Summer meeting 1994: Connemara, West Galway

HomeEventsSummer meeting 1994: Connemara, West Galway

20 July 1994 - 26 July 1994

Meeting report

The second week of the summer meeting was based in Clifden in Connemara, West Galway. It had been arranged as a joint meeting with the Nordic Bryological Society, and we were pleased to welcome Arne Pedersen and Sven Drangard from Norway, and Thomas Homm from Germany. Gerard Dirkse and Sophie Hochstenbach transferred with us from the Burren but were due to depart in the middle of the week. The Irish contingent (Donal) was strengthened after three days by the arrival of Daniel Kelly and Robert Bowen. There were nine of us from across the Irish Sea. The numbers would have been greater, but sadly Nick Hodgetts and his party (Ron Porley and Rod Stern) had to leave unexpectedly when Nick’s wife was taken ill on the transfer day.

All the excursions were in West Galway (v.-c. H16), except for the trip to Clare Island, which is in West Mayo (H27). A bit of extra-curricular bryologising in Clifden itself one evening produced Barbula trifaria* on calcareous rubble in a small roadside shrubbery.

Wednesday 20 July (transfer day)

Donal had recommended Kylemore Abbey as a suitable venue for the transfer day. The gullies on the south-facing hillside near the Abbey were known to be rich in oceanic bryophytes, although they are severely choked by extensive Rhododendron thickets. We hoped that many species might be refound. John Blackburn and myself were the first to arrive, and we spent a short time working a gully well to the east of the Abbey, on the north side of Kylemore Lough. This produced Lepidozia cupressina, Hygrobiella laxifolia, Radula voluta (in small quantity), Jubula hutchinsiae, Frullania microphylla, Aphanolejeunea microscopica, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia and Harpalejeunea ovata. The most exciting find, however, was Lejeunea hibernica growing in pure patches on the under surface of an inclined rock wall by the stream. This is apparently the first report of L. hibernica at Kylemore since its original discovery here in 1933. Back at the foot of the gully, a short foray on the shores of Kylemore Lough duly produced Haplomitrium hookeri.

Most of the other cars had arrived by midday, and we proceeded to work the area near the western end of the Lough. One of our main objectives was Telaranea nematodes, and this was eventually found in at least two places under the Rhododendron, but not in very great quantity. Lophocolea fragrans was on living and fallen branches of Rhododendron, and Fissidens celticus on bare soil. A densely shaded gully had abundant Jubula hutchinsiae, with some Marchesinia mackaii and Oxystegus hibernicus. In another gully Nick Hodgetts found a bit more Lejeunea hibernica and some L. holtii. The various other records included Anthoceros husnotii, Bazzania trilobata, Lepidozia cupressina, Plagiochila killarniensis, P. punctata, P. exigua, Frullania teneriffae, Diphyscium foliosum, Fissidens taxifolius ssp. pallidicaulis and Hygrohypnum luridum.

Later in the week, on 25 July, David Long, Gordon Rothero and I returned to Kylemore to continue the investigation. Lejeunea hibernica was found in two further places in the eastern gully, and Plagiochila exigua and Colura calyptrifolia were also noted here. Most of our time, however, was spent in a gully to the west of the Abbey. A waterfall at the base was only lightly shaded and it had a fair quantity of Radula voluta and Plagiochila exigua, with P. killarniensis, P. punctata, Radula aquilegia and some more Lejeunea hibernica. The deeply shaded parts of the gully, under Rhododendron, were dominated by Jubula hutchinsiae.

Mature planted trees by the track from the Abbey had some good epiphytes, including Zygodon conoideus and Homalia trichomanoides. Pleuridium acuminatum was on a tree root, and Phaeoceros laevis ssp. laevis on the site of a bonfire, with Bryum rubens.

It was gratifying to find that much of interest remains at Kylemore. Lejeunea hibernica appears able to tolerate quite dense shading, but L. flava, which we failed to refind, may now have been lost. Jean Paton saw this species near the western end of Kylemore Lough in 1968, but the track was more open than she remembered it, and it is possible that the clearing of shrubs may have caused a temporary loss of humidity.

