Bryophyte Trip report

Blawith Common bryophyte trip report 14 November 2023

On the day before the trip date, the weather was appalling, with strong winds and relentless heavy rain, and the weather forecast was not amazing, so we set off for the day with some trepidation to see how the weather would evolve. There was a lot of standing water on the roads, with quite long stretches of the Burton road submerged, but two of us arrived safely at the meeting point on the A5084, near the small road to Stable Harvey (SD 28934 91049). There was a surprisingly good turnout, with eight people in the bryophyte group.

With the benefit of local knowledge from Rob, we decided to have a quick look at the quarry where some of us were parked. It was indeed a good site and the bare quarry floor was almost entirely carpeted in bryophytes, including Philonotis fontana, small amounts of Dichodontium palustre, Didymodon insulanis, Campylium stellatum, Cratoneuron filicinum, Calliergonella cuspidata and quite a surprising amount of Palustriella commutata (not as regularly pinnate as you would normally expect, but showing all the other features – plentiful rhizoids and paraphylla, curved leaves etc.). We had two beginner bryologists joining the group for the first time, so this was a good opportunity for teaching / revising some common species. The walls of the quarry also had quite a good variety of species: large quantities of Kindbergia praelonga in one corner, also Schistidium crassipilum and some small cushions of fruiting Ptychomitrium polyphyllum. At the far evidence there was further evidence of base-rich substrate, with Tortella tortuosa and Ctenidium molluscum. It was nice to see a good cushion of the tufa moss Gymnostomum aeruginosum, as well as Ptilidium ciliare and a small patch of Scapania compacta.

After a good explore of this area we thought it was time to head for the mires on Blawith common. We splashed up the Stable Harvey road, stopping to admire some lovely patches of the lichen Pannaria conoplea on an old ash (see lichen report!). The lower stretches of the road pass through open woodland with birch and some old ash and oak. Spotting a waterfall just off the road, we headed off to explore. The waterfall had Chionoloma tenuirostre, Metzgeria conjugata and a few nice cushions of Amphidium mougeotii (another tufa moss), but sadly no Jubula hutchinsiae, which has however been recorded in this tetrad. A veteran oak overhanging a rock face had a big cushion of prolifically fruiting Leucobryum at its foot – the capsules (with a white calyptra and distinctive but small bump at the base) pointed to L. glaucum as L. juniperoideum is more rarely seen fruiting and the capsules are slightly different. A sample was examined in case it was L. albidum, but it was confirmed by Tom Blockeel as L. glaucum. Hanging off the rock face, on a mat of decaying vegetative matter, was a small amount of Lophozia incisa. There was also some nice, gemmiferous Lophozia ventricosa on a tree root, Gymocolea inflata on a rock and a potential Rhytidiadelphus subpinnatus. We had lunch near the waterfall, then headed back to the road under a grey sky and light drizzle. Some flat rocks near the road had Polytrichum pilliferum, Racomitrium lanuginosum and Pogonatum urnigerum with Bryum alpinum and Breutelia chrysocoma in seepages. By the road edge there was some gold-tinted Sphagnum inundatum.

A little way up the road, we finally reached the mire, which at first was rather poor, mainly Molinia and Myrica gale with only small amounts of Sphagnum beneath. We collected a couple of Sphagnum species, then headed across the road to a better site, where there were cushions of Polytrichum strictum and Aulocomium palustre, as well as several Sphagnums: S. capillifolium subsp. capillifolium, S. auriculatum, S. fallax, S. inundatum, S. palustre, S. papillosum and S. russowii. There were patches of Odontoschisma Sphagni and one patch of Mylia anomala, with only a few shoots showing clusters of gemmae after the heavy rain. Straminergon stramineum was poking its head out of some of the mounds. A small escarpment of rocks above the mire had Andreaea rothii and Ptilidium ciliare.

A cold wind was starting to blow, so we decided to beat a retreat. It was an enjoyable day, and undoubtedly far better than any of us had been expecting.

Text and photos: Clare Shaw

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.

Bryophyte Trip report

Mallerstang Bryophyte report 14 September 2023

As with any bryology outing, it’s easy to get distracted by the surroundings of the car park. Some awkward road closures and traffic spread out arrivals, so a brief look around Pendragon castle yielded a light green Zygodon growing on an old ash – Zygodon rupestris perhaps? Alas, the longitudinal cell walls on its gemmae confirmed it as the more-common Zygodon viridissimus.

Once all three bryologists were present, we set off for the Mallerstang crags aiming to focus our efforts on grid square NY7902 which curiously lacked any bryophyte records. After confirming the presence of Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus ambitiously (presumptively?) identified by Judith from 800m away in the car park, we found a typical assembly of upland acid grassland mosses and the first few of what would be a good day for SphagnumSphagnum capillifolium, S. subnitens and S. russowii.

Our first liverwort of the day was Tritomaria quinquedentata growing among wefts of Pleurozium and Pseudoscleropodium, quickly followed by Ptilidium ciliare, Orthocaulis attenuatus and a larger gemmiferous Orthocaulis (confirmed later as O. atlanticus) on the grassy margins of exposed rocks. The shaded bases of the larger rocks were occupied by Diplophyllum albicans, Scapania gracilis and the occasional large stand of a Cephalozia, later confirmed by Kerry to be C. bicuspidata.

