Summer meeting 1976: Melrose, Roxburgh

HomeEventsSummer meeting 1976: Melrose, Roxburgh

22 August 1976 - 27 August 1976

Meeting report

Melrose was selected as a convenient centre to explore the county of Roxburgh, previously somewhat neglected by bryologists. Instructions provided by the B. B. S. for Local Secretaries did not include hints on rain-making so that bryophytes and bryologists were forced to endure continuous sunshine and severe drought throughout the week. Eleven members attended the whole meeting with a similar number for part. Excursions were primarily in Roxburgh (v.-c. 80) but also in Berwick (81) and Selkirk (79).

22 August. We were joined for the day by an enthusiastic party from the Botanical Society of Edinburgh. First we visited Smailholm Craigs west of Kelso (80), with extensive lava outcrops, but supporting a limited assemblage of saxicolous species. Hedwigia ciliata was abundant with Cynodontium jenneri* and Grimmia stirtonii* in small quantity. At midday we moved to Dogden Moss near Greenlaw (81), an extensive raised bog, normally spongy and treacherous but on this occasion firm and dry. Predictably, small hepatics were of interest, in particular Riccardia latifrons, Cephaloziella subdentata* and Calypogeia sphagnicola*, the last in abundance. A patch of Sphagnum imbricatum*, expertly detected by Dr. Corner, was an unexpected find so far east, while the old record of Dicranum undulatum was confirmed. The prominent Border folly, Hume Castle (81) was visited on the return journey, for members to admire the TortulasT. papillosa, T. laevipila and T. virescens on Fraxinus and T. princeps (with sporophytes) on the crags. A brief Tweedside foray opposite Makerstoun House (80) revealed Marchantia polymorpha var. alpestris* and Fissidens rufulus on exposed muddy rocks, and Scleropodium caespitosum* on boulders.

[* New vice-county record]

23 August. Minto Crags (adorned by the gaunt Fatlips Castle) near Denholm (80) were very dry and an exhausting scramble produced little of note except Cirriphyllum crassinervium, Mnium cuspidatum and Pterogonium gracile, also Orthotrichum pulchellum and O. stramineum on Sambucus. After lunching in a pleasantly cool but unpleasantly wasp-infested wood we took to the hills north of Hawick, visiting Blind Moss near Shielswood (80). Our walk there involved passing Shielswood Loch and inevitably the cool waters proved too great a temptation for some; indeed, suitable attire was at a premium resulting in some secretive exchanging of garments. Those who resisted found Blind Moss a delightful “basin-mire” (one of many in the district) containing such species as Acrocladium giganteum, Camptothecium nitens, Campylium elodes, Mnium rugicum, Sphagnum contortum and capsule-bearing Scorpidium scorpioides growing with the rare rush Juncus alpino-articulatus. Sphagnum imbricatum* grew luxuriantly on slightly drier ground.

24 August. An excursion to the Cheviot Hills was abandoned in favour of what we hoped would be moister places; but with mixed success. Catcleuch Reservoir (67) was an obvious choice but exposed mud, although extensive, was dry and barren. Richard’s Cleugh near Camphouse (80), a natural wooded glen cut into Old Red Sandstone, had a limited flora including Hypnum cupressiforme var. mamillatum, Rhynchostegiella teesdalei, and Calypogeia arguta*. Farther north, the wooded banks of the Tweed near St. Boswells (80) were more interesting; Scleropodium caespitosum was seen again, also Orthotrichum rivulare, Leskea polycarpa, Anomodon viticulosus, Metzgeria pubescens and, on Fraxinus, Tortula papillosa

25 August. A ‘free day’. Several people elected for sightseeing. Others attempted to view the fauna of the Farne Islands but were enshrouded in mist. Mr. Crundwell searched in vain for dune slacks on Ross Links (68). A ‘square-bashing’ party ventured into the hills south-west of Hawick (80) where lists were compiled from several unworked grid squares. The best locality visited was a wooded ravine at Gorrenberry, Hermitage Water, in which rarities for the region, Hylocomium brevirostre and Cololejeunea rossettiana* were growing. Noteworthy too were Lejeunea lamacerina var. azorica*, Heterocladium heteropterum var. flaccidum* on wet rocks and Zygodon viridissimus var. vulgaris on Fraxinus. At the remote farm of Dod Fossombronia pusilla* and Ephemerum serratum var. minutissimum* grew on a damp streamside; another valley nearby had Plectocolea subelliptica* and Scapania scandica* (both with perianths) on damp gravel and Scapania aspera on rock. A final stop at Robert’s Linn waterfall, Slitrig Water, yielded Barbilophozia hatcheri and Lophozia alpestris.

