All posts by Andrew Leonard

Asplenium sagittatum in Hampshire

The first picture shows the retaining wall of my patio with my neighbours garage wall behind it
The second picture shows the gap (about 7 inches) between my retaining wall and the garage
As you can see from the debris that has fallen down this gap, I don’t look down it very often. However, I did look a few months ago and noticed that several Asplenium scolopendriums and one plant that could be Asplenium adiantum-nigrum had spored themselves in this gap
In 2008 I had the whole garden rebuilt and the retaining wall was raised by about 18 inches. The plants seem to be growing at the base of where the addition to the retaining wall was built
Having a further look more recently, I realised that one of the “scolopendriums” looked odd. On closer examination, I began to suspect this plant was actually Asplenium sagittatum
Asplenium sagittatum is a fern that has a Mediterranean distribution, and I have seen it in Mallorca and Menorca. I have had a small plant growing unhappily in my conservatory for several years and I have to suppose that its spores made it outside. The outside plant is doing much better than the sad thing living in my conservatory.
The forth picture shows the sori and how they continue down into the lobe, which is typical of this species but not of A. scolopendrium
There are about 5 A. scolopendriums growing in the gap and possibly 3 A. sagittatums
I have sent these pictures to Fred Rumsey and he agrees with me that these plants look like Asplenium sagittatum
For the record, we get winter temperatures of -8C
I have some pictures of A. sagittatums from Menorca on my website

New Forest June 2019

I reported on the annual Moonwort monitoring previously. Sadly I was unable to attend as I had hurt my back, but we rearranged the date for 4th June and myself, Steve Munyard, Ashley and Jo Basil went back to Linwood

Here is a picture of the most handsome Botrychium lunaria. I have included a picture of our counting methodology. These are bamboo barbecue skewers (from Lidl, £2.99 for 125) with red tape (Wilkinsons £1.25). This proved to be the most successful methodology and we accurately counted 33 distinct plants. We found 3 or 4 colonies of Ophioglossum (possibly azoricum)

In the afternoon we decided to see if we could find some marsh fern, Thelypteris palustris sites that had been given to Ashley by Mike Rowe
We started at the well known but small site at Holmsley and then moved on to a site we had recently refound at Dibden Bottom. This latter site has a colony about 20 x 100 metres and was looking very good. Bouyed up with enthusiasm we moved on to Longdown Inclosure and found and equally impressive patch. Our last site of the day was Mately Bog, which is a different habitat from the previous 3 sites. We began to doubt the site but as we walked through it we found bigger and bigger colonies

This was a thoroughly rewarding day and we would like to extend our thanks to Mike Rowe for informing us of these wonderful Marsh fern sites

Moonwort monitoring in the New Forest 2019

Jo and Ashley Basil and Roger Golding went out to Linwood to do annual monitoring of the Moonwort. They found 58 plants, none were very big, the maximum size was 100mm. Last years count was about 30 plants, but the bracken was up then so it was more difficult to find them. This year they looked full and well hydrated, last year’s were rather dry. They did not think there has been any change in the population and they were all are in the same area. Jo found a new patch of Adders tongue which were bigger and more developed than had been seen on previous years.

Strange Hart’s Tongue Fern Part 2

If you read my previous post, you might remember that I found a strange (and maybe even attractive!) cultivar of Asplenium scolopendrium growing around a tomb/grave in the church yard of All Saints Church in Botley, Hampshire, in October 2016.
I collected some spores of this plant and have eventually managed to raise about 10 small plants. At the moment they do not look too much like the parent. They bifurcate and they also have this sublineate thickening but they seem wider like more normal A. scolopendrium. Perhaps they will develop more like the parent as they mature
I noticed that there were several cultivars that grow around the grave, in combination with “normal” plants. There seem to be a variation in the cultivars, some are more extreme than the others

If you are interested in A. scolopendrium monsters, please email me and I can send you a plant

