Summer meeting 1994: The Burren

HomeEventsSummer meeting 1994: The Burren

14 July 1994 - 19 July 1994

Meeting report

About a dozen members assembled at Ballyvaughan, County Clare (v.-c. H9), on the evening of Wednesday 13 July. We welcomed Gerard Dirkse and Sophie Hochstenbach from Nijmegen in the Netherlands. It had been an almost cloudless day but, ominously, the sun accompanied by a mock-sun set into a bank of cloud over the Atlantic.

Thursday 14 July

Black Head (v.-c. H9, 12/11)

As on the previous BBS meeting in Clare and Galway 37 years before (see Trans. BBS 3: 493-498, 1958), the first excursion was to Black Head, the north-west corner of the Burren. Then they had been disappointed by the small number of bryophyte species found, so our expectations were not high. It was difficult not to be distracted from bryology by the wonderful array of flowering plants in bloom: Geranium sanguineum, G. robertianum ssp. celticum, Dryas octopetala, Dactylorhiza fuchsii ssp. o’kellyi and many other orchids. As we climbed the rocky hill, early finds were Tortella nitida, Gymnostomum calcareum and Cololejeunea calcarea. The latter species occurred on the limestone rocks where they overhung or were shaded by grass, and was sometimes epiphytic on Marchesinia mackaii. Ron Porley found Tortella densa in a crevice in the clints of the limestone pavement. Other finds included Bryum pallens, Orthotrichum anomalum, Lejeunea lamacerina, L. patens, Metzgeria conjugata and Preissia quadrata. The hills had been mist-covered, and drizzle soon turned to rain with a rising wind. A damp lunch in the lee of a boulder was enlivened by peregrine falcons objecting to our presence with loud cries. A climb to west-facing bluffs at about 300 m altitude on Dobhach Bhrainin in a vain search for Orthothecium rufescens was decidedly wetting. It was only later that we learned that the previous find of this moss had been not where we looked, but on the north side of the Head just above the green road. Altogether, 45 mosses and 15 liverworts were recorded.

Fanore (v.-c. H9, 12/10)

Again as in 1957, we then moved about 10 km south to the small area of sand-dunes at Fanore, where Entodon concinnus and Pleurochaete squarrosa were seen. Later in the week, David Long camped in the area with his family and found Petalophyllum ralfsii* on damp thin soil on limestone at the edge of the dunes.

Friday 15 July

Mullaghmore (v.-c. H9, 11/39)

We were met at Mullaghmore by Dr Enda Mooney, Assistant Park Superintendent of the Burren National Park. He spoke about the controversial plan to build a Visitor Centre in this remote and unspoilt region. He led us first to Lough Gealain, south of Mullaghmore, where there was much Scorpidium scorpioides. The rare species Bryum neodamense was soon found on fine calcareous marl at the edge of the water. The charophyte Nitella tenuissima was abundant in the shallows. We then moved to Watts’ Lough, which is immediately south of the mountain and is so-called in honour of Prof. W.A. Watts of Trinity College, Dublin, who has done important palynological research here. Within minutes of our arrival, two rare bryophytes had been found: Drepanocladus lycopodioides and Calliergon trifarium. The latter had not been seen on the Burren since Michael Proctor’s work there in the 1950s (see Trans. BBS 3: 571-574, 1959). Drepanocladus cossonii (D. revolvens var. intermedius) was also seen at Watts’ Lough. That three rare mosses should be found so easily emphasises the importance bryologically of the region south of Mullaghmore and of the folly of planning to build a Visitor Centre there.

In the afternoon we explored the hazel scrub at the western end of Watts’ Lough. It was extremely rich in epiphytes, particularly Lejeuneaceae: Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia, Harpalejeunea ovata, Lejeunea lamacerina and L. patens. The Drepanolejeunea was often epiphytic on other bryophytes. Ulota calvescens was abundant on the hazel branches. It was astonishing to see Neckera crispa in abundance extending 1 m up the hazels and sometimes associated with Tortella tortuosa in this habitat! Tortella densa was found by Nick Hodgetts on a block of limestone on the open limestone pavement.

In total, 58 mosses and 17 liverworts were recorded in the region south of Mullaghmore during the day.

Poulawack (v.-c. H9, 11/29)

On the way back to Ballyvaughan, some of the party stopped at a wooded region near a sharp bend in the road at Poulawak near Caherconnell. Some 47 species of mosses and 10 of liverworts were recorded here, including Breutelia chrysocoma with capsules on a roadside bank, Gymnostomum calcareum in rock crevices, Isothecium striatulum on a tree-base and Ulota calvescens and Metzgeria temperata as epiphytes.

