Bryophyte Trip report

Mollen Wood Bryophyte Report 14 March 2024

Despite the forecast of  heavy rain all day, a respectable group gathered in Brampton to share cars to Askerton Castle. Mollen Wood Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)  is part of the Askerton Castle Organic Estate which lies 3km north of Hadrian’s Wall and about 15k south of the Scottish Border. The estate’s owners had  kindly granted access to the wood and permission to park at the farm, a kilometre to the south.  At 30ha the  SSSI is quite small, but is still one of the largest areas of wet Alder woodland remaining  in East Cumbria. Overlying  Carboniferous shales, it has a range of soil types from acidic to moderately base rich. There  are surprisingly few  existing records of lichens or bryophytes from the site, which was one of the motivations for the visit.

After a brisk walk along the road, the bryophyte contingent left the lichen party and plunged into the largest section of the SSSI (Mollen Wood sensu stricto). The lower part was very wet indeed and dominated almost exclusively by  Alder with old multi-stemmed trees and plenty of dead wood. A range of common mosses including Thuidium tamariscinum, Isothecium myosuroides. I alopecuroides,  Mnium hornum,  Calliergonella cuspidata and Polytrichum formosum were quickly found.  Closer inspection of the deadwood produced the  liverworts Lepidozia reptans and Riccardia palmata, and the diminutive moss Tetraphis pellucida with its distinctive gemmae cups. The numerous small watercourses flowing down into this area proved interesting with the mosses Ctenidium  molluscum, Rhizomnium punctatum, Sciurophypnum plumosum and Platyhypnidium riparoides,  and the liverworts Plagiochila porelloides and Scapania undulata all recorded here.  Patches of the rather liverwort-like moss  Hookeria lucens, with its huge cells easily visible under a x10 handlens, was present, and a single small patch of the attractive liverwort Trichocolea tomentella (Handsome Woollywort) was also found.

As we moved up-slope there was a gradual transition to drier, more acidic soils with a different suite of bryophytes present including Rhytidiadelphus loreus, Scapania gracilis, Loeskeobryum brevirostre, Dicranum majus and Hylocomium splendens. Dicranodontium denutatum  was frequent on dead wood, often with the liverwort Barbilophozia attenuata growing through it. Perhaps the two star finds of the day were Tritomaria exscecta and T exsectiformis growing  quite close together. These tiny  very similar liverworts live amongst other bryophytes  and are usually only found due to the red gemmae present on the leaf tips. Examination under the microscope is needed to see rounded  gemmae of T exsecta and the angular gemmae of  T exsectiformis

Despite the wetness of the site, it was late afternoon before we encountered any sphagna. A large patch of Sphagnum palustre with some S inundatum were found in a spring as we left the site. Ditches in the adjacent pasture also provided a diversion on the way back to the road with  Palustriella commutata, P falcata and Philonotis fontana amongst other things.

In the end  the rain mostly missed this remote corner of Cumbria and the group had a very interesting and enjoyable day. A total of  74 species were recorded  for monad NY5670.

Report by Kerry Milligan

Photos: Paul Ross (PR), Belinda Lloyd (BL), Ian Burrow (IB) and Kerry Milligan (KM)

Bryophyte Trip report

Duddon Valley bryophyte trip report 15 October 2023

For a change the sun was shining and the winds light for our October meeting at High Wallowbarrow Farm near Seathwaite in the Duddon Valley. The farm is unusual in having large areas of ancient semi-natural woodland, most of which lies within the Duddon Valley Woodlands Site of Special Scientific Interest. Whilst bryophytes have been quite well recorded in parts of the SSSI, other areas appear to have been little visited; monad SD2196 immediately west of the farmhouse  has records for only three species, whilst the adjacent monad (SD2296) has a list of 189 species. We decided to focus the morning’s efforts in SD2196 and visit the spectacular Wallowbarrow Gorge in SD2296 in the afternoon.

After a brief introduction, we made our way to Wallowbarrow Coppice, an area of upland oakwood on a steep west facing slope with frequent birch and hazel. An abundance of common mosses such as Thuidium tamariscinum, Isothecium myosuroides, Rhytidiadelphus loreus and Polytrichum formosum covered the woodland floor, rocks and tree bases, with the liverworts Scapania nemorea, Scapania gracilis, Diplophyllum albicans also abundant. More unusual species included Rhabdoweisia crenulata, Orthocaulis (Barbilophozia) atlantica, Tritomaria exsectiformis, and Scapania umbrosa. A quick foray into a small mire above the wood added several Sphagna including Sphagnum papillosum and S rubellum, together with Polytricum strictum and Aulocomium palustre. An unusual Racomitrium on rocks nearby was later confirmed as R obtusum. This was formerly considered a variety or subspecies of R. heterostichum and there are as yet very few records of it in Cumbria, although it is likely to be quite widespread. Whilst we did not re-find Syzigiella (Jamesoniella) autumnalis, Grimmia ramondii or Ptychomitrium polyphyllum which had previously been found in SD2196, 62 new species were recorded. We could probably have spent the whole day in this monad and identified a lot more, but after lunch we headed into SD2296 to visit Crag End Wood and Wallowbarrow Gorge. Quickly ticking off many of the common bryophytes already encountered in the morning, we soon found some new species including Diphyscum foliosum and Hyocomium armoricum on the river banks, Sciuro-hypnum plumosum and Marsupella aquatica on rocks in the river, Amphidium mougeotii and Saccogyna viticulosa on crags, and Dicranodontium denudatum on dead wood. Towards the end of the day, the rain came in and we retreated. In total 83 bryophytes were recorded across the two monads. Thanks to Chris at High Wallowbarrow Farm for access and to everyone who participated in what was a very enjoyable day.

Text: Kerry Milligan. Photos: Kerry Milligan, Clare Shaw, Paul Ross.