As we advanced further towards the crags, we crossed several rush-dominated flushes, adding six more sphagna to our list – S. squarrosum, S. auriculatum, S. palustre, S. fallax, S. angustifolium and S. teres. We also added Polytrichum commune whose family was well represented on the day, including P. piliferum, P. strictum, P. formosum, Polytrichastrum alpinum, Pogonatum urnigerum and P. aloides.

We passed a few more damp patches adding Sphagnum papillosum and S. rubellum to our list, and our arrival at the crags was further delayed by a stream with typical riparian bryophytes – Brachythecium plumosum, Racomitrium aciculare, R. aquaticum, Scapania undulata and a Pellia species. The flushed edges boasted Philonotis fontana and Dichodontium pellucidum with scattered patches of Riccardia chamaedryfolia.

It was after 2pm when we reached the crags where we pondered a slender Campylium, later identified as C. portensum with leaves <2mm long, large alar patches and abruptly tapering leaves. The flushed crags were adorned with flows of the usual suspects – Philonotis fontana, Amphidium mougeotii, Palustriella commutata and Breutelia chrysocoma. The diversity expanded with Pohlia wahlenbergii, Bryum julaceum, Aneura pinguis, Pellia endiviifolia with ample branchlets, Blindia acuta, Jungermannia atrovirens, Hookeria lucens and Gymnostomum aeruginosum.

Our journey back to the carpark included a brief stop around some boulders with Calypogeia arguta, Schistidium crassipilum and Orthotrichum diaphanum joining our list. Further down, a quick look around a streamside limestone exposure yielded little more of interest but hiding in turf overhang was Sphagnum girgensohnii, our twelfth and final Sphagnum of the day.

Text and photos: Paul Ross

Bryophyte Trip report

Brown Cove bryophyte trip report 11-6-23

Another blazing hot day was forecast, this time with the possibility of thunderstorms, so it wasn’t entirely surprising that I was the only bryologist that was up for the exposed slog up to Brown Cove in conditions where all the bryophytes would likely be too dessicated to identify. Fortunately there was a good lichen turnout and I was promised that there was some water still in Brown Cove, so we set off with hopeful hearts.

We hadn’t gone far before I spotted one of the papillose, Canescentia group of Racomitrium by the side of the track, which I later identified as R. elongatum. As we ascended the track there were small ditches and drainage channels running off the hillside which did indeed still have some water, and where Philonotis fontana, Dichodontium palustre and Scapania undulata flourished. We stopped for a water break – and to examine a large rock by the path – which had Andreaea rupestris and A. rothii, Racomitrium fasciculare and possible Racomitrium heterostichum. Sadly no Gymnomitrion, which surprisingly seemed to be absent from the whole site.

We passed the old dam and considered the enormous hole and the poor quality of the work as Pete told us the story of its very short life. The original dam, which seems to have been an earth barrier, was put up to provide electricity for the Greenside lead mine, but breached in a storm in 1927, causing extensive damage in Glenridding. It was replaced by the concrete dam which can be seen today in about 1929, but it seems to have failed almost immediately and the reservoir and dam were abandoned in 1931. A little beyond the dam we made our way down the earth bank of the original dam to the beck, which we then followed up to its source at the tarn in Brown Cove. The beck was bryophyte heaven, with huge mounds of golden Sciuro-hypnum plumosum and green Hygrohypnum ochraceum, with smaller amounts of Chionoloma tenuirostre, the ‘aromatic’ Jungermannia exsertifolia and some mounds of Amphidium mougeotii. Reaching the cove, we found that the tarn was a very shallow pool with green clumps of algae – I felt better about forgetting my swimming costume.

After a pleasant lunch we explored the edges of the tarn where rare lichens had previously been recorded. A rock on the edge had a sprawling moss which later turned out to be Antitrichia curtipendula – a nice find as it is a formerly (relatively) common moss which seems to be struggling. The ’grappling hook’ shaped teeth on the leaves are very distinctive.

Antitrichia curtipendula leaf tips
Antitrichia curtipendula leaf tips

I thought I’d make my way up the beck above the tarn, towards the ridge, in the hopes that higher altitude might bring more variety. However the species seemed to be mainly more of the same, though growing in abundance. There was a pleasant breeze though at this height, and there were ring ouzels calling, though I couldn’t see them. The flowering plants were also lovely – lots of Starry and Mossy saxifrage and Alpine ladies mantle. After pushing on for a while in the hopes that the next waterfall might bring something new, I eventually decided to call it a day and return to the lichenologists who were still at the tarn.

Checking my list of previous records I realised that there was one very interesting liverwort recorded just above the water level of the tarn – Porella obtusata. There are I think four records from Cumbria, all around Ullswater, but I’d never seen it before. I finally found it after completing a full tour of the lake, right below our lunch spot.

Porella obtusata – golden brown shoots with large, plane lobules a similar size to the underleaves:

Porella obtusata – golden brown shoots with large, plane lobules a similar size to the underleaves
Porella obtusata – golden brown shoots with large, plane lobules a similar size to the underleaves

Heading back down the beck I wanted to have a closer look at some large rocks I noticed on the way up, and was pleased to see Andreaea alpina and Anomodon julacea.

