Kirkcudbrightshire Botany Group at High Wood, New Galloway 06/04/2018

This was to be the second filmy fern hunt for VC73, on a day forecast to be dry at first, then very windy and eventually rainy.  As fortune had it we were in the café towards the end of the meeting when the rains came. Seven of us assembled in the village car park and found Greater Cuckooflower Cardamine raphanifolia, spreading downstream from the bridge, and a Monkey Flower Mimulus sp. as well as a large patch of Leopard’s Bane Doronicum pardalianches behind the garbage bins.  All three are aliens which have become naturalised in the UK.

We had a slightly adventurous time crossing the burn into the wood – the map indicated stepping stones, but they had been dislodged so that there was deeper water which some of us managed to cross – others had to trek downstream, cross the road bridge and then walk back up the other bank.  That over, we wandered to the deciduous woodland by way of a semi-improved field, logging many of the usual grassland and edge species and a fringing scrub of very large and mature Hazel Corylus avellana.  All this from the bridge to the woodland edge was in one monad.  Plus a red kite and a Buzzard briefly over the wood.

The woodland occupied another monad and was largely Oak Quercus spp. with scattered Ash Fraxinus excelsior, Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna, Alder Alnus glutinosa and several clumps and tangles of the slender arching branches of Bird Cherry Prunus padus.  Underlying this was a bed of dead Bracken Pteridium aquilinum stems under which was a carpet of Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta. Scattered within this were a couple of emerging shoots of Dog’s Mercury Mercurialis perennis, several small areas with Wood Sorrel Oxalis acetosella with its pale green, three leafleted leaves, the occasional shoots of Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa, small patches of Barren Strawberry Potentilla sterilis just showing the first signs of colour in the buds, and a lovely patch of Townhall Clock or Moschatel Adoxa moschatellina with emerging flower stalks and unopened flowers.  The burn edges were covered with Greater Wood-sedge Luzula sylvatica, while its smaller relative, Hairy Wood-rush L. pilosa, was showing yet to open florescences – one plant with its splayed open inflorescence was seen later on.  Along the pathway, there was Wood Speedwell Veronica montana and Germander Speedwell V. chamaedrys and a single small patch of the hairless and shiny-leaved Yellow Pimpernel Lysimachia nemorum.   [All the underlined species are Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland indicator species].  A wet area at the base of the wood gave us Water Mint Mentha aquatilis, Kingcup or Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris, a starwort Callitriche sp. and a surround of Wild Garlic or Ramsons Allium ursinum.  Nearby there was another wet patch with the bright green, fine-leaved Remote Sedge Carex remota.

Waterfall on Pultarsan Burn ©Jan Davidson
Waterfall on Pultarsan Burn ©Jan Davidson

Then a quicker walk through a suddenly different habitat to Pultarsan Burn where the filmy fern had last been recorded in 1995.  This new habitat was characterised by a moss carpet, mainly Rhytidiadelphus sp.  through which pushed the green stems of Bilberry Vaccinium myrtillus and the rosette of green leaves of Hard Fern Blechnum spicant still showing the rather skeletal-looking, fertile dry stems.  Clumps of dark green and glossy fine leaves of Wavy Hair-grass Deschampsia flexuosa were showing through the moss carpet. All these species are characteristic of rather acid and mineral-poor ground.  In one rather soggy patch we had a few small clumps of Purple Moor-grass Molinia caerulea, the glaucous-leaved (both sides of the leaf) of Carnation Sedge Carex panicea and another sedge (which I refused to ID) – it was glaucous on one side of the leaf and mid-green on the other surface.  Then followed a scramble (me only) up the ravine and waterfalls of the burn to try to locate the target of the day – a lot of water, sometimes too deep for wellies, wet rocks, steep sides to the burn, bryophytes all over the place and finally a waterfall I couldn’t negotiate.  No such fern seen, yet once I re-joined the party on the ravine top and scanned the waterfall rocks, there it was – a small patch of  the darkish green  on the face of a very large boulder mid-stream below the waterfall – and disappointingly all we could do was view it from about 10 metres away! Wilson’s filmy fern Hymenophyllum wilsonii  just as it appeared in the photo in my previous report about Glentrool a week before. That’s two of the four old sites of this fern re-discovered so far this year.

Lunch above the waterfall under increasingly cloudy skies and a sudden strong wind, followed by a rather quicker walk back through the wood.  Oddly I had written a survey report on this woodland in the mid-1980s, but I had no recollection at all of the woodland, the waterfall or the burn, nor how I had got into it.  On the walk back we found Badger snuffle holes (where the animal had scratched the ground up to find bluebell bulbs) and dung pits (self-explanatory both by name and its contents), but no obvious signs of the sett.

Some of our group were into lichens and the following two photos were of lichens growing on the mature Hazels.

Graphis sp. ©Jan Davidson
Graphis sp. ©Jan Davidson
Peltigera sp. ©Jan Davidson
Peltigera sp. ©Jan Davidson

The final results:

  • the filmy fern found
  • 2 monads recorded – 81 species recorded (69 in one monad, 58 in the other)
  • 9 species, last seen pre-2000, re-found: Adoxa moschatellinaAsplenium ruta-muraria, Cardamine raphanifoliaCarex pendulaClaytonia sibiricaDoronicum pardalianchesHedera hibernicaHymenophyllum wilsoniiNarcissus pseudonarcissus.

David Hawker

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