Worcestershire Record No. 28. April 2010
Worcestershire's bryophytes (mosses and liverworts) have been under-recorded. There have been a few diligent collectors but for long periods there are no reliable data. As with other taxonomic groups there have been revisions in taxonomy and nomenclature over the decades and this sometimes causes difficulties with older records. There is currently more rapid change occurring as DNA analysis and other new biochemical and taxonomic techniques make possible better elucidation of affinities. Moreover, A.J.E. Smith’s recent revision (2004) of The Moss Flora of Britain and Ireland has incorporated many of these changes. However, to avoid ambiguity, the nomenclature employed here adheres to that used by Blockeel and Long (1998) in the latest Census Catalogue.
The History of Bryological Exploration in Worcestershire. In 1868 the third edition of Edwin Lees’ The Botany of the Malvern Hills appeared. Twelve pages are devoted to bryophytes. This provides a systematic list of the species that had been recorded, together with Lees’ characteristic descriptions and comments. According to Lees, in the nineteenth century Hedwigia ciliata did at that time “form dense tufts on many of the rocks of the hills”, but there is some doubt about the identification and this may have been H. stellata. Certainly, Lorna Fraser found the rarer H. ciliata in reasonable abundance on a rock on the east side of Worcestershire Beacon in 2001. Lees also listed five species of Racomitrium, R. aciculare, R. fasciculare, R. heterostichum, R. lanuginosum and R. canescens. The last has not been recorded in VC 37 since 1950, but this species has now been divided into three species, R. canescens s.s., R. elongatum, and R. ericoides (Blockeel and Long, 1998) and the record, particularly since it was found on acidic ground, may really have been for R. ericoides.
From 1854 Rev. James (or possibly Joseph) Hasselgrave Thompson (?1811-1889) was incumbent at St. Peter’s Church, Cradley, near Halesowen, then a place renowned for its grimy small industry and not for its plants. Thompson had studied botany at Oxford and was well known in the county as “an enthusiastic botanist” (Jones, 1980). He collected a few bryophytes from around Cradley but generally ranged widely across Worcestershire and even undertook a botanical trip with Edwin Lees to Switzerland. His collection of bryological specimens (dating from 1848 with specimens from the Lickeys and Rockwood, Shelsley to July 1880 with specimens from Hartlebury Bog) has been deposited in Worcester City Museum. His favourite areas were the whole of the Malvern Hills and the Gullet, the Wyre Forest area, in particular Seckley and Ribbesford woods, and Hartlebury Common, with several visits also being made to the Lickey Hills. Notes attached to his records indicate a fair amount of exchange of specimens with some coming from the herbaria of J.E. Bagnall of Aston in Birmingham, Dr Fraser of Wolverhampton, William Mathews (first Honorary Secretary and Treasurer of the Worcestershire Naturalists’ Club), Dr. Griffiths, Mr Westcombe of Worcester, a Mr Stretch, and a Miss Green. He sometimes refers to having been accompanied by Lees, Fraser, Mathews and Griffiths. The pattern of Thompson’s records suggests that he may have stayed overnight in some locations as he visited the same area on successive days.
Some of the places Thompson visited, such as The Gullet, are still worth a visit, although apparently somewhat depleted in variety since the 19th century. Others, like Hartlebury Common with its bog, yielded a large number of species then, but are now disappointing for bryophytes, partly because the wetter areas have dried and partly because of the intensive use of the common and the successional growth of scrub. Mark Lawley joined a recent Recorders day in the area and did find a reasonable variety on the Common, particularly in the wet area.
James Eustace Bagnall (1830-1918) was not a member of the Moss Exchange Club, when it was founded in 1896 but was included in the list of members for 1899. He contributed the list of bryophytes for the Victoria County History for Worcestershire but was criticised by Carlton Rea for not availing himself of the “valuable herbarium at the Hasting Museum, Victoria Institute, Worcester” (Rea, 1901). Judging from the annual reports of the Moss Exchange Club, Bagnall’s bryological activity declined about 1900 and he was made an Honorary member in 1909 “in recognition of his valuable work extending over many years.” In December 1876 Bagnall had read “Notes on Sutton Park: Its Flowering Plants, Ferns, and Mosses” at a general meeting of the Birmingham Natural History and Microscopical Society, the first systematic attempt to record any of the natural history of the park.
