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Botrychium lunaria in May in the New Forest

We went back to check out the Botrychiums at Appleslade Bottom

We found about 40 plants in 4 distinct colonies. They are not much advanced from April but quite a few seem to be in “pairs”
The Ophioglossums looked much worse with almost no fertile spikes visible. There has been almost no rain since we last visited this site

Botrychium lunaria in April in the New Forest

Ashley Basil and myself went to see if we could find Botrychium lunaria in the known site at Appleslade Bottom.

We found about 15 small plants

We also found some colonies of Ophioglossum vulgatum

We were a little surprised that both these ferns could be seen at this time of year. We will go back at the end of April and see what they look like and how many we can find

Ashford Hangers

Ashford Hangers is a steep sided open access woodland, with a good selection of ferns

Asplenium scolopendrium is the most abundant fern

Both Polystichum setiferum and P. aculeatum are common in the hangars. There are several good candidates for their hybrid Polystichum x bicknellii

Dryopteris dilatata is beginning to lie down but the new croziers are also appearing

Asplenium ruta-muraria

I found this very healthy example of Asplenium ruta-muraria trying to crowd out an Asplenium scolopendrium. Photo taken in Meonstoke, Hampshire.

Identification

Prior to collecting my actual research data, I spent some time around Old Goginan, near Aberystwyth in North Ceredigion. The following pictures below are samples collected during a walk between Capel Bangor and Old Goginan. This was during the early stages of my ID explorations in May 2016, so if any of them are wrong please let me know! I have fine-honed my ID for my present work however, given the relatively fewer species I am examining.

The pictures aren’t nearly close-up enough for accuracy, but I hope will give a general indication…

  1. Athyrium filix-femina, Lady Fern

Characterised by the very dark scales along the stipe, and the shuttlecock formation of fronds. Easily confused with the Dryopteris  genus, but it’s appearance is much more ‘fountain’ like than shuttlecock in habit.

2. Blechnum spicant, Hard Fern or Deer Fern

Easily identified. The picture shows both the broader sterile and much more slender ‘fertile’ (i.e. spore-bearing) fronds.

3. Dryopteris aemula, Hay-scented Buckler

The random recurvation of the pinnae and pinnules gives this fern it’s unique appearance. This was found in only one place in the area where samples were taken, with just a few specimens present.

4. Dryopteris affinis, Golden-scaled Male Fern

Characterised by a stunning architectural formation, and densely packed golden brown scales along the stipe and into the rachis.

5. Dryopteris dilatata, Broad Buckler

Fairly lax in appearance, but with often rather flamboyant and large blades in the right conditions. Its scales are golden with a dark central smudge.

6. Dryopteris filix-mas, Male fern

The classic British woodland fern, forming a fairly lax shuttlecock formation. Golden scales along the stipe and into the rachis, but much less dense than those of D. affinis.

7. Polypodium vulgare, Common Polypody

Easily confused with other members of the Polypody family as many of them are very similar! Quite commonly seen growing in a variety of situations e.g. terrestrial, epiphytic.

8. Who knows! Possibly a hybrid?

I really have no idea about this one! The picture doesn’t show it very clearly but the stipe and rachis were very red/reddish-brown in colour. I did wonder if it might be a hybrid with a garden fern as there were residential properties in close proximity to the point of collection?

 

Obviously in terms of identification there are many other points to note such as the exact structure of the pinnae and pinnules, the arrangement of sori and their indusia. However this is merely my early investigation into identification, and I am presenting it as such. Again, I welcome any feedback!

 

Holly Hill Woodland Park

I recently re-visited Holly Hill Woodland Park after a gap of nearly 20 years. The Dicksonia antarctica are looking pretty good even in mid-February

They are growing on islands in a lake and I have come to the conclusion that it is not cold but lack of water that kills these beautiful plants
There are other native ferns in this area, Dryopteris dilatata, D. filix-mas, D. affinis, Blechnum spicant, Polystichum setiferum, Asplenium scolopendrium
The park is also interesting as it is considered to have the best known examples in Hampshire of Pulhamite Stonework and Groto

REVELATIONS #1

There have been many!

Whilst I had initially been determined that soil moisture levels were the over-riding factor in the biogeographical distribution of pteridophytes, it quickly became clear to me that to utilise that data in isolation (at least within this piece of research) would be counter-productive. Having initially been interested in pteridophytes’ ability to reproduce in a variety of circumstances, I began to realise the following points:

a) Their presence does not appear to be restricted to soil moisture, therefore one must also consider light levels, soil pH, prevailing weather conditions and ambient temperature.

b) Their ability to reproduce sexually or clonally, or indeed apogamously in some cases, could have a significant bearing upon results.

c) How their presence (particularly in the case of Pteridium aquilinum) might impact upon the biodiversity of other botanical species. Which also raised eventual questions regarding Dryopteris spp. proving to be of a similar ilk albeit in a quite different environment. Therefore, raising the question of which pteridophyte genera is where? And thus forth what other botanical species are (or should be) there?

d) As alluded to above and in previous posts, it became clear that my initial thoughts of comparing Dryopteris filix-mas with Pteridium aquilinum were compounded by my education in fern identification. Having found that at various points Dryopteris affinis and Dryopteris dilatata were also present.

e) D. filix-mas appears to be present in areas where one might not usually expect it.