Andreaea alpina

Andreaea alpina

Anomodon julacea growing in profusion with deceptively small Dichodontium pellucidum.

Although the thunderstorms hadn’t materialized, the heat was increasing as we descended into the valley, so some of us beat a hasty retreat and enjoyed a well-earned cold drink at the youth hostel bar. All in all, a very pleasant and rewarding day.

Text and photos: Clare Shaw

Bryophyte Trip report

Hutton Roof bryophyte trip report 15-3-23

If there is one thing, I’m less familiar with than writing a blog post it’s limestone bryophytes. So, I was really pleased that ‘team Bryo’ for the day was a good six of us and included both the Cumbrian VC recorders for support. Our target for the day was to explore the SD5678 monad of the SD57U Tetrad, including the rakes and Blasterfoot Gap areas. With only 26 species recorded for the Tetrad and only three reported for the monad, confidence we could add to the list was good.

With the temperature nudging up to 0ºC and the thin cover of snow melting we left the village by the post office and headed up the track. Our first success … making it out of the car parking area! Of course, it didn’t last, and we barely made it through the gate into the square before being arrested by a good selection of finds on the limestone dry walls. Porella platyphylla, Homalothecium serieum, Brachythecium rutabulum, Neckera crispa, Encalypta streptocarpa and a few more were on the list by the time we were all through the gate. Ctenidium molluscum at least I recognised as characteristic of limestone.

Bearing left and skirting the southern edge of the square we checked off some commoner grassland species that you usually can’t fail to find anywhere. Pausing at some large boulders we got our first spot of Fissidens dubius in its typical habitat of dry limestone.

Dropping off the path for a short detour to view a small cliff overhung by Ash trees brought our sight of the day of Anomodon viticulosus covering huge areas in extensive ‘tufts’. The nearby wall sported cushions of Syntrichia ruralis with its long hair points making the leaves look far narrower than they actually are. The top of the wall sparkled with melted snow hanging in drops from spore capsules.

Anomodon viticulosus
Anomodon viticulosus

Back up and across the path we then explored some large, sloped, exposed slabs of rock with a number of limestone and disturbed ground species being found. Most of these, apart from Tortella tortuosa, had names I’ve never even heard of before as there is little limestone near my home. Quite a few, like Entosthodon Muehlenbeckii, and the Anomobryum julacea I spotted looking like little upright strands of embroidery thread, don’t key directly in the field-guide so the support of Andy was invaluable here.

With everyone cooling down and terrain looking similar we decided to cover a bit of ground and warm up. Passing the lichenologists admiring a well camouflaged ‘The Engrailed’ (Ectropis crepuscularia) moth, we turned up the slope and found the wall festooned with huge swags of Neckera crispa. Some patches of Rhytidiadelphus triquestris were seen near the wall base.

Neckera crispa
Neckera crispa

Heading back out across the slope we passed some luxuriant Homalothecium lutescens on the way to more open ground. Further across we ‘rediscovered’ the only targeted find for the day: Rhytidium rugosum. Its characteristic ‘wrinkled’ leaves giving it a more matt appearance then the similar coloured Hypnum lacunosum. Finding ourselves with a good view we settled for lunch surrounded by tufts of Sesleria caerulea, Blue Moor-grass, just beginning to flower.

We continued up the slope after lunch but dropped down to the base of one of the limestone rakes in search of different habitat. Here we found some patches of Marchesinia mackaii. Emerging at the top of the slope onto an area of calcareous grassland studded with anthills we could see where moles and badgers had been busy. With nothing of much note, most of the anthills were found to be topped with Bryum pallens.

Bryum pallens
Bryum pallens

A cool breeze saw us opt for a drop in elevation and some cover, so we dropped down over the brow and around to the path running down through Oak woodland to the church. Here we found it unusual that nearly all the fallen, well-rotted wood was almost devoid of bryo flora, though we did eventually find some of the usual suspects. The rocks in the wood were absolutely and extensively carpeted with deep swathes of Thamnobryum alopecurum almost to the exclusion of anything else. But not quite, as we did find a few good-sized patches of the furry Apometzgeria pubescens.

Apometzgeria pubescens
Apometzgeria pubescens

With the forecast rain beginning to settle we made our way back from the Church to the village starting point, admiring the just about to flower Moschatel on the bank tops. Another great trip out, and subject to confirmations a likely tripling, or better, of the species recorded for the tetrad.

Text: Ian Burrow. Photos: Ian Burrow and Clare Shaw

I’d just like to add as a footnote that the Entosthodon muehlenbeckii was an exciting find. A limestone specialist with only 28 records in the BBS atlas (mysteriously, many more on NBN but many of them seemed ancient), we found this in large quantities on the rock slabs and a couple of patches later on, on limestone pavement. Previously recorded in a neighbouring monad this must be a real stronghold for it.

