Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter - December 2003 - No 70
Nigel Stringer & George Hutchinson
Leaders Nigel Stringer and George Hutchinson
Fourteen members met just after the bridge over the dismantled railway at the former entrance to Cynheidre Colliery (SN495072) in fine, sunny weather.
Due to the recent spell of dry weather the occurrence of rusts on flowering plants (especially grasses) was poor this year. Despite this fact 24 rusts were recorded during the visit. The most commonly found were those on Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) where three spore stages of two different rust species were evident. Spermogonia and aecidia of Puccinia poarum intermingled with uredinia of Coleosporium tussilaginis giving the whole of the leaf (especially the underside) an intense orange colouration (see photo in Llanelli Nats. Newsletter, 69 p.24). Different races of Coleosporium tussilaginis were also found on the eyebright Euphrasia nemoralis and on Red Bartsia (Odontites vernus). Very few grasses were infected but the uredinia of the crown rust Puccinia coronata were found on Common Bent (Agrostis capillaris), Creeping Bent (A. stolonifera), False Oat (Arrhenatherum elatius) and Rye-grass (Lolium perenne). Leaves of both Creeping Soft-grass (Holcus mollis) and Yorkshire-fog (H. lanatus) were covered in masses of orange spores as a result of infection by Puccinia hordei / P. coronata. Of note was the discovery of Uromyces junci on Jointed Rush (Juncus articulatus) by Dic Davies. This was the first time that this rust has been recorded on this host in Britain. The rusts found on the three species of alder (Alnus glutinosa, A. incana and A. cordata) may also prove to be interesting. Until now, this rust which is common to all the above three species has been thought to be the same rust as infects birch in Britain – Melampsoridium betulinum. However, recent information received from Professor H. Gjaerum in Norway indicates that there is a specific rust (M. hiratsukanum) found on alder. This rust has spread rapidly through Europe in the last ten to twenty years especially on Alnus incana but has not been recorded in Britain as yet.
The female catkins of the native, but planted, Common Alder (Alnus glutinosa) were galled with the fungal gall Taphrina alni (syn. T. amentorum) which causes the catkin to produce red tongue-like growths (Redfern & Shirley, 2002). By the time of our visit they had darkened to grey or black causing the name Micky Mouse gall to be shouted out as the resembled the cartoon character’s ears! Taphrina is a large genus of Ascomycete fungi and includes T. betulina, the causer of witches’ brooms on birch trees.
Botanical and Entomological Notes
The first plants still in bright flower were patches of Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica). Eyebrights (Euphrasia), however, were not conspicuous and were well camouflaged, being mostly in seed. Those that could be identified were E. nemorosa and E. confusa x nemorosa, both without glands of any kind. The latter had more branching concentrated towards the base of the plant. A brief guide to identifying eyebrights in the county was given by GH but none of the species with glands was found on the day.
Turning left downhill at the T-junction much Jointed Rush was encountered with its flattened leaves. It was a good day for planted alder: Common Alder (Alnus glutinosa) with its obovate leaves and Italian Alder (A. cordata) with its cordate leaves and brittle twigs being commonly planted on the landscaped areas. Grey Alder (A. incana) with its ovate leaves was found later. Pale Toadflax (Linaria repens) was common on the slopes and a small plant of L. x sepium, the hybrid with Common Toadflax (L. vulgaris), was seen nearby. Tall Melilot (Melilotus altissima) abounded and was in pubescent fruit, distinguishing it from Ribbed Melilot (M. officinalis), which was not seen and appears to be much rarer in the county than M. altissima. Flattened Meadow-grass (Poa compressa) was locally abundant amongst it and on nearby open areas.
A former concrete road, now a shallow, ponded area at the bottom of the gradient was rich with rush-like stems. After careful examination, over six species were identified, including the generally coastal Sea Club-rush (Bolboschoenus maritimus) and Grey Club-rush (Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani) amongst a dense stand of Common Spike-rush (Eleocharis palustris), with an isolated plant of Slender Rush (Juncus tenuis) in fruit.
In a permanently flooded area nearby, caused by the damming effect of the concrete road, there was much Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) although taller unbranched Water Horsetail (E. fluviatile) occasionally protruded. Closer examination for hybrid material was prevented by a stout barbed-wire fence, along the base of which whorls of green calyces revealed Gypsywort (Lycopus europaeus) in seed, growing with plants of Water Mint (Mentha aquatica), still in full flower, each plant with its terminal whorl.
In these watery areas the Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta), Common Hawker (Aeschna cyanea) and Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) were typical late season dragonflies with Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ishnura elegans) in attendance. A few of the party were lucky enough to see a close-view of a male Black Darter (Sympetrum danae), a species more commonly associated with acid upland habitats.
Tony Lewis drew our attention to a new childrens’ playground nearby which on the edge of which two plants of White Mustard (Sinapis alba) were growing, with its large-beaked fruit, and cultivated Flax (Linum usitatissimum) alongside, with its pea-sized spherical capsules. Walking back to the coal-waste area, a solitary, blanched and desiccated plant of Two-rowed Barley (Hordeum distichon) stood out on a bank where Pale Flax (Linum bienne) was in flower, with the more elusive Knotted Pearlwort (Sagina nodosa) seen later, established on compacted colliery spoil. Stace’s Field Flora of the British Isles [‘Baby Stace’], a flexi-covered book, which easily fits into the rucksack, resolved several issues at the meeting, including the identity of the small yellow composite at this spot as Lesser Hawkbit (Leontodon saxatilis), by it having some of its leaf hairs forked and with reddish backs to its phyllaries, which are less than a centimetre long. Despite the season, Autumn Hawkbit (L. autumnalis), with its glabrous leaves, or leaves with simple hairs and greyish backs to its phyllaries, wasn’t seen.
A small nearby ditch with shallow flowing water had attractive bryophytes along the stony bottom and sides. These were kindly identified at NMW by Alan Orange as Calliergonella cuspidata, Cratoneuron filicinum, Pohlia melanodon (= P. carnea) and Pellea endiviifolia.
It was now time to return along the more direct cycleway-route, on which a Painted Lady butterfly alighted. The verges showed typical late flowering plants such as Fox-and-cubs (Pilosella aurantiaca) with rather red ligules, Redshank (Persicaria maculosa), some with just white flowers, and Devil’s-bit Scabious (Succisa pratensis) with violet flowers but also a plant with pale pink flower-heads. It was a meeting that demonstrated the diversity of life-forms that could still be identified late in the season.
Redfern, M. & Shirley, P. (2002). British Plant Galls - identification of galls on plants and fungi. Reprint from Field Studies Vol. 10. No. 2 and 3 with the same pagination. Field Studies Council Publications, Preston Montford, Shropshire.
Stace, C.A. (1999). Field Flora of the British Isles. CUP, Cambridge.