Monday 24 February 2014

Carlisle Mosses - (Superb Syntrichia part 1)

What have we found here?
The Northumberland and Cumbria Branch of the British Bryological Society advertised a "Likely to be short" day in a park in Carlisle - One of the sites they had not surveyed during the 2012 Spring BBS meeting.

" A park!" I thought - "Likely to have some of the 'tiny' plants on tarmac that I'm trying to get my head round for writing my churchyard leaflets.. (perhaps there will be someone who can show me what they are..)  AND, AND,   I can get there on the Settle Carlisle Railway Line.

So that Friday evening I emailed Diane Dobson the organiser, and phoned a friend who lives near Carlisle, and set the alarm to get up early next day.

On the train I read up Didymodon mosses .. or tried to - but you just have to look at the scenery from the train.

It's a beautiful railway line.  The sun had still not risen completely at first so colours were  monochrome as I travelled, up with the source of the Ribble on the right, through the tunnel, then  Dentdale (River Dee) and Garsdale (River Clough) on the left, then the place where the source of the River Eden is capturing the source of the river Ure.  ( The Ure which goes all the way down to Ripon, York and the sea.) Top of the world at Aisgill. Then the sun came out and the fields, hills and sky were full of colour. I waved to High Cup Nick in the distance.

In Carlisle I resisted the cheap shoe shops and made my way past the side of the castle,

to the part of the park where the river Caldew joins the river Eden. With 30 minutes to spare I could look at the trees. NY 39508 56667

On the first trunk was a type of Syntrichia (That group are called Screw-mosses in English- because the leaves screw up when dry). - they open out when moist and you can see they have quite wide leaves .

This Syntrichia had short hair points and 
very concave leaves with the edges rolled in 
and as you'll read below turned out to be Syntrichia papillosa.

I had been well trained, to look for Syntrichias on the base of tree trunks..

When on the BBS trip to Mull in 2007, 7 years ago, one evening we went to Tobermory.
Mark Pool, then Membership Secretary,
had made a bee-line for the row of trees on the "promenade"
(there are very few trees in Mull anyway)
looking for a moss- Syntrichia papillosa that grows on trees in urban situations.
And we found it - follow this link to the BBS website  and you can see the picture I took of him (fifth picture down)  .

I'll repost it here anyway: -
Mark Pool investigates the urban bryology of Tobermory, 16 July 2007. Photo: Judith Allinson. 

"In the evening Mark Pool made his traditional discovery of Syntrichia papillosa, as well as Orthotrichum tenellum, both growing on lime trees by the harbourside in Tobermory, before his companions dragged him into the pub.".
.So I learned the habitat for Syntrichia papillosa - and we celebrated with fish and chips.

Here at Carlisle, ten minutes later Diane Dobson turned up, early, ready to lead the group. We introduced ourselves. I showed her the moss.
 "Syntrichia papillosa" she said straight away. She said she had only seen it a couple of times before - but recognises it because the leaves are very concave and the edges roll in, and there are lots of gemmae on the midrib. (It has a short hair point) The English name is Marble Screw-moss

Here's a picture I took the next day when it had dried up -
not v good but you can see the leaf in the centre 
has little green balls (gemmae) along the midrib. 
also I see it is not very "screwed"

We showed it to the next participant to arrive - Phil.

On the side of the trunk that  they are looking at 
there was a bigger sheet of it.

Wahee!. Thank you Mark for showing me how to find it 7 years ago. Thank you Diane.
(It has since left me wondering - did we miss some Orthotrichum tenellum?)

On the next tree, Diane was able to show me Syntrichia laevipila:  Small Hairy Screw-moss. Leaves 2.5-3.5 mm long. this was growing in a yellow green tuft.

It is different to Tortula muralis (wall screw moss) which is much smaller and grows on walls

I just happen to have a photo of Tortula muralis taken at Horton in Ribblesdale Railway Station, lower down on the Line, from 3 years ago:
8 March 2011 - Horton Station

I dug into my memory.  I remembered finding another Syntrichia with Tom Blockeel on an idyllic YNU trip on a tree beside the River Wharfe near Kettlewell - Syntrichia latifolia. Water Screw-moss. It grows on tree boles that get covered with silt when the river floods. It was such a warm day that I waded up the river, but wary of the aggressive American Red-clawed crayfish lurking in the shady pools..

See what a difference it makes, spraying the trunk  with Syntrichia latifolia with water.

And we had found it with Sharon Pilkington at Preston Montford on the Acrocarps BBS course in Feb 2013 on the wet tarmac of the Field Centre Drive

Very wet Syntrichia latifolia on wet day at Preston Montford

Well in Carlisle we found it:
First on a concrete plinth/block that had been put there to support a stone sculpture (a sort of sphere)  - the Syntrichia latifolia was growing on the damp surface shaded by this stone sphere

And second near the base of a tree.

We visited trees near the car park,  the trees near the river - we could not get down to the river bank it was too flooded - and marched across  the ryegrass playing field which had only two mosses, to the tarmac path nearer the castle - This had various Didymodons - (which are STILL in their packets.) We found one with crimson setae - "That must be Ceratodon " said Diane - relieved as it is a common plant on acid rocks so she had expected to see it somewhere.
Photo taken from the railings near the castle.  The group look at a tarmac footpath. 
Beyond is the moss-poor playing field.  The base- car-park -river junction is straight behind the group.

Also growing in the tarmac footpath was our fourth Syntrichia:  Syntrichia ruraliformis. This has blades that are strongly curved back and they are more tapering, and are not narrowed at the base. Perhaps I'll take a photo later of the plant I brought back, and add it here later.

We climbed up to the red sandstone walls of the castle - and finally ticked off over  30 species.

It being a very cold morning we left it at that. - And I enjoyed a visit to my friend , finding more mosses in his Garden Nursery.. but that's for another day.

Here is a distinctive Parmelia type lichen: Punctelia subrudecta on a tree  by the road as we were returning to the cars

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