Saturday 16 July

Garryland Wood (v.-c. H15, 12/40)

This wood near Coole in south-east Galway is a National Nature Reserve and had been visited by the BBS in 1957. We walked northwards along a ride, not finding anything unexpected until, much to our surprise, we came to a region of the wood that was evidently flooded deeply in winter. Besides the obvious signs of flooding indicated by Leskea polycarpa and Cinclidotus fontinaloides, there were giant specimens of Climacium dendroides on the floor of the wood and a zone of Homalia trichomanoides on the tree-trunks, with Porella cordaeana just above it, and then a zone of fruiting Neckera complanata above that. The water surface in the turlough responsible for the winter flooding was now outside the wood and at least 20 m lower than in winter. In the grassy area near the water there was Plagiomnium rostratum and Physcomitrella patens, the latter confined to the vicinity of rocks where, perhaps, desiccation is reduced. Finds in the wood included Lejeunea cavifolia* on Fraxinus, Platydictya confervoides* on a limestone rock and Thuidium tamariscinum supporting a species of Physarum, a myxomycete with blue-grey sporangia on tapering flesh-coloured stalks. This remarkable organism was found by Ron Porley. Altogether, 71 mosses and 20 liverworts were seen.

Coole Park (v.-c. H15, 12/40)

Coole is about 4 km north of Gort and was visited in the afternoon. The house, formerly the home of Lady Gregory, one of the founders of the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, fell into disrepair and had to be demolished, but the grounds remain and include the famous Autograph Tree inscribed on its trunk with initials of Bernard Shaw, W.B. Yeats and many other famous Irish men. Near this tree, Bryum rubens* and Tortula marginata were found on mortar at the base of a wall, and Pottia recta*, P. starkeana ssp. conica*, B. klinggraeffii and B. ruderale in a flowerbed. Orthotrichum striatum* was found growing on the Autograph Tree and on a nearby poplar. Beside the turlough just west of Coole few bryophytes were found on the stones and mud, which had only recently been exposed above the water level. A small amount of Riccia cavernosa was detected.

Sunday 17 July

Valley of the Boleyneendorish River in the Slieve Aughty mountains (v.-c. H15, 12/50)

In the Slieve Aughty mountains near Pollboy we were again in south-east Galway, but on acid Devonian rocks instead of the Carboniferous limestone of the previous days. Hepatics were abundant: Aphanolejeunea microscopica* on Corylus, Colura calyptrifolia on Salix and Ulex bark, Calypogeia neesiana*, Chiloscyphus polyanthos*, Jungermannia hyalina*, Kurzia sylvatica*, Leiocolea badensis*, L. bantriensis*, Marchantia polymorpha ssp. polymorpha* with female gametophores, Pellia neesiana*, Riccardia multifida*, Scapania gracilis*, S. irrigua* and S. undulata*. Mosses seen included Campylopus fragilis*, Dicranella palustris*, D. rufescens*, Fissidens bryoides*, Fontinalis squamosa*, Hygrohypnum ochraceum*, Orthotrichum pulchellum*, O. striatum, Plagiomnium elatum*, Pogonatum aloides*, Splachnum ampullaceum, Thuidium delicatulum and Ulota calvescens*. In a plantation of Picea sitchensis it was astonishing to see Hypnum jutlandicum extending 2 m from the ground up the trees and hanging down for 25 cm from the dead branches. Unexpectedly, a small area of highly calcareous fen was found by the river, surrounded by conifers, with Eriophorum latifolium, Cratoneuron commutatum, Campylium stellatum, etc. Totals of 92 moss and 39 liverwort taxa were recorded.

Punchbowl south of Gort (v.-c. H15, 12/40)

In the stream-bed here, where the river goes underground, Gerard Dirkse found Porella pinnata, which was also on the river bank along with P. cordaeana found by Rod Stern. P. pinnata had been recorded here during the BBS meeting in 1957.

Monday 18 July

Inisheer, Aran Islands (v.-c. H9, 02/90)

David Long and family joined the party and we took the boat from Doolin to Inisheer, the most easterly of the Aran Islands. These islands are an extension of the Burren, being composed entirely of Carboniferous limestone. Inisheer is a maze of narrow lanes flanked by drystone walls. The fields are so small they will support only one cow, and the wall is dismantled and rebuilt for entry! Owing to the precarious nature of the walls and the huge number of them, cross-country walking is impossible except along the lanes. Altogether, 57 mosses and 11 liverworts were recorded, the first list ever compiled for the island. David recorded Barbula hornschuchiana, Cirriphyllum crassinervium, Scorpiurium circinatum, Lejeunea patens, Plagiochila porelloides and Reboulia hemisphaerica. Rod Stern found Encalypta streptocarpa, Eurhynchium speciosum, Cololejeunea rossettiana, Lejeunea lamacerina, Marchesinia mackaii and Scapania aspera. Other finds included Barbula reflexa and Ditrichum crispatissimum. A lough on the eastern side of the island was disappointing bryologically as the water was brackish, apparently through seepage of sea water through the rocks.