Asplenium ceterach

Further to my previous post, I have just found some more Asplenium ceterach on the Church wall of St Peter and St Paul, Wymering
There are possibly 10 plants on the Church wall itself and one plant on a grave next to the wall
They are growing in close company with A. scolopendrium and A. ruta-muraria. The latter is very frequent in this area

I have put the new location on Google Maps in green so that it stands out. It is quite a distance from the next nearest location at Langstone

I have asked Martin Rand, the Vice County Recorder and this appears to be a new find

Marsh Clubmoos (Lycopodiella inundata)

For an endangered and declining plant, Marsh Clubmoss has a lot of big numbers associated with it. For instance, clubmosses evolved some 400 million years ago and tree-sized clubmosses contributed to the coal swamps of the Carboniferous geological period. However, Marsh Clubmoss is quite small, usually just a few centimetres in height, and looks a bit like the tip nipped of the end of a conifer branch, and pokes upright in the ground. Each plant generally has two short creeping shoots arranged in a V, with an upright “club” arising from the join. In fact, clubmosses are neither moss nor of course conifer, but are closely allied to ferns. Like ferns, they have a two-stage life-cycle. The “clubs”, called strobili, produce 1000s of tiny spores. These spores germinate to produce the gametophyte stage of the plant, which produces eggs and sperm – but I’ve yet to meet anyone who has actually seen a Marsh Clubmoss gametophyte, and that is despite being lucky enough to see 1000s of plants this year! This is pretty amazing – Marsh Clubmoss can form sizeable colonies where it finds suitable conditions, but the gradual degradation of wet heath and valley mire, its preferred habitat, means that it has declined by (and here is an uncomfortably big number) 85% in the last 85 years and many colonies are tiny. Its classification as endangered is a reflection of the very real extinction risk it is facing in the wild.
So how was I fortunate enough to see so many plants? Well, Marsh Clubmoss is one of the 19 species whose fortunes we hope to reverse through Back from the Brink in Dorset. Firstly, we’ve been working with the Species Recovery Trust and our volunteer survey team to check all the known sites in Dorset, bringing records up to date and making a better assessment of how it’s doing and where conditions need improving for the species. Secondly, we are trying to create ideal conditions to allow it to spread.
In lowland England, Marsh Clubmoss is generally found on very open, peaty and often slightly compressed bare ground in wet heathland. This is often along the edges of tracks or livestock paths. It can also creep along the top of bog mosses out in wet valley mires. Low growing, it can’t tolerate being shaded out by other plants and is found where there is little by way of plant nutrients in the soil that would encourage the speedy growth of other plants. Marsh Clubmoss has a trick up its sleeve, because it has an association with a fungus called Mucoromycotina that it is thought may help it gain nutrients in these otherwise unfavourable conditions. In the past, bare ground was created on heathland by grazing livestock, cart tracks and also turf cutting for fuel, but grazing has declined and peat cutting no longer occurs.
So, building on the experience of the Species Recovery Trust and working with Alaska Ecological Contracting, we’ve taken the unusual approach of using some big kit to scrape back the surface vegetation and expose areas of bare peat. Our volunteer survey team will be keeping a sharp eye on these plots over the next few years to see whether clubmoss arrives. We’ve also been trying a more unusual technique at an existing colony where Marsh Clubmoss was first spotted after a tractor scuffed up the peaty substrate. This was one of the biggest colonies in Dorset, and we counted 3,000 plants in 2017 – an impressive sight. However, we were aware that the colony probably wouldn’t persist in the long term, as other vegetation gradually regenerated. So we took a big breath, and last winter we asked RSPB’s Ecological Services to drive up and down over the area while they were on site carrying out other habitat restoration work. The result – a four-fold increase resulting in the phenomenal sight of around 12,000 plants! Definitely my favourite big number for Marsh Clubmoss.
If you are local to Dorset and interested in volunteer surveys for Dorset’s Heathland Heart, do please get in touch.
Back from the Brink is one of the most ambitious conservation initiatives ever undertaken. This is the first time ever that so many conservation organisations have come together with one focus- to bring some of England’s most threatened animals, plants and fungi back from the brink of extinction. Natural England is working in Partnership with Rethink Nature, and the entire project is made possible thanks to funding from the National Lottery. Find out more about our work here;

