The British Bryological Society Spring Meeting was in Devon this year. That’s a long way from home, but I was tempted down by the opportunity to spend time in one of England’s loveliest counties in the company of expert bryologists.
The first full day in the field was Thursday 11th April, with a choice of trips to Bucks Mill, a steep north facing woodland, or to Marsland, a west facing site offering both coastal grassland and woodland. I went to Marsland; we were rewarded by fabulous weather, species-rich coastal grassland with primroses, thrift and spring squill and woodland with a profusion of ancient woodland species including bluebells, wild garlic and moschatel.
The bryophytes were plentiful and included many common species of short turf, tree bark, stream sides and open earth banks. The party found Bryum donianum, a rare species.
Species of the day for me was Hookeria lucens, a splendid moss with ginormous cells and a translucent, almost iridescent appearance. It seemed particularly fond of badger footpaths down the steep banks on both sides of the footpath, where it occurred abundantly.
On Friday 12th I went to Brownsham, a small National Trust property, again on the coast and featuring ravine woodland and coastal cliff top grassland.
We found Leptodon smithii, a rare species and a first for me, in typical ancient woodland habitat.
Other species included Entosthodon obtusus (TBC), Pohlia camptotrachela , Sematophyllum substrumulosum. Microlejeunea ulicina, Cololejeunea minutissima, Lejeunea lamacerina, Lepidozia reptans and this Riccardia sp.
On Saturday the entire party went to Arlington, a large National Trust site, where we split into groups to record in different directions. Goblin’s gold Schistostega pennata was a big feature of the day seemingly in every hole in the many drystone walls on the estate. Woodland liverworts at this site were a treat, with Lophocolea spp, Nowellia, Bazzania trilobata, Plagiochila spinulosa, Lepidozia reptans, Metzgeria spp, Frullania spp, Cephalozia lunulifolia, Pellia, Diplophyllum, Scapania undulata and Calypogeia species all recorded.
Sunday was blessed with a poor weather forecast and I declined the opportunity to summit Yes Tor (where it snowed!) in favour of visiting Prewley Moor and Sourton Tor.
I was delighted to find an abundance of Odontoschisma sphagni among the Sphagnum species on the lower slopes.
The spring fed streamlets on the lower slopes were productive for curly pleurocarps, with Scorpidium revolvens, S. cossoni and S. scorpioides all recorded. Further up the hill, we found Hedwigia stellata, goblin’s gold again and Fissidens osmundoides, which would have been a new county record had another party not found it in the morning.
On Monday, everyone expressed great enthusiasm for visiting some clay pits, so found myself going alone to Halsdon Nature Reserve. Happily, I had already arranged to meet a local friend there, and so it was that we had a pleasant day catching up, just the two of us, while recording over 60 species of bryophyte.
The big find of the day was not a bryophyte, but a fungus: hazel gloves fungus on a veteran hazel down by the river. A first for me and my friend. Apparently it is fairly widespread in Devon.
The final day of the meeting was Tuesday 16th and we headed to Braunton Burrows sand dune complex. On the short rabbit grazed turf, various pleurocarps were a feature including Rhynchostegium megapolitanum and Brachythecium glareosum, but species of the day without a doubt was petalwort Petalophyllum ralfsii. We found a large population of this species in the classic habitat of partially vegetated track on damp sand:
It was a very enjoyable week and well worth the long drive down!