In short, a fab day greatly enhanced by exceptional sunny weather and good botanical company! Many thanks for those who made the effort to come and looking forward to the next moss meeting on Saturday October 29th 2016, visiting the Burbage plantation. We are anticipating another jolly bryophyte party.

Joan Egan and Ambroise Baker

Saturday 20 February 2016

New Year Plant Hunt 2016

New Year Plant Hunt Report – Hathersage, Hope Valley, North Derbyshire (Sunday 3rd January 2016)

Despite an early start and an unpromising weather forecast a total of 8 members of South Yorkshire Botany Group participated in the BSBI New Year Plant Hunt at Hathersage in the Peak District National Park on 3rd January. This is the first time that the group has joined the New Year Plant Hunt; the aim is to record as many wild species flowering as you can in up to 3 hours over the new year period.

Those that traveled from Sheffield by train noted several interesting plants in flower at Hathersage train station, including a small stand of Winter Heliotrope (Petasites fragrans); a single flowering raceme was found poking above the patch of toothed rounded leaves. Several tall plants of Bush Vetch (Vicia sepium) in full flower were a surprise as they scrambled up through the planted scrub next to the platform. Joining the rest of the group at the Memorial Hall we then set off to explore the pavements, verges and drystone walls surrounding the outdoor swimming pool and in the village centre. The list of plants grew surprisingly quickly with many common species found to be flowering, including: Annual Meadow-grass (Poa annua), Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale agg.), Common Chickweed (Stellaria media), Common Field Speedwell (Veronica persica), Wavy Bitter-cress (Cardamine flexuosa) and Wood Avens (Geum urbanum). The stunning red styles of female Hazel catkins (Corylus avellana) were detected on a shrub growing close to the bowling green and many flowering plants of Ivy-leaved Toadflax (Cymbalaria muralis) were found growing in a wall close to the post office.

As the rain clouds thickened the group headed away from the village along Baulk Lane, where Yellow Corydalis (Pseudofumaria lutea) and Red Campion (Silene dioica) were noted flowering. Only a single flower of Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) was visible amongst a mass of the heart-shaped leaves by Hood Brook. A search of the short turf at the cricket pitch produced flowering Creeping Buttercup (Ranunculus repens) and Daisy (Bellis perennis). Heading back into the village a traditional site for Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) at the Catholic church was checked but no plants were found. However a non-flowering Navel-wort (Umbellicus rupestris) plant growing in a wall at the bottom of Jagger’s Lane was an interesting and notable find.

The walk along Jagger’s Lane to Hill Foot and across to the River Derwent produced few flowering plants, however Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), Holly (Ilex aquifolium), Cock’s-foot (Dactylis glomerata) and Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) were all added to the list. Several woodland specialists were found (Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), Primrose (Primula vulgaris), Dog’s Mercury (Mercurialis perennis) and Violet species (Viola sp.), however no flowering specimens were recorded. The rain was now heavy and set in for the day and several members of the group headed to the cafĂ© at Outside outdoor shop for a well earned cup of tea and to tally and check the records before submission to BSBI. A total of 29 species were recorded in flower; a reasonable number for the Peak District in January!
Many thanks to all that attended.

Stephen Dixon
Images Mel Linney