Another active member of the Moss Exchange Club from about 1901 was Edward Cleminshaw (1849-1922) of Edgbaston, Birmingham. A number of records in the annual reports are of Cleminshaw’s finds in Worcestershire. In 1907-1908 he was Distributor of the bryophyte packets for the Moss Exchange Club but then handed over the task because of undisclosed family troubles. By 1911 he was again fully active, contributing over 200 bryophyte packets to the Moss Exchange Club.
At the beginning of the twentieth century the Scottish John Bishop Duncan (1869-1953) was appointed bank clerk in Bewdley. The Worcester Museum’s collection contains his herbarium of specimens including Worcestershire records from 1898 to 1908 but he was known to be still resident in Bewdley in 1912. In 1901 he joined the Moss Exchange Club and was a prodigious contributor of bryophyte packages and records and Treasurer of one sub-section of the Club. The Moss Exchange Club developed into the British Bryological Society in 1923 (Corley and Hill, 1981). For the next 23 years, Duncan, who no longer lived in Worcestershire, was the BBS’s recorder for mosses and from 1925 to 1945 he was the BBS Treasurer and its President from 1937-1938. In 1926 he edited the second edition of the Moss Census Catalogue (Corley and Hill, 1981).
While in Worcestershire, Duncan undertook the revision of the mosses for Amphlett and Rea (1909) The Botany of Worcestershire. He added a new species to the national bryoflora when he discovered Octodiceras fontanum (recorded as Octodiceras julianum in his herbarium material) on submerged timbers of a floating landing stage in the Severn at Bewdley and subsequently on stones in the same river bed near Stourport (Anon, 1902, p. 79 and Rea, 1903, p. 128; also described in Journal of Botany Feb 1902, p.51). Recently Bert Reid and Harry Green rediscovered this unusual and uncommon moss in the River Avon.
Duncan looked at the collections in the local museum, then known as the Hastings Museum, Victoria Institute, Worcester. Nomenclature and taxonomic changes make Thompson’s material difficult to rely on without more work, but the fact that it was examined by Duncan helps to authenticate the identifications. At that time there were also collections from Dr Streeten, Dr Griffiths, Mr Westcombe and Mr W. Mathews, according to Duncan’s “Notes on the Old Collections of Mosses in the Herbarium of the Hastings Museum, Victoria Institute, Worcester” (1911), but these seem not to be in the collection now. Duncan’s examination yielded eight new county records and confirmation of two doubtful records Sphagnum recurvum on The Lickeys for 1848 from Thompson’s collection; Polytrichum alpinum on North Hill, Malvern for 1831 from Streeten’s herbarium; Polytrichum commune var. periogonale 1872, Hartlebury Common, Mathews; Racomitrium protensum (wrongly named R. fasciculare but now known as R. aquaticum in the 1998 Census Catalogue (Blockeel and Long, 1998)) from the Malvern Hills, collected by Westcombe; Trichostomum nitidum (wrongly named Weissia crispa and now known as Tortella nitida (Blockeel and Long, 1998)) from rocks at Little Malvern, Griffiths; Bartramia ithyphylla from spring half way down north side of North Hill, Malvern, 1831, Streeten; Hypnum fluitans var. falcatum (now called Warnstorfia fluitans (Blockeel and Long, 1998)) collected from Hartlebury Common, 1872, by Thompson; and, finally, Hypnum exannulatum var. brachydontium (now known as Warnstorfia exannulata (Blockeel and Long, 1998)) from Hartlebury Common 1854, also collected by Thompson. A note written by Duncan on 19th November 1906 is attached to a specimen of Grimmia leucophaea (=Hedwigia ciliata var. leucophaea and described as a synonym for Grimmia laevigata by Smith (2004)) which came from Edwin Lees and was part of Thompson’s collection. The note reads, “I have very little faith in the other 5 or 6 plants recorded by Mr. Lees from Malvern,” thus throwing a little doubt on other species listed by Lees for the Malvern Hills. Duncan made very few comments directly on Thompson’s collection and did not suggest any other mis-identifications.