Entosthodon muehlenbeckii
Entosthodon muehlenbeckii
Bryophyte Lichen Trip report

Naddle trip report 18-1-23

Once again, the weather forecast was for sub-zero temperatures, ice and snow.  After reassurance from Lee Schofield that the roads to Haweswater were “passable with care” it was decided that the trip could go ahead.  We were warmly welcomed by Lee and the rest of the team at the RSPB reserve, and several of them joined us for the day.  Since Kerry was the only bryologist to brave the weather, she joined the lichen team for a combined visit, which was very educational on both sides.

We started with a visit to the well-known Lobaria pulmonaria Ash tree across the stream from the farm.  Sadly it had lost a large limb a couple of years ago, but this had provided the material for many attempted translocations by Chris and Caz.  We visited several of these during the course of the day, and while it is still early days many of them seemed to be doing well.

The breeze in this area was very chilly, so we moved into the more sheltered Mirkside wood, of multi-stemmed hazel with Oak, Ash and Alder.  Here we saw Lee’s astonishing discovery of Hazel Glove Fungus, sadly now much eaten by slugs, and accompanied by large quantities of the Glue Fungus which it parasitises.  Mycology aside, there were very good assemblages of the typical smooth bark lichens such as Graphis, Arthonia etc., the other Lobaria tree was located and the RSPB team were introduced to the concept of lichen speed (measured in hours per tree). The epiphytic liverworts Frullania dilatata, Metzgeria furcata and Radula complanata were also abundant here. A large patch of Riccardia palmata was found on one of the few logs not covered in snow. 

At lunchtime sitting in a wet snowdrift seemed attractive enough, but after some discussion we decided to accept the RSPB’s offer of a warm room with a log fire, tea and coffee, chocolate biscuits and mince pies.   Annabel described the future plans for the reserve and for landscape restoration in the surrounding areas.  There is fantastic potential but it very much depends on the government sorting out the farm subsidy payments.

After lunch we moved to the sunlit side of the valley, where there is an area of wood-pasture with veteran Ash trees.  There were many good representatives of more basic-bark species, a highlight being Normandina acroglypta. The melting snow enabled Kerry to find more bryophytes too, including frequent cushions of Bartramia pomiformis and one patch of Porella arboris-vitae on the crags above the farm. 

Overall it was a most enjoyable day, and a site well worth another visit in better weather.  Very many thanks to the RSPB for their hospitality and enthusiasm.

John Adams and Kerry Milligan. Photos by John Adams, Chris Cant and Kerry Milligan

Octospora bryophilous fungus note below

Octospora bryophilous fungus

Caz found a distinctive fungus growing on Bryum moss on an ash tree. Chris found spores in a fruit, with 4 or more spores per ascus. The spores were about 30×13μm in size usually with two oil droplets. George Grieff kindly identified it as a known but undescribed/unnamed species which he lists as Octospora sp. Bryum-capillare.

Text and photos: Chris Cant

Bryophyte Lichen Trip report

Glenamara trip report 11-12-22

Bryophyte report below.

Sub-zero licheneering at Glenamara Park, Patterdale

It was well below zero at the carpark with a thin layer of unmelted snow from a previous day on the frozen ground and a thick coating of frost crystals covering everything– surely it wouldn’t be possible to find anything and, more to the point, could we survive the cold? We set off uphill, fat with many layers of clothing, and warmed up slowly. This strategy of a short walk between trees followed by standing around looking at lichens seemed to work and we stayed out until dusk at 4pm.

Glenamara was originally a deer park, dating from the 16th – 17th centuries and covering about 70 hectares of a north-facing upland valley by Ullswater. The National Trust acquired the site in 2002 and shortly afterwards replaced sheep with a small number of hardy cattle as sheep grazing was completely suppressing tree regeneration. Today there are scattered old birch, alder, oak and ash with some hazel, hawthorn and interesting “wild” apple/crab apple trees (Malus sylvestris), but we saw no sign as yet of new trees coming through.

Neil Sanderson surveyed the site for the NT in 2016. He described it as upland pasture woodland and concluded that the only lichen habitat well-represented is that of acid bark communities (Parmelion laevigatae), “due to the past impact of acidifying pollution”, ie acid rain, as well as natural high rainfall acidification (higher than at other sites around Ullswater). He identified only relict base-rich bark (Lobarion pulmonariae) and smooth-bark (Graphidetum scriptae) communities with few species present, as well as small numbers of dry lignum specialists (Calicietum abietinae) – dead wood is well represented at the site.

We had a few of Neil’s locations for interesting crustose species but failed to find them – or perhaps we just didn’t recognise them – so we reverted to the tried and tested method of checking out good-looking trees. Old birch had lovely common acidic bark species, like Ochrolechia tartarea and Mycoblastus sanguinarius, as well as Parmeliopsis hyperopta, a tiny grey foliose species with globose clumps of soredia which isn’t often seen in Cumbria (or most of England). Scattered ash trees had Hypotrachyna taylorensis, new to the Ullswater area, as well as Normandina acroglypta and Catillaria nigroclavata. Diminutive Rinodina sophodes was seen on ash twigs and the equally small apothecia of Dimerella pineti on Malus sylvestris.