All of this led me to alter my initial Research Proposal, and the resulting final proposal submitted in November 2016 was subsequently titled “Comparison of the ecologies of Dryopteris agg. and Pteridium aquilinum”.

I undertook this change with direct reference to the points noted above, and also with the dawning realisation (and literary research) of the propensity for P. aquilinum to definitely impact upon biodiversity in Britain due to humankind’s land management practices allowing it to reproduce clonally in essence upon open grasslands. And furthermore, from the realisation that D. filix-mas (and possibly similar family members) has a similar potential to form, where conditions are favourable, a ‘green desert’ upon woodland floors.

In this way my research began to develop a two-pronged approach: Firstly, and foremostly as a study in how pteridophytes are able to adapt to changing ecosystems given their reproductive restrictions, and secondly if they could be a potential threat to biodiversity through their adaptable nature.

THE TRANSECT

 

 

Having grown up in West Wales, and knowing the proposed transect for my research well (albeit from fleeting glances), it became clear to me that if I were to properly record data for the ferns in question I would need to divide the transect into its variety of visible ecosystems. Some of these were fairly standard (e.g. woodland, grassland, coastal), however during my initial investigations it became clear that there were indeed anomalies in the presence or absence of both Dryopteris and Pteridium. Most presence was expected, nevertheless I set about dividing the transect into a series of eight zones according to my own perception of the landscape, and my explorations therein further informed the tangent of my research and its development. Possibly not an accepted means of recording on an ecological basis! This transect essentially follows a public footpath. The map above delineates my selected zones, and a description of each is as follows:

ZONE 1

Adjacent to the disused waterwheel at Llwyn-ysgaw. Principally boggy wetland, dominated by wild celery but with D. filix-mas present in areas close to the dry stone wall adjacent to the waterwheel and the remains of the wall nearby, and nearer the stream bed prior to it breaking into an area of more open marsh.

ZONE 2

A culvert runs beneath the road from Zone 1 into Zone 2, thus channelling a stream into this zone of young woodland. Woodland species proliferate however D. filix-mas dominates, particularly in areas adjacent to the stream.

ZONE 3

The stream runs adjacent to an old hedgerow, adjacent to arable land. Shaded yet also open. Very little evidence of pteridophytes here, three of four specimens of D. filix-mas close to the hedgerow and stream to the southerly point of the zone.

ZONE 4

An interesting zone and possibly slightly overlooked due to its difficulties. Stream runs into open arable land within a deep ditch therefore semi-cultivated. Pteridium evident for the first time on the transect, in very close quarters to both the cultivated land and the stream. D. filix-mas present streamside mainly upon the westerly facing bank. This zone then runs into a deep valley, but recordings are maintained around the footpath area above this as the valley is inaccessible without assistance. However other Dryopteris species are noted as becoming increasingly prevalent, even if it is not possible to obtain recordings from them.

ZONE 5

Here the footpath drops into the valley, and into what appears to be young woodland, however given the vagaries of the West Wales climate may simply be wind and weather worn trees. However here it becomes apparent that there are stands of Dryopteris dilatata, with occasional D. affinis and some evidence of D. filix-mas, particularly near the stream. Some epiphytic growth present.

ZONE 6

In which the footpath wends its way up out of the valley and into open grasslands, with the stream and valley continuing to the north of the transect, before the stream outpours into the sea (inaccessible). Vast stands of P. aquilinum here, and visible across the entirety of the valley. Some instances of D. filix-mas, but diminutive in form.

ZONE 7

Almost purely coastal, clifftops and associated vegetation. A vast stand of P. aquilinum near the cliff (and the headland of Penpeles), possibly some young bracken sporophytes within open grassland (but given the deep run of their rhizomes it is hard to be sure).

ZONE 8

A different stream runs into this zone and then down into the sea. An interesting area. P. aquilinum occurs sporadically hugging the near-land coastline. D. filix-mas however appears closer to the rocky clifftops and shore, again in somewhat diminutive form but evidently thriving. Noted from within this rocky bay, a wall of presumed Dryopteris of unknown speciation, and very much inaccessible. Not part of this research maybe but it raises the question of salinity tolerance in that which is predominantly a woodland species?

 

 

 

Update on the Earby Asplenium adiantum-nigrum

The ‘Earby Asplenium’ seems to be flourishing – and possibly has a second crown to the right of the first. The sun was so bright today there is a dense shadow over that side. I thought I should post the photo anyway to prove that we do have sunshine ‘up north’!

Asplenium adiantum-nigrum growing on the wall of the disused railway line, by the A56 in Earby.

Strange Hart’s Tongue Fern

I found this strange form of Asplenium scolopendrium at the back of the churchyard of All Saints Church in Botley, Hampshire. It was growing in a low wall just beside a dustbin. The frond is very thick and it has this raised ridge that runs down the middle of the underneath of the frond. The sori are much reduced, only being formed in the part of the frond which is not raised.

I sent these pictures to our cultivar expert, Julian Reed and this is what he says:

it’s a cultivar
The ridge under the frond is what called sub lineate, if it was on top of the frond it would be supra lineate and I think if well grown it would be ramose

I will try to grow on the spores and see what happens