Lough Inchiquin (v.-c. H9, 11/28)

Those who did not come to Inisheer went first to Lough Inchiquin near Corofin, where 18 mosses were recorded, including Orthotrichum anomalum, O. cupulatum, Scleropodium cespitans* and Scorpiurium circinatum on limestone boulders.

Lough George (v.-c. H9, 11/39)

The party then moved 6 km to the east to Lough George. At the gravelly lake margin, Bryum neodamense and Drepanocladus lycopodioides were found. Other species seen were B. algovicum, Campylium elodes, Isothecium striatulum, Orthotrichum cupulatum and, in the turf, Thuidium delicatulum. The total list for the locality came to 45 mosses and 4 hepatics.

Lough Cullaun near Rinroe House (v.-c. H9, 11/39)

A move was then made to a fen near Rinroe House, 1 km west of L. George. This was a mosaic of base-rich fen and acid mire. Plants seen amounted to 35 mosses and 11 liverworts, including Amblystegium varium, Bryum neodamense and Calliergon trifarium, all found by Nick Hodgetts. Other species seen included Campylium elodes, Drepanocladus cossonii, Leiocolea badensis and Riccardia latifrons.

Lough Briskeen (v.-c. H15, 12/40)

From Rinroe House the party moved to L. Briskeen, 4 km south-west of Gort. Finds included Drepanocladus sendtneri, Trichostomum crispulum* and, on Acer, Cryphaea heteromalla and Orthotrichum affine. An adjoining fen, south of the road to Gort, produced Leiocolea badensis and D. cossonii, with Gymnostomum recurvirostrum* on limestone and Polytrichum formosum* and Calypogeia fissa on grassy tussocks. Altogether, 50 mosses and 11 liverworts were recorded at this locality.

Tuesday 19 July

Carran (v.-c. H9, 11/29)

Carran is about 10 km south-east of Ballyvaughan. We parked the cars at the research station there and explored the nearby turlough and limestone pavement. Finds included Fissidens viridulus* on the vertical bank of a stream, Hypnum cupressiforme var. resupinatum abundantly fertile on Prunus spinosa, Ulota calvescens with U. crispa on hazel stems and Jungermannia atrovirens with male shoots growing in rock crevices at the upper edge of the turlough. Ron Porley found Frullania teneriffae on stunted Prunus spinosa well within the grykes of the limestone pavement.

Glen of Clab (v.-c. H9, 12/20)

This limestone valley is near Poulavallan about 3 km north of Carran. It proved to be very rich bryologically and we recorded 82 mosses and 40 hepatics. The moss finds included Bryoerythrophyllum ferruginascens, Bryum klinggraeffii, B. ruderale, Cratoneuron commutatum var. falcatum, Funaria obtusa, Gymnostomum calcareum, Orthothecium intricatum*, Seligeria acutifolia*, S. donniana, Ulota calvescens and Zygodon viridissimus var. stirtonii. The G. calcareum had antheridia; this is the first Irish record of a male plant. The region was particularly rich in Lejeuneaceae; the following were seen: Aphanolejeunea microscopica*, Cololejeunea calcarea, C. rossettiana, Colura calyptrifolia on aspen, Drepanolejeunea hamatifolia on Fraxinus, Harpalejeunea ovata, Lejeunea lamacerina, L. patens and Marchesinia mackaii. Other liverworts recorded included Cephaloziella hampeana, Fossombronia pusilla*, Frullania microphylla, F. teneriffae on hazel, Jungermannia hyalina, Pedinophyllum interruptum (found by Tom Blockeel and Nick Hodgetts), Porella arboris-vitae and Plagiochila killarniensis. Pellia epiphylla and P. endiviifolia were seen close together on an earth bank.

Cappaghmore (v.-c. H15, 12/30)

Some of the party explored limestone pavement 2 km south-east of Cappaghmore and found Riccia beyrichiana* on soil at the edge of the limestone and Ulota calvescens on hazel. Others looked at a field sown with Lolium perenne 500 m south-west of Cappaghmore and found Bryum bornholmense*, B. microerythrocarpum* and Plagiomnium affine*.

After the rain on the first day, the weather had been dry for the rest of the week. A feature of the bryophyte flora that particularly impressed us was the richness of the calcareous fens. Chris Preston pointed out the rarity of saxicolous plants, such as species of Orthotrichum and Seligeria, and the absence of thin soil around rocks where Pottia species might have been expected. The bryophytes recorded during the week amounted to 195 mosses and 77 liverworts.

We are all most grateful to Donal Synnott who made all the necessary arrangements. I thank Tom Blockeel, Nick Hodgetts, David Long, Jean Paton, Ron Porley, Chris Preston and Rod Stern for their help in preparing this report.

Harold Whitehouse


The Burren