On May 4th 2011 we spent an enjoyable day out with Arthur Chater on the Carmarthenshire bank of the Teifi near Cenarth. He suggested that rock outcrops in steep beech woodland looked suitable for the gametophyte of Trichomanes speciosum, particularly as he had found it some years ago further down the valley. He duly found it after not a great deal of time searching deep in the rock clefts using a torch. The fern gametophyte is the first stage of reproduction and is the product of the germination of the spore. Different ferns’ gametophytes may look superficially like a coating of algae on the substrate, like moss or like a small thallose liverwort (the prothallus) and can only survive in continuously damp places. Antheridia and archegonia develop on the underside and fertilization of the archeogonia is achieved by free‐swimming sperm produced by the antheridia. The fertilized ovum then develops into the adult fern plant (the sporophyte). There are several records of Trichomanes gametophyte in the county but only one known site for the sporophyte and in Wales as a whole, the sporophyte is confined to just a handful of sites. The rarity and vulnerability of the species dictates its full protection by its inclusion on schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
I was very impressed by Arthur’s ability, agility and knowledge of the habitat and only a little less impressed by the gametophyte!