Facebook: @naturebftb
Twitter: @naturebftb

Article by Dr Sophie Lake – Dorset’s Heathland Heart Co-Project Manager

Dryopteris x picoensis

As autumn draws on and the ferns on my allotment start to fade and fall over, I noticed the trunk on my Dryopteris x picoensis. It is now 12 inches and looks like a small tree fern. I was given this plant by Wilfried Bennert many years ago, maybe 20 years. It produces small plants on the trunk, every now and then and I now have over 10 plants in Portsmouth and in my garden in Waterlooville. The plants on the allotment seemed not to be affected by the hot and dry summer but several of the plants in Waterlooville lost all their fronds. They have recovered somewhat since the weather has returned to the more normal British rainfall


Hi everyone,
I’ve been lovingly nurturing many staghorn ferns – mainly Platycerium bifurcatums, and a few P. superbums.
I am now selling them or donating them to a good cause.
At the moment, I can’t send by mail order. I am based in Watford, Herts. As for prices, I am open to offers.
Here’s a link to photos –
You can email me for further information.

Thank you,


Website Enquiry

We have, on average, one website enquiry a week
This enquiry cane from Richard Annunziata

Website enquiries

Name Rich
Address 6701 colonial rd 4f Brooklyn, NY 11229 US
Comments I found a hand drawn picture from your society in my building.
It is from 1927 and I can send you pictures of it
My enquiry is about none of the above
The British Pteridological Society – October 13, 2018

He sent us this picture (if you mouse over it you can see it in more detail)

I asked our Archivist for his opinion and this is what he said:

There is no mention of this field trip in either the British Fern Gazette or the Society minutes and I am sure that it was an ‘unofficial’ trip by 2 or more members. In 1924 the BPS was very strict in confining the Society to the study of British ferns, even though members might have grown some foreign ferns in their greenhouses. It was not until the early 1930s that the first discussion of a foreign fern (Adiantum venustum) appeared in the Gazette. I do not have access to the American fern journals of 1924-5 – there could be mention of a visit in one of them.

I cannot identify the handwriting on the herbarium sheet. I would suspect W B Cranfield as a strong possibility – but all of his correspondence that we have inn the archive is typewritten. The pre-printed herbarium label might be a clue and I wonder if Julian has seen any labels of this type in the BPS herbarium collection at Wisley.

I have come across a reference to the BPS American expedition before. I think that it was this sheet or other herbarium sheets being offered for sale by an American bookseller, auction house or eBay.

Michael Hayward
6 Far Moss Road
Liverpool L23 8TQ

Julian Reed replied:

It is not Cranfield’s writing. I have seen a lot of it in the herbarium and he had his own labels.
Hope this helps
Take care Julian

It is possible to look at the old copies of the Americam Ferrn Journal and the Fern Gazette on the Biodiversity Heritage Library. I have done this and can find no reference to this trip in June 1924.
So what we can say is this is a professional looking Herbarium sheet, probably not created officially by the BPS but perhaps by a member of the BPS on holiday in America.
The fern in question is Onoclea sensibilis, the Sensitive Fern, so called because it is strongly deciduous and is the first fern to collapse as winter approaches. It is a native of the USA and widely grown in the UK

Lygodium japonicum

The weather has been very hot and dry in Hampshire and many of my ferns have suffered
One plant that seems to have loved the weather is Lygodium japonicum
I have had this plant for about 5 years and previously it has struggled to grow about a foot tall
This year it took off and grew over 7 foot tall
It seems to be a bit dimorphic. The early fronds are not fertile but the later fronds are nearly all fertile