Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter - December 2003 - No 70
Kath Cottingham

Leaders Tony And Viv Lewis

The party met near the entrance to the Country Park to arrange car sharing then proceeded in fewer vehicles to the car park near the beach. By this time it had started to rain and about seventeen people (and two dogs) gathered near the information board where Tony Lewis welcomed the party and explained that he was not Richard Pryce as billed in the programme, but he and Viv had been asked to lead the walk instead, as Richard was away on BSBI business.  Dennis Smith of the Wildlife Trust gave apologies from several people and detailed future meetings.

Richard had advised that the group might concentrate on recording in SS49J as this is a designated BSBI Local Change tetrad, a recording scheme which is seeking to repeat the nationwide BSBI Monitoring Scheme carried out in 1986/87.  However, Tony’s hopes to quickly shepherd the party directly to this area along Clive Davies’ road were somewhat thwarted by the relaxed atmosphere which developed as the weather brightened, further hindered by the diverse dune-habitats along the way and Skylarks constantly singing overhead.  Noticeable plants near the road included Yellow Rattle (Rhinanthus minor), Common Milkwort (Polygala vulgaris), Hairy Rock-cress (Arabis hirsuta), Green-winged Orchid (Orchis morio), Sand Cat’s-tail  (Phleum arenarium), Bulbous Buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus) – with its reflexed sepals – and Dune Pansy (Viola tricolor ssp. curtisii).  In fact when someone remarked on a particularly attractive flowering patch of the pansy, Kath Cottingham (KAC) noticed associated with it, a 3cm tall spike of something unusual but vaguely familiar and called for Tony’s expertise.  It was Moonwort (Botrichium lunaria), a tiny fern of distinctive appearance (see photo).  Within a few minutes, the party had discovered about forty plants in the surrounding area of about 10m radius , some of which were larger with noticeable yellow/brownish sporangia.  This was quite exciting, particularly to those present who remembered the prolonged search for the species last June at Pendine, when only three plants were found (this had obviously made a lasting impression as several people mentioned it!).  Interestingly, Pendine also had numerous plants of Adder’s Tongue (Ophioglossum vulgaris), another small fern, but none was found at Pembrey Burrows although it has been recorded in Pembrey Forest and at Tywyn Burrows.  Tony reported that only a few Moonwort plants had been found previously at Pembrey Burrows, the last by Philip Jones in 1997, so the party was able to feel a sense of achievement.

Due to the perceived urgency to reach ‘SS49J’ the party was discouraged from investigating a dry looking pond area a little distance north of the track, which was a pity, as when RDP & KAC visited the site the following day, they found several plants of Greater Spearwort (Ranunculus lingua) in flower, a new species to the 10km square and only the sixth county record!  As we all know, it is often the most unpromising areas that yield valuable finds.

Further populations of Moonwort were found as the party walked along the track towards Jim Davies’ pond (which is located in SS49J, (at last!)) with some larger plants growing in rather rank grassy hollows, associated with more Green-winged Orchids.

After the party had enjoyed their picnic lunches in a sunny hollow, some time was taken examining Jim’s pond, so-called as he supervised its excavation for the County Council at the time of the works to reduce the amount of Sea Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) about five years previously. Common Spike-rush (Eleocharis palustris) and Sea Club-rush (Bolboschoenus maritimus) were the dominant emergent species with occasional Grey Club-rush (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani), Lesser Spearwort (Ranunculus flamula), Water Mint (Mentha aquatica) and Common Water-plantain (Alisma plantago-aquatica).  The net-veined leaves of a few plants of Fen Pondweed (Potamogeton coloratus) were floating on the surface and a Water-crowfoot was sparsely in flower which was identified as Fan-leaved Water-crowfoot (Ranunculus circinatus) with leaf segments which remain stiff when out of water and which characteristically opens its white buttercup-like flowers both above and under water (which distinguishes it from Brackish Water-crowfoot (R. baudotii)).  A stonewort, later determined as Chara vulgaris var. papillata by Alan Orange at NMW, formed dense, bright-green, sub-aquatic growths in the bottom of the pond.

The dry dunes in the vicinity of the pond, particularly where they had been disturbed by buckthorn clearance, had both Common Stork’s-bill (Erodium cicutarium) and Sticky Stork’s-bill (E.lebellii), the latter having white flowers and sticky leaves to which sand-grains adhere.  Also noted here were Dune Fescue (Vulpia fasciculata), Hound’s-tongue (Cynoglossum officinale) and the hybrid between the red and white campions, Silene x hampeana.  Meanwhile Viv had continued eastwards over the dunes in order to re-find the alien Purple Clematis (Clematis viticella) which had been discovered the previous year by a BSBI group. She was successful after a rather protracted search but it was too far for other party members to be summoned.

The return walk through the dunes afforded the opportunity to discover more Moonwort and add more records to the total for the SS49J Local Change square. The leaders were thanked for such a rewarding excursion which had been another  very successful event involving both Trust and Nats’ members.