26 August. The Black Burn near Newcastleton (80), much celebrated as the place where Trochobryum carniolicum was discovered in Britain (but never refound there) was considered worthy of a visit but here too the drought hampered our efforts. Prostrate bryologists scrutinized innumerable rocks and boulders in the burn, bringing to light Plectocolea paroica, P. subelliptica, Scapania subalpina, Solenostoma cordifolium and Anomobryum concinnatum. The shaded rock faces (Carboniferous limestones and sand-stones) yielded Brachydontium trichodes, Seligeria doniana, S. pusilla, S. recurvata, Eucladium verticillatum, Gyroweisia tenuis, Tetraphis browniana (all with sporophytes), Orthothecium intricatum, Trichostomum crispulum* and Sphenolobus minutus. More western species in evidence were Lejeunea lamacerina, Mylia taylori and Breutelia chrysocoma. Riccardia incurvata and Fossombronia incurva* were found on damp gravel. Dicranella crispa flourished on a shaded earthy bank. The elusive Trochobryum was not found but could survive in tributary streams unexplored on this occasion.

27 August. The final day was devoted to the Selkirkshire hills (79), the morning locality being the Kirkhope ravine at Ettrickbridge End. The Silurian ‘greywacke’ strata were base-poor but nevertheless suitable for Plectocolea paroica, Anomodon viticulosus, Anomobryum concinnatum*, Trichostomum brachydontium*, T. crispulum* and its variety elatum*. In the stream Fissidens rufulus abounded; also thriving were Orthotrichum rivulare and Leskea polycarpa on exposed Alnus roots. Pohlia delicatula* grew on damp soil. Mr. Townsend emerged from a Sambucus thicket with several creditable finds, namely Metzgeria fruticulosa*, Cryphaea heteromalla*, Orthotrichum pulchellum, O. striatum, Tortula papillosa and Ulota phyllantha.

Kingside Loch near Buccleuch, proved a worthy locality for our final excursion. Beyond the Phragmites-fringed east margin was an extensive swampy zone dominated by Carex, Sphagnum and an extraordinary abundance of Mnium cinclidioides. Lenses were focused much of the time on the stem leaves of Sphagnum recurvum during a lively discussion (primarily between Messrs. Crundwell and Hill) on the status of the three varieties of this species (denoted as S. flexuosum vars. flexuosum, tenue, and fallax by Mr. Hill) conveniently growing here in mixed stands. Other species seen were Mnium rugicum*, M. seligeri, and of particular rarity Acrocladium sarmentosum. More base-rich conditions nearby supported Sphagnum contortum, S. teres and S. warnstorfianum. Those who had noted the absence of Mrs. Paton from the loch side knew that the nearby peaty blanket bog which she was assiduously studying on all fours was of hepaticological merit. We were therefore not surprised by her impressive list of Calypogeia neesiana var. neesiana*, C. sphagnicola*, Cephalozia pleniceps*, C. loitlesbergeri* and Riccardia latifrons*. Some of the party explored the Buck Cleuch ravine nearby adding Fissidens rufulus, Orthothecium intricatum and Scapania aspera* to the record card.

In spite of the dull nature of some of the localities visited, a few observations can be made on the results of the meeting. Obvious was the unpredictability of the terrain, interesting species occurring in otherwise unexceptional habitats (e.g. Tortula virescens at Hume). A few localities (such as King-side Loch and the Black Burn) did have more extensive bryophyte communities of greater significance. Of new records made most gratifying are the discovery of Sphagnum imbricatum so far east, and Cololejeunea rossettiana, a species with very few Scottish localities. Equally rewarding is the knowledge that Dicranum undulatum still survives in probably its last locality in southern Scotland. Scleropodium caespitosum, here at its northern limit in Britain, was found to be abundant by the Tweed. Two other species of restricted distribution in lowland Britain were common in the district –Fissidens rufulus and Tortula papillosa. Others were conspicuous by their absence despite apparently suitable habitats – examples being Sphagnum subsecundum var. subsecundum and the Grimmia species characteristic of similar basaltic rocks in the nearby Lothians.

Perhaps the most productive aspect of the meeting was that representative lists were compiled from 13 previously under-recorded grid squares, and clearly this contribution, in the form of future distribution maps, will help to put the Bryophyte Flora of the district into broader perspective.

David G. Long


Melrose, Roxburgh