Thursday 21 July: Benbreen, The Twelve Bens

Our first day on the Twelve Bens involved an approach via Glencoaghan to the south. We were able to drive a good distance up the valley, to a hamlet below the SW slopes of Derryclare. From there we could look across the boggy valley to the imposing summits of Benbreen and the adjacent hills. The weather was ideal for a day in the hills, being overcast but dry, with good visibility. Our route took us across the boggy valley to the corries to the north-east and south-east of Benbreen. Racomitrium affine* and Hypnum lindbergii were noted near the hamlet, and Pleurozia purpurea soon turned up on the boggy ground. The party soon fragmented. One group was content to work the southern corrie. The second, more ambitious, group made for the northern corrie, with the intention of crossing into the southern corrie via the summit of Benbreen. Wet crags below and on the shoulder of the ridge running east of Benbreen produced Adelanthus decipiens, in thoroughly wet crevices, Rhabdoweisia crenulata, Campylopus setifolius, C. schwarzii and Dicranodontium uncinatum.

The problems of overgrazing were evident during our ascent: in one small area of block scree the heather was badly damaged but we were still able to find a little Bazzania pearsonii and Adelanthus lindenbergianus among the more plentiful Herbertus aduncus. We were scarcely prepared, however, for the devastation which awaited us in the northern corrie. Here, on the stony north-facing slope, a few broken fragments of heather and the dead remains of large Herbertus tussocks bore sombre witness to the destruction of the dwarf shrub heath which once clothed these slopes. We could find only small and sorry pieces of A. lindenbergianus, with a little Bazzania tricrenata and B. pearsonii. Herbertus aduncus had fared slightly better. The Adelanthus must have been plentiful here only a few years ago. Several people observed that the overstocking with sheep has been precipitated and encouraged by EEC subsidies.

Most of the group which reached this corrie proceeded to complete the ascent of Benbreen, from where there were spectacular views of the Connemara bogs and the distant coast. The descent to the southern corrie was steep; the first group had of course been there for some time. The most interesting ground was on the north-facing slope, where there were some wet crags and two deeply incised gullies. Most of the species seen in the first corrie (except A. lindenbergianus) were also here. Additional species included plentiful Metzgeria temperata and a little Leptoscyphus cuneifolius on rock walls. Riccardia latifrons, Anthelia julacea, Lepidozia cupressina, Kurzia sylvatica, Calypogeia azurea, Lophozia opacifolia*, Lophocolea fragrans, Plagiochila killarniensis, P. spinulosa, P. punctata, Cephalozia leucantha, Odontoschisma denudatum, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Aphanolejeunea microscopica, Sphagnum molle, Dicranum scottianum, Tetraplodon mnioides, Pohlia elongata, Calliergon sarmentosum and Plagiothecium denticulatum var. obtusifolium* (the complanate form) were recorded in various habitats. Ditrichum heteromallum and Pohlia muyldermansii were on mineral soil. The best find of the day, however, was Acrobolbus wilsonii*, found by Jean Paton on a relatively exposed rock face at ca. 460 m, apparently the highest location in which this species has ever been found in the British Isles. On the descent from the corrie, Harpanthus scutatus and Anastrepta orcadensis were found under heather.

Friday 22 July: Roundstone

Roundstone is famous for its rare plants, not least the Irish heaths and the interesting aquatic flora of the lough margins. It is also noted for three recent bryophyte discoveries of very great interest: the only Irish station outside the Burren for Calliergon trifarium, the sole Irish record of Leptobarbula berica at Letterdife House, and an enigmatic record of Myurium hochstetteri, from a streamlet near Roundstone. We had all these in mind during our visit.

Our route took us from Roundstone over the eastern saddle of Errisbeg to the low hills near L. Bollard. We were fortunate to have the expert guidance of Mary O’Connor, who is involved in research work on the ecology of the Connemara bogs. The area is one of open heath and bog, with numerous low crags and boulders. The heath and bog produced Kurzia pauciflora, K. sylvatica, Cephalozia catenulata, Cladopodiella fluitans, Pleurozia purpurea, Sphagnum imbricatum ssp. austinii, S. magellanicum, S. strictum, Campylopus brevipilus, C. atrovirens var. falcatus (looking very different from the usual straight-leaved form), Splachnum ampullaceum, Tetraplodon mnioides, Calliergon sarmentosum and Scorpidium scorpioides. It was the rocks, however, which prompted the most diligent searching. There are outcrops of basic gabbro, and the area has two notable ferns, Asplenium septentrionale and Adiantum capillus-veneris, both of which Mary was able to locate for us. This was quite an achievement in the case of the Adiantum, as the few fronds grow deep in a recess at ground level. This explained the attitude of supplication that various members were seen to adopt at this spot. The bryophytes on the rocks included a good quantity of Glyphomitrium daviesii, and a substantial list of other species: Gymnomitrion crenulatum, Plagiochila killarniensis, Scapania compacta, Porella obtusata, Frullania fragilifolia, F. teneriffae, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Harpalejeunea ovata, Colura calyptrifolia, Campylopus polytrichoides, Grimmia donniana*, Racomitrium sudeticum, Hedwigia ciliata and Pterogonium gracile.