A mature oak near the boundary wall at the north edge of the site had a good population of pale Ochrolechia subviridis on the trunk, the granular isidia/soredia showing C+red but no apothecia to be seen. Allan Pentecost had showed us this species in 2019 on an oak lower down beside the playing field, fertile with lovely frosted pruinose discs with isidiate margins. Today’s tree also had Bryobilimbia sanguineoatra, with red-brown apothecia becoming convex with age, growing over moss, as well as a streak of buff-coloured Pyrrhospora quernea.

In the end we had a list of 50-60 species, depending on how the specimens work out, but we wandered over only about a quarter of the site. A return visit as usual may be needed once there’s a thaw and the days are longer.

Text: Caz Walker. Photos: Caz Walker, Chris Cant, Belinda Lloyd, Pete Martin

Glenamara Bryophyte Report

Five hardy bryologists ventured into Glenamara’s frosty wood pasture on a beautiful crisp Sunday morning. The site lies entirely within tetrad NY31X, but straddles all four monads. Due to the conditions the group spent the entire day within monad NY3815. Surprisingly for its location, only 7 species appear to have been recorded for the tetrad in the past so there was a lot to do…

Snow obscured much of the ground so we gravitated towards Hag Beck which was still flowing, and most of the records came from here. After ticking off some commoner grassland species, we started to investigate the beck itself.

Marchantia polymorpha ssp polymorpha proved to be the most ubiquitous thallose liverwort on vertical soil banks all along the beck, with very little Pellia sp present. Plagiochila spinulosa was also found here, together with Fissidens dubius, Trichostomum tenuirostre and Scapania undulata. Platyhypnidium riparoides and Hygrohypnum luridum were common on boulders in the beck itself, together with Thamnobryum alopecuroides, and small bright green patches of Lejeunea patens. Vertical rock above the water-line had cushions of Amphidium mougeotii. Following the beck upstream we found small base-rich areas with Ctenidium molluscum and Tortella tortuosa. Unfortunately, the flushes here were mostly covered with snow, however Sphagnum rusowii and Leiocolea bantriensis were found suggesting that these areas would merit another look. Lunch was necessarily brief due to the penetrating cold, however it did allow us to time to appreciate the stunning views down Ullswater. Two very confiding robins also came to investigate us and hoover up any crumbs. Further up the beck, water was still flowing in several flushes. Green cushions of Blindia acuta were found here together with Palustriella commutata, Hookeria lucens, Rhizomnium punctatum, Cratoneruon filicinum and Riccardia chamaedryfolia. Abundant dead wood was mostly snow-covered, but Riccardia palmata and Tetraphis pellucida were found. By about 2.30 fog started rolling down over Trough Head, so rather than start recording in a new monad we headed down the valley again to find the lichen group. On the way down, Frullania fragilifolia was found on a large Ash tree, its distinctive ‘pear-drops’ scent apparent even in the cold. Having seen no Bazzania trilobata all day, a small patch was located near the beck below the public footpath. As the light was fading,  a tiny Lophozia with red gemmae was found on a very large oak tree on the northern boundary. This could be L. excisa or possibly L. longidens, and has been sent to a referee for determination.

Altogether just over 90 species were recorded, but this would undoubtedly have been higher without the snow. A further visit is clearly required.

Kerry Milligan

Bryophyte Lichen Trip report

Scales Wood trip report 16-10-22

Lichen Report

With remarkable timing, our field trip to Scales Wood near Buttermere had a break in the weather, sandwiched between days of rain. Although a long journey for many, we had a good turnout with a mixture of beginners and more experienced group members.  The site is a good oceanic north-east facing wood primarily of acid-barked oak and birch set between 100m and 300m above sea level. We went up through the vegetated boulder field to about half-way up as the sessile oaks give way to birch, and eventually found over 80 lichen species on the mossy trees, rocks and outcrops. This figure includes a few species on the stone bridge at the edge of the site, with Placynthium nigrum on the mortar for example.

Star of the show was the rare oceanic Parmelinopsis horrescens known from Scales Wood as its most northerly location in the UK: nationally scarce and near threatened. One of the Parmelia group, it has grey-green lobes with no pseudocyphellae but with conspicuous isidia and black cilia on the upper surface. It blended in with the other foliose lichens on the twigs and bark, so required careful inspection to find it. We checked that it did the expected KC+ pink reaction. It’s not been seen elsewhere in the Lakes, but perhaps we need to look harder. There is an even rarer P. minarum which looks the same, with no cilia but has a C+ pink medulla.  Parmelia ernstiae was present as well: this looks similar, also without cilia.

The site is designated as an SSSI primarily because it is the largest and least modified example of highly oceanic birch-sessile oak woodland in the Lake District. At its last assessment in 2014, it was in unfavourable condition (no change) due to poor wood structure ie a lack of tree regeneration as there was no stock-proof barrier. As per the survey, we found plenty of dead wood but very few saplings and a couple of sheep present. This issue of under grazing or over-grazing is tricky: too much grazing and there’s no re-gen; too little and the base of trees and ground flora can be shaded, which will affect some lichens. Only slow re-gen is needed, but I think we’ll have to accept some shading if we want new trees to grow so the wood can survive in the long term.  Thankfully we saw no Rhododendron.  And happily there was no sign of nitrogen enrichment in the main wood ie no Xanthoria or Phaeophyscia, with only one instance of Physcia tenella next to the farmland. The birches higher up were reminiscent of the west coast of Scotland, with a lush Parmelion community covering every inch of bark.  We found oceanic specialist Hypotrachyna taylorensis on one oak. We didn’t re-find the only Cumbria record of “Lob scrob” from 1961 – always a long shot.

