Worcestershire Record No. 5 Nov 1998 p. 20
In the last Worcestershire Record I reported finding Tolypella intricate, tassel stonewort, between Church Farm and Grafton Wood. I sent a specimen to Nick Stewart, the national referee and have had a reply confirming my provisional identification.
Tassel stonewort is a rare plant of sporadic appearance in Britain. It is on the 'Mddle List" of the government's Steering Group Report on Biodiversity and has been the subject of a 1998 survey of all its more recent sites, organised by Plantlife. The current status is one site in the Inglestone Common area of Gloucestershire with about seven colonies, one site in Cambridgeshire with four colonies, one site in Suffolk with only two plants and one Norfolk site in 1996 but not found in 1998. So the Worcestershire site is the fifth extant record with all of the populations small.
The Worcestershire site is a small pond only about 15m. x 5m. and when I returned on July 11th I found that it had completely dried out and was just a large cattle-trampled mud patch. This probably suits the tassel stonewort, which behaves as a winter or spring annual producing ripe spores as early as April or May. The drying out in summer will reduce competition from aquatic macrophytes and help the population to survive.
Tassel stonewort (or other Tolypella species) may well exist elsewhere in the County. The pool in which I found it is not an obviously rich plant site and botanists tend to look at water habitats later in the year when Tolypella has long disappeared. I hope that at least some of you will keep an eye open next spring and send me any stoneworts you may find. Just pop a handful in a plastic bag, seal it and send it to me at WBRC.
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