Warrington Plant Group at Houghton Green Pool 2017

Having been here in the winter to investigate its bryophyte flora, we agreed that it would be fun to come back in the summer to see the flowering plants.  It was a wet day, but we were not deterred (much) and duly met up at the pub to see what we could find.  Here is the Pool on our October visit – it was very dried up and about half the size on our May visit despite the recent (and ongoing) rainfall.

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Natterjack toad count, Flintshire 2017

This is my sixth year counting natterjack toads on the North Wales coast and I’m pleased to say that after a poor first night this year, the second night’s count was excellent with over 60 toads across all participating teams 😀  I’ve also heard that the count at the Cheshire site was very good, so it certainly looks as though the reintroduced populations are all doing well.  Happy news in a world of sad extinctions.

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Flintshire BSBI at Caerwys

We had another successful day out in Flintshire recording plants.  This square is under-recorded, and doesn’t look very exciting on paper, but we found over 160 species between the four of us 😀

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Second county record of maidenhair fern in Flintshire

On 9th October 2016 I was leading a bryophyte meeting at Dyserth waterfall, near Prestatyn, for North Wales Plant Group[1].  Having investigated all the accessible parts of the waterfall, we were bemoaning our inability to reach the back wall where the lushest vegetation was.  I was speculating whether the water was too deep for my waders when a member of our party produced some binoculars.  We failed to identify any additional bryophytes with this new equipment, but we did spot something interesting.

On the left of the waterfall, I saw a fern which to my eyes looked exactly like maidenhair fern.  I have never seen this species in the wild, but we used to have a plant in the bathroom when I was a child, so I’m familiar with its habit.  We passed the binoculars around and everyone agreed it was maidenhair fern.  But how to get a specimen to confirm our ID?  It was too high to reach from the bottom of the waterfall and too low to reach from the top of the cliff.

Happily, Mike Klymko from North Wales Wildlife Trust was there that day and, being local, knew that some tree work was planned for the area around the waterfall later that winter.  The work was to be undertaken by specialist contractors including abseiling chainsaw operatives (!).  Mike asked nicely and the contractors were able to pick a frond from the mystery plant for closer inspection.

Possibly the saddest specimen ever, but unmistakably maidenhair fern with its long-stalked, thin, fan-shaped pinnules.

Maidenhair fern is considered to be native in coastal south-west England, south Wales, the Isle of Man and western Ireland, where it grows on humid sea cliffs on calcareous rock, particularly where there are tufa deposits[2].  There are outlying native sites on the limestone of south-west Cumbria and north-west Lancashire.  Outside these areas, plants have been found on damp walls, in heated greenhouses etc, including the first county record for Flintshire in 2007, found on the greenhouse wall at Mostyn Hall by Mark Woods.

Here is the distribution map from BSBI Atlas 2000[3]

Our plant at Dyserth was found on the back wall of a waterfall in a limestone area on a river which is known to produce tufa elsewhere in its catchment.  The site is within 4km of the sea and appears to replicate exactly the native habitat of this species.  Could it be that this is a native site for maidenhair fern?

I think not.  If North Wales were part of the native range for maidenhair fern, I would expect it to have been found on the north-facing limestone sea cliffs around Llandudno, or on Anglesey, which are extremely well-known botanically.  But there are no other records.  The Dyserth site is surrounded by houses.  I suspect that someone locally has a maidenhair fern in their bathroom, just as my parents did, and that a stray spore found its way to the waterfall.

Whatever the origin of the Dyserth plant, it made for an interesting find and a new dot on the distribution map!

[1] North Wales Plant Group are affiliated with the British Bryological Society and organise field meetings across North Wales focusing on non-flowering plants, including bryophytes, horsetails and ferns.

[2] Page (1997) The Ferns of Britain and Ireland (2nd ed)

[3] Preston, Pearman & Dines (2002) New Atlas of the British and Irish Flora

Also published in the BSBI Welsh Bulletin.

Warrington Plant Group at Spud Wood, Lymm

I didn’t think we would beat the previous day’s total from our meeting at Rhyl (see last week’s post) but we did!  152 species for the day.  It was a record breaking meeting in other ways with an amazing 12 people turning up to meet me and go out botanising, including friends from not just Warrington Plant Group but the Flintshire BSBI group as well, not forgetting the BSBI Cheshire vice-county recorder.  Thank you to those who attended for all your contributions 🙂

Fumaria muralis ssp boraei photographed by Phil James, det Martyn Stead

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Flintshire BSBI at Rhyl

You might not think that urban Rhyl would be a particularly productive place to go botanising, but you’d be wrong.  We scored 147 vascular plant species between five of us on our first Flintshire BSBI outing of the season, and fully one-third of those were in the car park at the train station!

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Warrington Plant Group at Lumb Brook Wood 2017

Having explored the vascular plant flora of Lumb Brook Wood last year, we thought it would be a good place to record mosses and liverworts.  The site is mature woodland, is thought to be ancient at least in part and has the benefit of a stream running through it, so we thought it had lots of bryological potential.

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