There were plenty of opportunities for learning, with Parmelia, Flavoparmelia caperata, Ochrolechia tartarea, O. androgyna and Mycoblastus sanguinarius present, along with plentiful Hypotrachyna laevigata with one instance found fertile. Micarea can be tricky but we found relatively distinctive M. alabastrites with white apothecia (C+ red) on several trees and M. stipitata with white stalked pycnidia.  Cladonia caespiticia was found with its distinctive mushroom-like apothecia. Lovely mounds of Cladonia were deemed to be fertile C. subcervicornis after some wrestling with the key. And fertile Cladonia parasitica was found on dead wood with an instant K+ yellow reaction along with Pd+ deep yellow. Bunodophoron melanocarpum was present on rock and birch. This, along with several species fertile, means many happy lichens.

The happy lichenologists, looking back at the wood, saw many unexplored areas to either side – plenty of scope for further visits…

Text and photos, Chris Cant

Bryophyte Report

Despite Scales Wood being one of the largest and least modified examples of oceanic woodland in the Lake District, and an SSSI for that reason, it is surprising that only 41 species or bryophyte appear have been recorded for the tetrad. Our group of six therefore set out with modest expectations, but determined to fill some gaps in the records.

Once over the bridge, our first stop at a large rock gave us all the opportunity for some revision of commoner species and produced the first interesting liverwort of the day, Orthocaulis (Barbilophozia) atlantica with its striking red gemmae. Hyocomium armoricum was also found in a small watercourse here. Moving up the steep slope into the woodland, the abundance of bryophytes on trees, rocks and the ground soon became apparent, suggesting this was going to be a very interesting wood. Early finds included Hylocomiastrum umbratum, Bazzania trilobata, Plagiochila spinulosa and  Saccogyna viticulosa . Scapania gracilis was extremely common on tree trunks and on rocks, together with extensive carpets and frequent hummocks of Sphagnum species  (particularly S palustre and S quinquefarium) on the ground all indicating just how humid the woodland is. Precipitation here is over 2 metres per year!  Several trees with the characteristic ‘brackets’ of Plagiochila punctata were also found. Dead wood had surprising amounts of the tiny Scapania umbrosa, together with Riccardia palmata and Cephalozia (Nowellia) curvifolia.

As we got higher and deeper into the wood, more exciting finds were made. Large areas of the slope are occupied by block scree covered in a carpet of bryophytes with Wilson’s Filmy-fern Hymenophyllum wilsonii quite frequent. Bazzania tricrenata, initially spotted as a tiny clump, was soon being found regularly, often growing through other liverworts such as Mylia taylorii. Anastrepta orcadensis was also quite frequent, its red gemmae giving it a superficial resemblance to Orthocaulis atlantica, but quite obvious differences in leaf shape and orientation were visible on closer inspection. We also found good patches of Hageniella micans, a moss which in England is only known from here and Borrowdale. The real star finds were Harpanthus scutatus, which is mentioned in the SSSI citation, and one tiny patch of Pseudomarsupidium (Adelanthus) decipiens, possibly a new location for this species.

Towards the end of the day we reached Near Ruddy Beck hoping for some different species. Sadly we did not find Jubula hutchinsae which has been recorded in the wood, but did find Andrea hookeri (alpina) growing on a boulder, and possibly Plagiochila bifaria growing on a log overhanging the beck. Heading down out of the woodland towards the track home, we crossed a boggy area with a range of different Sphagnum species, including  S papillosum, S inundatum, S compactum and possibly S platyphyllum, which if confirmed would be the first record for VC70.

The final tally for the day was nearly 80 species (with several samples still awaiting examination). All in all, a most enjoyable visit to an exceptional wood.

Kerry Milligan

Photos: CS=Clare Shaw, KM=Kerry Milligan

Bryophyte Lichen Trip report

Sunbiggin Tarn trip report 14-8-22


It seems to be an annual occurrence now: to have a field trip during very hot dry weather. A couple of attendees had sensibly dropped out in advance. We started off in the open on the limestone at the edge of Little Asby Scar, but retreated into the shade of the hawthorns next to Sunbiggin Tarn until we boiled off at 3pm.

The day was one of a series of events in August to celebrate the life of Frank Dobson who died in December 2021. He wrote several lichen books including the essential “Lichens: An Illustrated Guide to the British and Irish Species” now in its seventh edition in 2018. This is a vital part of any lichen outing with keys and information on morphology and chemistry to help identify lichens in the field and when back at base eg using microscopes. On this trip, we had three “Dobsons” on the go at one point trying to work out an id. The British Lichen Society (BLS) will be updating this guide book in due course, no doubt including recent taxonomic changes.