From L. Bollard, where the flowering plants distracted many from the bryophytes, we made the short trek to L. Nalawney, recording Sphagnum contortum en route. L. Nalawney is a small lake at the northern foot of Errisbeg. A few of us made a circuit of the lough and were able to see Calliergon trifarium and Sphagnum platyphyllum on the northern side, in a wet lawn of Eleocharis and Rhynchospora fusca. Most of the group, however, were content to search the small stream running into the lough from Errisbeg. This was a rare habitat, as the stream ran beneath bushes of Erica erigena. Many small Lejeuneaceae were seen here, including L. hibernica. There was also a little Jubula hutchinsiae in a recess in a small waterfall. Somewhat higher on Errisbeg, Radula lindenbergiana* was found growing with Harpalejeunea in a fissure in a large boulder.

Late in the afternoon we were invited to take tea at Letterdife House, where Mary was staying. This gave Harold Whitehouse the opportunity to look for Leptobarbula. On arrival, I was immediately responsible for raising premature hopes with a patch of what proved to be immature Barbula rigidula. Later, Harold made a further search but this too was unsuccessful. He did however turn up Tortula marginata*.

Meanwhile, David Long had left the main party at midday to walk along the coast to Gorteen Bay in search of Myurium. The ground was interesting and records included Riccia beyrichiana, Plagiochila killarniensis, Scapania compacta, Porella obtusata, Frullania fragilifolia, F. teneriffae, Campylopus brevipilus, C. polytrichoides, Gymnostomum recurvirostrum, Schistidium maritimum, Ulota hutchinsiae and Hedwigia ciliata. The Myurium was not to be found, however, and it remains an enigmatic member of the Irish flora.

Saturday 23 July: Muckanaght

Our second assault on the Twelve Bens was from the north, via Glencorbet to Muckanaght. Once again we were favoured with good weather. Donal arranged transport for us up the rough track along the valley of the Kylemore River, and this saved us some time but not much by way of altitude. The wait for the party to assemble, by a hamlet off the main road, allowed time for some bryologising on a patch of disturbed gravelly ground. This proved to be rich, with Haplomitrium hookeri, Atrichum tenellum*, Pohlia bulbifera and P. muyldermansii.

The main walk began by a farmhouse near the Kylemore River, and progress was slow initially as the ground was attractive. Haplomitrium hookeri was found again, and other records included Blasia pusilla, Leiocolea alpestris, L. bantriensis, Jungermannia exsertifolia ssp. cordifolia, Pohlia drummondii and Rhynchostegium lusitanicum* (the latter in the Kylemore River).

It was at this point that there occurred an event which must be unique in the annals of the BBS. Several members became involved in the rescue of a cow which had become lodged in a trench. The beast was eventually freed, but it had suffered a prolapse and was in poor condition. Later in the day, however, we learned that it had made a good recovery, after veterinary attention.

This excitement delayed the arrival of many members on the higher ground, but there was still time to work the wet crags on the northern and eastern slopes of Muckanaght. There is quite a lot of basic ground here, particularly on the crag on the northern side, where there is also some calcareous scree. The crags on the north-east slopes are very wet in part, and also mildly basic. A long list of interesting species was compiled in these areas. Of the large oceanic-montane hepatics Herbertus aduncus, Pleurozia purpurea and Bazzania tricrenata were predictable, but we also saw some good patches of Bazzania pearsonii and scattered stems of Scapania ornithopodioides. Equally, some lowland species ascend to considerable altitudes in this hyperoceanic part of the British Isles. Marchesinia mackaii, for example, was seen on the main crags at ca. 500m. The numerous other species seen on this interesting mountain included Preissia quadrata, Blepharostoma trichophyllum, Jungermannia subelliptica, Lophozia opacifolia, Leiocolea alpestris, Anastrepta orcadensis, Sphenolobopsis pearsonii, Eremonotus myriocarpus, Gymnomitrion obtusum, Marsupella sprucei, Plagiochila spinulosa, P. punctata, Hygrobiella laxifolia, Scapania aspera, Radula aquilegia, Frullania teneriffae, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Colura calyptrifolia, Cololejeunea calcarea, Aphanolejeunea microscopica, Seligeria recurvata, Dicranodontium uncinatum, Campylopus setifolius, C. schwarzii, Anoectangium aestivum, Gymnostomum recurvirostrum, Leptodontium recurvifolium, Racomitrium ellipticum, Isothecium myosuroides var. brachythecioides, Orthothecium intricatum, Isopterygium pulchellum and Ctenidium molluscum var. condensatum.

