Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter - January 2005 - No 71
George Hutchinson and Richard Pryce

Leader Richard Pryce

Fourteen members met at the parking area across the level-crossing on what was truly the first weekend summer’s day of the year, with blue skies and light breezes. The party was able to head north-eastwards past the side of the yacht park. Here the plants introduced with its construction material were examined. Initially, the distinguishing features of Ivy-leaved Speedwell (Veronica hederacea subsp. hederacea) and Hairy Bitter-cress (Cardamine hirsuta) were demonstrated by the leader. Many of the spring flowers were fully open in the bright sunshine. Plants of Common Cornsalad (Valerianella locusta) occurred on the stony ground here but were insufficiently mature to examine the calyx in fruit, critical for the determination of this group. Reflexed Stonecrop (Sedum rupestre) and Orpine (Sedum telephium) were in leaf and able to survive on the shoulder of the path, while Wood Forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica) was in full patent flower alongside, with Sea Mouse-ear (Cerastium diffusum). Opposite, path-side sandbanks were being colonised by specimen plants of the tiny Wall Speedwell (Veronica arvensis), showing themselves by their tiny rich blue flowers, not much larger than a pin-head, accompanied by the small, pale-blue flowers of Early Forget-me-not (Myosotis ramosissima). Patches of the common dune moss, Tortula ruralis ssp. ruraliformis, were a component of the plant assemblage here, on small areas of exposed sandy dune. A small-sized Dandelion with deeply dissected leaves, tentatively identified by the leader as Taraxacum oxoniense,  was also sampled for identification later.

A basal rosette of Wallflower Cabbage (Coincya monensis subsp. cheiranthos) came into view along the path as the party approached the pebbly north beach, from where the view northwards stretched around its tidal muddy shore to Morfa Uchaf and included the Common Cord-grass (Spartina anglica) gradually colonising it. The largest plants among the pebbles underfoot were Japanese Rose (Rosa rugosa) and Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara).

It was time to return between the sand hills and the railway to investigate a small pond marked on the map at SN368107.  Beforehand, the party passed an area of turf disturbed by winter fencing work along the railway, where Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum angustifolium) used to be common, but a few plants had survived the works and were just emerging.  The pond turned out to now be willow and alder carr and with the spring having been so dry the party was able to walk on its dried bed. Lords-and-Ladies (Arum maculatum), Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis), Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria subsp. ficaria) and the glaucous leaves of Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis), now past flowering, and emerging Yellow Iris (Iris pseudacorus) were picturesque in the carr, but alas, the invasive Indian Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera), had arrived, which could easily be identified by their dicotyledons emerging from the drying sludge.

Under willow at the south end several specimens of the fungus Inocybe sp. with caps like Chinese coolies’ hats were emerging through the grass. Pink-flowered Primrose (Primula vulgaris) clothed the railway embankment here, probably of garden origin, and the leader was delayed by finding a new spot for Lesser Chickweed (Stellaria pallida) in the open, sandy, flat, grassy area above the pool.

Crossing over to the wooded area forming the eastern slope of the sand hill ridge, Twayblade (Listera ovata) was emerging with a carpet of Lords-and-Ladies, with and without spotted leaf-blades, but all with purple spadix appendages, eliminating any hint of Italian Lords-and-Ladies (A. italicum).  The chestnut coloured cup fungus Paxina acetabulum was growing nearby in good numbers. This east-facing bank of shrubs was of further interest.  After Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris) at its base Van Houtte’s Spiraea (Spiraea x vanhouttei) was determined by Tony Lewis. This is a second Welsh record and compares well with material at NMW collected from a hedge, 3.5km SSE of Aberaeron, by Arthur Chater in 1997.  Looking upwards, Butcher’s-broom (Ruscus aculeatus) formed part of the skyline at this point.

Before rejoining the coastal path, stands of Hybrid Bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica x non-scripta) were in flower under the shrubbery. The jizz of this population was its unusually narrowish leaves, somewhat like the native Bluebell (H. non-scripta), but their large showy pale-blue flowers resembled Spanish Bluebell (H. hispanica).  The Hybrid Bluebell is generally a very robust plant, much planted in gardens and is now a threat to wild Bluebell populations in some areas, perhaps a future Grey/Red Squirrel scenario.  The native Bluebell had been seen earlier, with its smaller darker blue flowers only just emerging through the narrow leaves.  Wild Onion (Allium vineale), not yet in flower, was also present but elusive among the Hybrid Bluebell and emerging tall grasses.

An attractive, tall, pink flowering, broad-lobed fumitory grew along the fence of the yacht park which was identified as Common Ramping-fumitory (Fumaria muralis subsp. boraei).  This accompanied more Lesser Chickweed (Stellaria pallida). A few cream flowers of White Ramping-fumitory (F. capreolata) had been detected earlier further along the coastal path. In among the boulders near the slipway were English Scurvygrass (Cochlearia anglica) and the garden escapee, Meadow-foam (Limnanthes douglasii), also known as Poached-egg Plant, due to its yellow centred, white flowers.

Approaching the end of the field meeting the wall of the small raised lawn behind the yacht club was rich in common ferns including a conspicuous pale green plant of Maidenhair Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes subsp. quadrivalens).  Pellitory-of-the-wall (Parietaria judaica) and the bright pink flowers of Aubretia (Aubreta deltoidea), together with several more Common Cornsalad plants, ended the riverside exploration.

A stroll along the west platform of the railway station ensued but the previously recorded planted American Aspen (Populus tremuloides) was not refound in the land on the other side of the fence - tall Cypress trees had been allowed to shoot up and smother most plants.

Butterflies were lured by the spring sunshine with Small Tortoiseshell and Speckled Wood noted during the afternoon and the warmth was responsible for the long queue for ice-cream afterwards!   We are grateful to Dr Jones for his fungus determinations.