Bradford Botany Group

Pembrokshire

June 25th – June 29th 2009

 

 

 

 

Driving to St Davids there was a holiday atmosphere, with fine weather forecast and we were staying near the seaside. Arriving in the picturesque city in the late afternoon we checked into our various bed & breakfast accommodation. We met the rest of the group at the Grove Hotel for our meal, and also met our field leader Stephen Evans and his wife, Ann.

Lesser Water Plantain

Our first full day of botany began with a short drive to Dowrog Common. We arrived in rather damp weather conditions at this SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and SAC (Special Area of Conservation). This large block of commonland covers about 100 hectares and habitats include wet and dry heathland, fens, swamps and pools. Our enthusiasm wasn’t dampened by the weather when we saw one of the first specialities, the tiny yellow centaury (Cicendia filiformis) in bud, followed by lesser water-plantain (Baldellia ranunculoides). At one pool we visited we saw the lovely marsh cinquefoil (Potentilla palustris) in flower, along with lesser marshwort (Apium inundatum), lesser bladderwort (Urticularia minor), which was not yet in flower and the curious pillwort (Pilularia globulifera). Also spotted were wavy St. John’s-wort (Hypericum undulatum) and the attractive marsh St John’s-wort (Hypericum elodes). At Dowrog Pool, a large area of fen and swamp we spotted various-leaved potamogeton (Potamogeton gramineus), along with the uncommon lesser tussock-sedge (Carex diandra).

Marsh Cinquefoil

At around lunch time the weather brightened up and we ate our sandwiches on the common, whilst the other group members looked at orchid hybrids. These included narrow-leaved marsh orchid (Dactylhoriza traunsterneroides) which may be a new record for this site.

Heath Spotted Orchids

After lunch we stopped off at Tommy Warren Davis pond to look for signs of the pale dog-violet (Viola lactea), which had finished flowering. But we got to hear about Stephen’s predecessor after whom the pond is named. Close to this pond Stephen explained to us what is known as a “one night house” which is where if someone can build a house on commonland in one day and there is smoke coming out of the chimney then they also own the land as far as they can throw a hammer. Walking back to the car park we saw an impressive group of heath-spotted orchids (Dactylhorhiza maculata) on the side of the track.

Grass Vetchling

In the afternoon we drove to St Davids airfield, a site of heathland regeneration. We hadn’t even left the car park when some of our group spotted the long-stalked cranesbill (Geranium combinum). In a waterlogged area we saw allseed (Radiola linoides) which is typical of this type of habitat and, being very small is a hands and knees job. We also found a new site for the yellow centaury and grass vetchling (Lathyrus nissolia), the latter having possibly arrived in a seed mix after the area was reseeded following the Eistedffodd music festival.

Yellow Centaury

St. David's Head

A hearty breakfast at our hotel and a quick dash to the local deli for sandwiches and we were ready for a second day of botanizing, this time at St David’s Head. The sun was shining as we headed towards the coast. St David’s Head is an area of common land owned by the National Trust. It is an outstanding example of igneous sea-cliff with fine maritime heathland.

Chamomile

Our leader Stephen gave a very interesting short talk about the ecology of sea cliff vegetation. Walking along the coastal path the first plant we came across in the site was chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) in flower. Also growing close by was wild thyme (Thymus polytrichus) and lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum), with thrift (Armeria maritima), which provided a splash of colour. Then we had lunch on the beach in the sunshine, which also provided the opportunity to look at the vegetation on the cliffs, where we saw sea spleenwort in a crevice.

Wild thyme with lady’s bedstraw

English Stonecrop

After lunch we walked further on until we came to a promontory fort complete with hut circles. Growing here amongst the rocks was English stonecrop (Sedum anglicum). We then scrambled around the cliff to see a stunning show of chives (Allium schoenoprasum) with great views across the sea. Other group members with a head for heights scrambled down the steep cliffs to see the St David’s Head sea-lavender (Limonium paradoxum) while the rest of us enjoyed the sunshine and fine views. After stopping to look at the dolmen 1 , we headed off to look for roseroot (Sedum rosea). A couple of brave people scrambled down the cliff to catch a glimpse on the side of an inaccessible cliff. We then stopped off at a very attractive pond with common reed (Phragmites australis), branched bur-reed (Sparganium erectum), marsh cinquefoil (Potentilla palustris), Marsh St John’s wort (Hypericum elodes), lesser water-plantain (Baldellia ranunculoides), and a species of stonewort.

Chives

Dodder

After an ice cream, we drove a short distance to see dodder (Cuscata epithymum) on St Davids Peninsula. This rootless parasite was hosting on western gorse (Ulex gallii), and is possibly the largest population in Wales. On the way to and from the dodder site we also saw pale flax (Linum bienne) and, growing on the edge of an arable field, corn marigold (Chrysanthemum segetum) and bugloss (Anchusa arvensis). Then it was time to find a local pub for something to eat.

Ivy-leaved Bellflower

More impressive landscapes followed on Sunday with a visit to Bryberian Moor/ Mynydd Preseli. This area of commonland is a sweeping expanse of lowland heath and moorland with tors, on the northern slopes of the Preseli Mountains. Close to where we parked our cars we found whorled caraway (Carum verticillatum) and ivy-leaved bellflower (Wahlenbergia hederacea). The site is a good place for mire plant communities, and plants included bog-myrtle (Myrica gale), dioecious sedge (Carex dioica), white beak-sedge (Rhynchospora alba), round-leaved sundew (Drosera rotundifolia) and the uncommon oblong-leaved sundew (Drosera intermedia). We also found marsh clubmoss (Lycopodiella inundata) and common butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris). Then Stephen set us a challenge, to look for pale butterwort (Pinguicula lusitanica), which we found. Having completed this challenge, Stephen set us the harder challenge which was to find the elusive bog orchid (Hammarbya paludosa). This tiny plant is the country’s smallest orchid. It indeed proved more of a challenge, but eventually we found it in flower.

Pale Butterwort

Perennial Centaury

On the return journey we visited Newport dunes to see perennial centaury (Centarium scilloides) in its only remaining native station.

Then we were all kindly invited for tea and scones at Stephen and Ann’s home nearby and had a look round their lovely garden. Back for our second and last meal at the Grove and a big thank you to our leader Stephen and his wife for the great weather.

Newport Dunes

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