Sunday 24 July: Clare Island

Clare Island was the subject of an intensive study in 1909-1911 by the Royal Irish Academy, and it is currently being re-surveyed. Donal was therefore keen for us to make a contribution to the bryology. The island is in Co. Mayo (H27), and it involves a long drive from Clifden, as well as a sea crossing. Some members were apprehensive about the journey. However the roads were quiet early on a Sunday morning, and Donal had arranged a boat for us at 10 o’clock. We were able to fit in a good five hours bryology and the day was a great success.

Donal organised us into several groups. Jean Paton, John Blackburn, Thomas Homm and I worked the eastern end of the island. We took the green lane from the old village school to a knoll on the eastern end of Knockaveen. After rounding this knoll we followed the steep north slope of the main hillside westwards to an interesting base-rich crag, eventually returning via a cut-over bog to the green lane. Diligent recording produced an impressive list of 160 taxa. The green lane had Riccia subbifurca, Blasia pusilla, Fossombronia pusilla, Scapania scandica, Archidium alternifolium, Pleuridium acuminatum, Pohlia drummondii and Hypnum lindbergii. A rock outcrop on the knoll had Dicranum scottianum, and Barbilophozia attenuata was on a hummock by a stony flush. The steep north-facing slope had stepped turfy ledges formed of intricate patches of Hymenophyllum wilsonii, Lepidozia cupressina, Mylia taylorii, Scapania gracilis and many other bryophytes. Notable among these were Barbilophozia floerkei and Cephalozia leucantha.

The base-rich crag looked attractive from a distance and lived up to expectations. Notable here was Radula carringtonii in a relatively exposed habitat on north-facing rocks. Other species included Leiocolea turbinata, Tritomaria quinquedentata, Plagiochila killarniensis, Radula aquilegia, R. lindenbergiana, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Marchesinia mackaii, Cololejeunea calcarea*, Colura calyptrifolia, Eucladium verticillatum, Gymnostomum calcareum, Plagiobryum zierii and Anomodon viticulosus. Below the crag Jean demonstrated Marsupella funckii on a stony track, and there were Riccardia latifrons, Kurzia pauciflora, Mylia anomala and Odontoschisma denudatum on the boggy ground.

Donal himself, David Long and Gordon Rothero worked the great cliffs of Knockamore on the north coast. Gordon turned up one of the best finds of the day, Geocalyx graveolens in a peaty hollow. He also recorded Leptoscyphus cuneifolius, Scapania scandica, Radula carringtonii, R. aquilegia, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Harpalejeunea ovata, Cololejeunea calcarea, Frullania teneriffae and Weissia perssonii. David worked some ground lower down and added Preissia quadrata, Herbertus aduncus, Bazzania tricrenata, Anastrepta orcadensis, Colura calyptrifolia, Diphyscium foliosum and Isothecium myosuroides var. brachythecioides. On the cliffs below Knockamore he recorded Fossombronia angulosa (in a gully), Blepharostoma trichophyllum, Leiocolea turbinata and L. alpestris.

After we boarded the boat for the crossing to the mainland, shower clouds descended over Clare Island. During the blustery crossing, with gannets above our heads, we were able to reflect on our good fortune on another favourable and productive day in such an excellent place.

Monday 25 July: Ballynahinch and Mannin Peninsula

This proved to be a wet morning, the worst of the week, but the weather improved after midday. Ballynahinch Castle is located on the shore of its eponymous lough, and it is surrounded by estate woodland. There was reputed to be some old oak woodland, too. However, the woodland was not especially rich. Fruiting Diphyscium foliosum drew much admiration, and other species included Preissia quadrata, Jungermannia obovata, Plagiochila killarniensis, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Marchesinia mackaii, Orthotrichum anomalum, Homalia trichomanoides, Anomodon viticulosus, and by the lough Fontinalis antipyretica var. gigantea* and Radula voluta. Ephemerals included Fossombronia pusilla and Riccia glauca.

Gordon Rothero, David Long and I formed a splinter group and went in search of ravines. We spent a very wet morning by the Bunowen River below Tullyconor Bridge on the south side of Killary Harbour. The oak woodland had looked promising from a distance, but proved rather disappointing in the event. Bazzania trilobata, Jungermannia paroica, Plagiochila spinulosa, P. punctata, Adelanthus decipiens, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Harpalejeunea ovata, Aphanolejeunea microscopica, Leucobryum juniperoideum, Hygrohypnum luridum, H. eugyrium and Hypnum callichroum were among the species recorded. At midday, we abandoned this place and moved on to the slightly drier ground at Kylemore Abbey, as reported above.