There is a footnote on p. 128 of the Transactions of Worcestershire Naturalists’ Club, Vol. III, 1899-1906, to the effect that a very full and complete list of “The Mosses and Hepatics of Worcestershire” had appeared in the Journal of Botany, 1903, November and December parts, by Messieurs J. E. Bagnall, A.L.S., E. Cleminshaw, M.A. and J. B. Duncan.
In Amphlett and Rea’s Flora of Worcestershire (1909), the bryophytes are described by Bagnall. Although, according to Rea he is an “eminent bryologist and batologist”, Rea nevertheless criticises his contribution. Rea (1906, p. 48), says that Bagnall “is content to enumerate only a few of them” which makes the information less valuable. Apparently, Bagnall had not consulted the herbaria in the museum.
After this there are few further records known for the county until November 1959 when the Birmingham BBS meeting organised by S.W. Greene took its field excursion in the VC37 section of Wyre Forest. Jean Paton reports, “First, at the eastern end of the Forest near Dowles Manor House where fine Rhodobryum roseum was shown to the party. Secondly, the Forestry Commission area in the southern part of the forest, near the Service Tree Sorbus domestica, where woodland rides were explored. Species seen included Riccia sorocarpa, Fossombronia wondraczekii, Cephaloziella starkei (C. divaricata according to Blockeel and Long, 1998), Marsupella emarginata, Scapania irrigua, S. nemorosa (S.nemorea according to Blockeel and Long, 1998) , Pseudephemerum nitidum and Barbula hornschuchiana (Pseudocrossidium hornschuchianum according to Blockeel and Long, 1998). After lunch and a beautiful drive to the north-east section, Cliff Wood, east of Pound Green was visited. Here Hypnum patientiae (H. lindbergii (Blockeel and Long, 1998)) was found on a path. On the steep rocky banks of the stream Rhynchostegiella teesdale (R. teneriffae (Blockeel and Long, 1998)), Heterocladium heteropterum Saccogyna viticulosa, Lejeunea lamacerina, and many typical oakwood plants were seen.” (BBS web-site and Paton, 1960).
During the 1960s Greene and Clark (1962) did some work in the Wyre Forest and Hawksworth and Rose (1969) also paid a visit. Greene, together with his University of Birmingham extramural students, particularly Clark, surveyed selected areas of the Forest and compiled a checklist of species for the Forest (both VC37 and VC40), incorporating the species recorded by Bagnall (1909) and Paton (1960) and one species recorded by Hamilton for the Shropshire section of the Forest.
Hawksworth and Rose (1969) concentrated on lichens in their 1968 visit but also recorded bryophytes of note. They added one species Ptilidium pulcherrimum not reported by Bagnall (1909) and nine others not mentioned by Greene and Clark (1962).
The British Bryological Society has visited the county on a number of occasions, culminating in the week-long Spring Meeting in 2004. During the 1969 BBS Spring Meeting based at Ross-on-Wye, some members ventured into VC37. Records included Riccia warnstorfii (R. subbifurca (Blockeel and Long, 1998)) and R. glauca (new for VC37) from near Redmarley D'Abitot where Sphaerocarpos michelii and S. texanus were refound. Incidentally, both species have been re-found recently, the former by G. Harry Green, in rhubarb fields near Holt Fleet.