The limestone had some nice usual suspects such as Caloplaca flavescens, Dermatocarpon miniatum, Placynthium nigrum, Protoblastenia rupestris and Squamarina cartilaginea. We spent some time on a Lecanora but didn’t come to a conclusion.

Sue found some perithecia with a black on white cracked crust, which she recognised as potentially being Acrocordia conoidea. Back at base, Chris and Caz eventually concluded that it must be a Verrucaria as it had simple spores that weren’t uniseriate in the ascus – and keyed out a tentative species identification, but the experts we consulted weren’t convinced. Verrucaria species can be tricky to identify, especially where there’s a crust of algae or cyanobacteria on top, as in this case.

Near the tarn, we found some shade for lunch behind a dry-stone wall which sported some more lichens for id. After that we moved to the nearby hawthorns which can be a good habitat for lichens, though the thorns do make it harder to look. There were a couple of instances of the large Ramalina fraxinea along with the more common R. fastigiata and R. farinacea, along with similar looking Evernia prunastri. It was good to hide in the shade, using Dobson to key out some species.

Nearby there was some earthy limestone with some Cladonia species on the edge of the rocks. We saw Toninia verrucarioides growing on top of Placynthium nigrum, along with a dry Leptogium pulvinatum.

We ended up with almost 50 species identified. It is always a pleasure to share a lichen enthusiasm with others in the field.

Text and photos: Chris Cant


I didn’t have very high hopes of the outing to Sunbiggin Tarn. The forecast was for another very hot day, and although there had been some rain a few days before, it seemed likely that the bryophytes would be dry and tightly curled against the heat. However, four of us had braved the hot conditions and it was good to meet up and to be outdoors.

We parked in the big layby above the Tarn, just west of Little Asby, and started with a look at the remains of limestone pavement to the east of the layby. It was good to familiarise ourselves with some typical limestone species including Neckera crispa, Ctenidium molluscum, Grimmia pulvinata, Scapania aspera, Tortula muralis, Tortella tortuosa, Syntrichia montana, Hypnum lacunosum and Homalothecium sericeum. More surprising was Climacium dendroides, usually a species of damp places. David and Andy found some interesting wispy species, and consulting our field guides we decided they were likely to be Flexitrichum gracile and flexicaule (previously both in the Ditrichum genus). Both are lime-loving species and F. gracile is commonly found on limestone grassland, but F. flexicaule is much rarer and restricted mainly to limestone rocks. In this case it was distinctive, with many stiff, upright stems as shown in the field guide photos and described as ‘thin, deciduous branches with short leaves’. Microscope examination confirmed this ID, with the F. flexicaule shoots showing relatively short leaves on the longer shoots. Leaf sections ofthis species also showed a more abrupt transition between the leaf lamina and the costa compared to F. gracile, where you can’t see a clear ‘edge’ to the costa.

Flexitrichum flexicaule
Flexitrichum flexicaule growing through Ctenidium molluscum
Flexitrichum flexicaule leaf
Flexitrichum flexicaule leaf section
Flexitrichum gracile leaf section

Once we felt we’d seen most of the species we were likely to find here, we drove down to the tarn and went to investigate the boggy area west of the road and down to Tarn Sike. The ground was not exactly boggy, but still damp enough for the bryophytes to be holding on. There were a few Sphagnum species (S. capillifolium, S. subnitens, S. palustre), also Breutelia chrysocoma, Aneura pinguis, Palustriella commutata and falcata, Scorpidium scorpioides and cossonii, Aulacomium palustre. There was a tiny rivulet of still-running water where we were pleased to spot Calliergon gigantea in several patches. There were extensive patches of a blackish Jungermannia liverwort, probably J. atrovirens or pumila, but impossible to definitively identify without perianths. J atrovirens according to the field guide is most common in limestone districts, but both are sometimes found together.

Calliergon gigantea
The big stem leaves are very distinctive and clearly visible between the branches.

We made our way down to the road, passing some lovely autumn gentian, and from there down to the tarn, where we enjoyed the cool shade of a few trees. There were a few epiphytes there: Ulota phylantha, Ulota crispa, Frullania dilatata, Metzgeria fruticulosa, and a spectacular, very large Puss moth caterpillar spotted by Kerry. At the edge of the tarn was some Fontinalis antipyretica. By now it was about 2 o’clock and getting seriously hot, so we agreed to call it a day and headed back towards the cars. But we were soon distracted by a large boggy area with more Palustriella commutata and cushions of Philonotis fontana, where we were also excited to find some really good areas of Philonotis calcarea. There were actually several patches, looking really healthy and very distinctively curved to one side.

Philonotis calcarea

So all in all, it was a surprisingly good day and we were very happy with the interesting finds, though the species list is likely to be quite limited.

Text and photos: Clare Shaw

Bryophyte Lichen Trip report

Brantwood trip report 18-03-22


A beautiful spring day saw a record turnout for a visit to Brantwood, the home of John Ruskin from 1871 to 1900. The Brantwood Estate covers nearly 90 hectares with a range of different habitats present from lakeshore and garden to oak woodland, gills, mires and upland heath. The general objective of the day was to visit each of these habitats if possible, and generate a decent list of species.

