Monday 5 December 2016

Three From South Wales

Back at the beginning of July we spent a day in South Wales, with three target species all of which we managed to find. The first stop of the day however was at the Alun Valley near Bridgend, where we were hoping to see High Brown Fritillary. We were a bit early to be honest and after a lot of walking around eventually managed to see a couple of freshly emerged males. It looked to be a superb site and hopefully I'll get to see it at its best one day.

High Brown Fritillary

A Marsh Thistle showing fasciation, a mutation causing 'bundled growth'.

The first target species of the day was Tuberous Thistle, a rare thistle of old chalk and limestone grassland which only grows in Wilstshire and on the coast of Glamorgan. We found it in good numbers at Nash Point. It looks very like the more common Meadow Thistle but has different shaped leaves to that species. The leaves are typically 'thistle-like' in shape but only have very few spines. Nash point was a beautiful setting and made for some very scenic thistle photos!

Tuberous Thistle - Cirsium tuberosum

Tuberous Thistle leaf showing the sparsity of spines.

I inadvertently intruded on a private moment here!

Next on the list was an even rarer plant namely Viper's Grass, which only grows in Glamorgan and Dorset, in Purbeck in fact, and is one of only a handful wildflower species growing in Purbeck that I haven't seen. I'm not likely to either as when we inquired to the RSPB at Arne about visiting the reserve where the plant grows, they totally ignored my e-mail inquiry and my friend was told we could pay £50.00 each for the privilege of helping them count the plants after they'd flowered! So we decided to see them in Wales instead. We were a bit late and feared the worst when we entered the correct set of 'rhos' pastures and couldn't find any. Eventually perseverance paid off and and a couple of late flowerers were spotted, not in the best of condition but definitely identifiable as Viper's Grass.

Viper's Grass - Scorzonera humilis

Although it looks a lot like a Cat's- ear or Hawkweed it has thin grass-like leaves hence the name.
You may be able to make them out in the photo below, not easy to see though.

The final plant of the day was White Mullein, not as rare as the others but quite scarce and very showy, a truly stunning plant. I've seen this plant in bud near Arundel in Sussex and in seed near Frome in Somerset, always 'close but no cigar'. There is a large stand of them near The Discovery Centre in Llanelli and we timed it perfectly. They were in full flower. An added bonus was that several of them were covered with Mullein Shark Moth caterpillars. 

White Mullein - Verbascum lychnitis 

Mullein Shark - Shargacullia verbasci

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