The return of the autumn rains meant that this little-known corner of the Forest was once more looking verdant and even a little soggy, to the extent that wellies were de rigueur for the 20+ meeting attendees.
As usual, species near the car park tempted a few early arrivals down onto to their knees. Bryum alpinum, Archidium alternifolium, Ephemerum serratum and Racomitrium elongatum were all quickly spotted on damp ground near a shallow pool. In the meantime, George had swiftly spotted and photographed a few bryophilous fungi on Frullania dilatata and other epiphytes in open woodland.
The whole group then set off together to investigate some interesting-looking flushed ground, the margins of which had been heavily poached by ponies and other livestock, creating openings for small liverworts such as Odontoschisma fluitans, Cephalozia connivens and Gymnocolea inflata. Often the rather rare (though common in the Forest) Fossombronia foveolata can be found in such places but this didn’t turn up until later when John found it near the stream. The flush was rather acid and supported populations of Sphagnum auriculatum, S. palustre and S. papillosum. Calypogeia sphagnicola was a very nice find. In hummocky heath nearby, a small patch of Hypnum imponens was much admired. Jonathan also found some convincing Bryum bornholmense in the same area.
Down in the valley, the low vertical banks of the Latchmore Brook were interesting for a community of small opportunists, including Pseudephemerum nitidum, Scapania irrigua, Cephalozia bicuspidata, Pohlia annotina and plenty of fruiting Fossombronia wondraczekii. A Cephaloziella with highly reflective stem-tip gemmae was later confirmed by Andrew and Jonathan as C. divaricata. However, those of us who aspired to find Epipterygium tozeri on the banks were disappointed.
The heathland in Latchmore Bottom was very closely grazed, even by Forest standards, and was not especially interesting, although Scapania nemorea, Campylopus brevipilus and Thuidium delicatulum were all seen. Sprawling willows and other trees in the stream corridor produced some typical epiphytes, including Pulvigera lyellii and Orthotrichum tenellum.
Jonathan also collected a tuft of Ulota that he later confirmed as U. intermedia, one of the three recently described segregates of the Ulota crispa aggregate. Reliable identification of these segregates depends on plants having mature capsules, as it is necessary to examine the capsule cells and the inner peristome teeth under a compound microscope. The capsules of Ulota intermedia are at their best in late summer/ early autumn and although it seems to be most common in northern districts, it is also being recorded more commonly everywhere as bryologists get their eye in for it.
Upstream, we eventually reached Alderhill Inclosure, a large tract of coniferous woodland over dense bracken. Near its fence, a population of Ceratodon purpureus in various stages of development on decaying wood led to an interesting debate about moss inflorescences and how to go about differentiating Ceratodon from Didymodon lookalikes in the field – surely a rite of passage for any aspiring bryologist.
During the meeting we recorded 92 bryophyte taxa of which 8 were new for the hectad (SU11) and no fewer than 45 were updates of old records prior to 2000 reflecting the lack of recent recording in the square (see link below). The meeting also provided opportunities to see a diverse suite of lichens (83 taxa) and a few bryophilous fungi. Many thanks to John and Andrew for organising and leading a most enjoyable and interesting day.