After a general introduction in the orchard, nine bryologists and five enthusiastic estate staff headed into the gardens, leaving the lichenologists examining the apple trees. The short walk from the car park to the Moss Garden produced 38 species, mostly common garden bryophytes but with some good woodland species too such as Dicranum majus and Nowellia curvifolia, plus indicators of base-rich rock and soil, such as Ctenidium molluscum, Neckera complanata and Tortella tortuosa. In the Moss Garden a lush carpet of mostly Rhytidiadelphus loreus under wide spaced oaks produced a stunning visual effect, despite (or perhaps because of) the dominance of one species. Closer inspection revealed several other species here including Tetraphis pellucida on a dead tree stump.

The group then moved swiftly on to Beck Leven, the watercourse which marks the southern boundary of the estate. Oceanic species such as Jubula hutchinsae, Hyocomium armoricum, Plagiochila spinulosa, Platyhypnidium riparoides, and Saccogyna viticulosa were all readily found, together with other more widespread but distinctive mosses of wet places such as Hookeria lucens, Thamnobryum alopecurum and Dichodontium pellucidum. A nice patch of Jamesoniella autumnalis was found on a nearby oak. After lunch, we followed the beck up onto Crag Head, a large intake which includes the highest point on the estate (230m). Fantastic views across Coniston Water to the Old Man and Wetherlam were a temporary distraction until we found the first of a series of mires which produced several sphagna (Sphagnum subnitens, S. capillifolium and S. papillosum) together with Aulocomium palustre and Breutelia chrysocoma. A larger mire with bog pools proved to be more base-rich with Sphagnum contortum, Scorpidium revolvens and S cossonii, and Campylium stellatum. Thuidium delicatulum and Dicranum bonjeanii were also found here.

Descending back through the woods, a small overhanging rockface produced one of the best records for the day, a single patch of Bartramia halleriana with capsules. Our last habitat to visit was the lakeshore. Fontinalis antipyretica was found to be abundant just below the waterline, whilst Cinclidotus fontinalis was frequent on rocks. A small rocky headland gave a last minute boost to the species list with Frullania fragilifolia, Pterogonium gracile, and Trichostomum brachydontium.

At the end of the day, a small group of bryologists and lichenologists reconvened at Brantwood’s Terrace cafe for a much needed cup of tea. A total of 119 bryophytes were recorded on the estate. Many thanks to Brantwood for hosting the visit, and to their staff for their enthusiasm and for making us so welcome.

Kerry Milligan – photos from Kerry Milligan and Clare Shaw


A large group including nine lichenologists gathered at Brantwood, 19th century home of John Ruskin, on the east shore of Coniston on a fine spring day. We were joined for a while by estate staff who were keen to find out what lichens and bryophytes they have. There have been no lichen records for Brantwood since 1965 when 42 species were recorded. First stop was the apple orchard, with a dozen small fruit trees grey with bushy lichens and a simple wooden fence equally covered with thalli. Pete gave the group a brief introduction to lichens and found plenty of examples to illustrate the main growth forms. We then recorded as many species as we could, a total of 29 lichens on trees and fence.

What happened next was a new experience for the group – a visit to the cafe for coffee and cake – followed by the more familiar episode of getting absorbed by car park lichens on stone retaining walls including Scytinium teretiusculum. Eventually we tore ourselves away and headed uphill, through the gardens, to the oak woods on the slopes above. Pete was nursing an injured knee so stayed on level ground, talking to the staff and visiting the lake shore where he found Candelaria concolor on ash, along with other lichens.

The oaks above the house looked even-aged as if planted 100-200 years ago, with an understory of hazel, holly and an occasional ash and hawthorn. Most trees had acidic bark, based on the lichen flora we saw, but there was plenty to admire including Parmelia ernstiae, Micarea alabastrites, Arthonia spadicea, Anisomeridium ranunculosporum and a good range of acidic habitat species. The beginners in the group were keen to look at the tiny features on many of the lichens, such as the coarse and fine soredia on Hypotrachyna afrorevoluta and H revoluta.

The boundary wall between wood and field had a good range of crustose lichens including Trapelia coarctata and Opegrapha gyrocarpa, while that on the opposite side of the field had Coenogonium luteum on moss, Baeomyces rufus, Diploschistes scruposus and Psilolechia lucida, amongst others. A birch in the field gave us Graphis elegans and Fuscidea lightfootii and a hazel inside the next strip of woodland was heaving with Normandina pulchella and Thelotrema lepadinum. We looked at crustose aquatic lichens in the beck for a while and kept an eye open for Dermatocarpon luridum  having heard a rumour from the bryologists, who’d been there earlier, that itwas spotted but we didn’t see that.

Before heading back towards the car park we visited an oak obviously larger and older than the others – just as well as it had several small patches of Parmeliella triptophylla on the north side of the trunk illustrating the point that oaks can become less acid-barked with age.

Some of the group were lured back to the cafe for a second time before leaving which sets a worrying precedent for future trips…..

Footnote: Pete’s specimens from the lakeshore included one which later turned out to be Normandina acroglypta. So far the total of species seen in all locations stands at about 90 with a few more possible once specimens are examined.

Caz Walker with photos from Judith Allinson, Pete Martin and Chris Cant