At a BBS meeting held in Newtown in 1975, one member followed the River Severn catchment area as far as Worcestershire and found Hennediella (Tortula) stanfordensis, then a new record for the county. The 1979 BBS Spring Meeting was held in Ludlow, but visited VC 37 during the week. Again they found Hennediella stanfordensis at Eastham Bridge on the River Teme. In a ravine in Hanley Dingle they recorded Eucladium verticillatum, Eurhynchium praelongum var. stokesii(now included in E. praelongum (Blockeel and Long, 1998) but recently named as Kinbergia praelonga (Smith, 2004)), Thamnobryum alopecurum and Conocephalum conicum. Rhynchostegiella teesdalei (Rhynchostegiella teneriffae) was abundant on rocks in the stream and Dicranum tauricum and Leiocolea turbinata. It was suggested that it would repay further visits
At the 1984 Autumn Meeting of BBS an excursion to Wyre Forest was led by Mr. Peter Thomson. Along the stream banks in Park Brook valley Frullania tamarisci, F. dilatata, Trichocolea tomentella, Pellia endiviifolia, Hypnum lindbergii, Ulota crispa, Amblystegium tenax and a patch of Ctenidium molluscum were found. Martha Newton located “a fine colony of Bazzania trilobata on a well-remembered boulder beside the path to Dowles Brook” and Cephaloziella divaricata, Saccogyna viticulosa and Plagiothecium undulatum were found together with a new vice-county record by Jean Paton of Jamesoniella autumnalis on a Sorbus torminalis trunk in the valley below Lords Wood.
Meanwhile, Richard Fisk was exploring the county from his home base in Droitwich. From 1970 to 1982 Fisk collected a great many records and added greatly to the knowledge of bryophyte distribution within VC37. Only occasional records were added thereafter, mostly by people associated with Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, until David Holyoak’s stay in the county in 1992-1993. During this short period he made his own records and also collated many of the records of bryophytes for VC37 and has kindly allowed me to see his notes and report (Holyoak, date unkown).
During the 1990s bryologist Tom Blockeel, BBS recorder for mosses, investigated the specimens of Cinclidotus in the River Teme. He collected from Shelsley Beauchamp in VC 37 (SO 729624) and established that not only is Cinclidotus fontinaloides present but also the much rarer C. riparius (Blockeel, 1998).
Pentecost and Zhaohui (2002 and 2006) have compared travertine sites in France and Britain. One site was at Shelsley Walsh, to the west of the Teme, outside VC37. However, the observations they made are of interest as a comparison with the Worcestershire travertine sites along the dingles of the Teme valley. The species recorded included Eucladium verticillatum, Fissidens viridulus, abundant Palustriella commutata var. commutata, Aneura pinguis, Conocephalum conicum and Pellia endiviifolia.
Again there was a hiatus in recording after 1993 until 2000 when a small, inexperienced Worcestershire group began recording with Lorna Fraser as the key member. Occasional visits of the Border Bryologists and of Mark Lawley, its leader, have augmented the records compiled since then (Lawley, 2003). In spring 2004 over sixty BBS members attended the BBS spring meeting in Worcestershire and this, together with the preparatory exploration, greatly added to the information on the county’ s bryophytes (Carrick, 2004a, b and c). Records were obtained from over 70 sites and 10 new bryophyte species and 8 debracketings of species not seen since 1950 were added to the county’s records. Since then, more outings have been made by the Worcestershire group. In 2005, it was recognised that British Conocephalum records represented two species, not one (Blackstock, Bosanquet, Long and Preston, 2005), so currently an attempt to check records is being undertaken across the county. So far, the newly recognised Conocephalum salebrosum has only been found in Hunthouse Wood.
The Worcestershire Biological Record Centre, based at Lower Smite Farm, Smite Hill, Hindlip, now includes a great many bryophyte records. However, there are some species for which no specimens have been vouchered through the BBS official recording scheme. Consequently, the records for VC37 should be taken to be those listed in the Census Catalogue (Blockeel and Long, 1998) and subsequent lists in the Bulletin of the British Bryological Society up to 2003 and its successor Field Bryology from 2004. Currently (2006) Dr Ann Hill is the county recorder for bryophytes.
Thanks for comments go to Ann Hill, Mark Lawley, and Lorna Fraser and for help in finding information to Joy Ricketts and John Partridge.
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