The official venue for the afternoon was on the Mannin Peninsula, near Ballyconneely. The coastal habitats included dunes with some rock outcrops, overgrown slacks, and short slope on turf near the sea. These places produced Distichium inclinatum, Tortula ruraliformis, Barbula reflexa, Tortella nitida, Plagiomnium ellipticum, Orthotrichum anomalum, Brachythecium albicans, Entodon concinnus and Moerckia hibernica, the latter found by Phil Stanley in short turf close to the sea. Petalophyllum ralfsii was also recorded, but it was not detected until after the meeting, among material of Moerckia collected by Jean Paton. Harold Whitehouse turned up Ditrichum cylindricum, Dicranella staphylina and other ruderals.

Tuesday 26 July: Derryclare Wood and Lough Fee

Derryclare Wood is probably the finest surviving fragment of deciduous woodland in Connemara. Fortunately it is now protected as a Reserve, and it is free of Rhododendron. Situated on gently sloping ground by Derryclare Lough, it is surrounded by forestry plantation and is therefore protected from grazing. The underlying rock is quite strongly basic.

We entered the wood at the northern end, over some furrowed forestry land. Polytrichum longisetum* was on the exposed peat. Most members worked the inner parts of the wood, moving southwards towards a stream at the far end. David Long soon turned up Cryptothallus mirabilis under Sphagnum, and this was subsequently found in at least two further places in the wood. In digging for the Cryptothallus, David also turned up another surprise, the ‘truffle’ Hydnotrya confusa Spooner, new to Ireland!

Species recorded on trees and rocks included Plagiochila spinulosa, P. killarniensis, P. punctata, Cephalozia catenulata, Porella arboris-vitae, Frullania teneriffae, Harpalejeunea ovata, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Marchesinia mackaii, Colura calyptrifolia, Mnium stellare*, Ulota drummondii*, Pterogonium gracile, Homalia trichomanoides, Eurhynchium pumilum and Orthothecium intricatum. Lophocolea fragrans and Jubula hutchinsiae were found by the stream, and Trichocolea tomentella in a small flush nearby. Some of the best ground was in the lower parts of the wood, at the loughside, but most of the party did not arrive there until the end of the morning. Gordon Rothero, who had made straight for the lough margins, found Leiocolea bantriensis, Scapania aspera, Porella obtusata, Radula voluta, Lejeunea holtii, Fissidens taxifolius ssp. pallidicaulis, Zygodon baumgartneri* and Campylium chrysophyllum. There were some magnificent stands of Climacium dendroides.

This was the last day of the meeting, and some of us had to leave at midday for the journey home. The reduced party moved on in the afternoon to L. Fee and L. Muck. Gravelly ground by L. Fee produced Haplomitrium hookeri and Pohlia drummondii. Stream gullies and the adjacent slopes above the lough had Preissia quadrata, Jungermannia paroica, Plagiochila killarniensis, P. punctata, P. exigua, Harpalejeunea ovata, Marchesinia mackaii, Colura calyptrifolia, Fissidens taxifolius ssp. pallidicaulis, Anoectangium aestivum, Oxystegus hibernicus and Calliergon sarmentosum. Several people reached the higher ground on Barrlugwaum and Benchoona, and recorded Bazzania tricrenata, Lepidozia pearsonii*, Herbertus aduncus, Anthelia julacea, Campylopus setifolius, Leptodontium recurvifolium, Glyphomitrium daviesii, Isothecium myosuroides var. brachythecioides and Ctenidium molluscum var. condensatum. Other records included Blasia pusilla, Gymnomitrion crenulatum, Lepidozia cupressina, Jungermannia subelliptica, Tritomaria quinquedentata, Adelanthus decipiens, Hygrobiella laxifolia, Pleurozia purpurea, Jubula hutchinsiae, Harpalejeunea ovata, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Diphyscium foliosum and Seligeria recurvata. Jean Paton found both Fossombronia husnotii and F. foveolata by L. Muck.

So ended another memorable Irish Meeting. At least 350 bryophytes were recorded during the second week, and we all left, I am sure, with abiding memories. BBS members are not always easy to organise, and our great thanks are due to Donal for all his efforts and for conducting us through the week with his usual good humour.

Tom Blockeel


Clifden, Connemara, West Galway