Sunday, 29 January 2017

Lower Deans Wood & Watlington Park

Four botanists met at Watlington Hill (SU79) on a cold but bright morning last Sunday, 22nd January, to explore the nearby Lower Deans Wood. The focus of the meeting was bryophytes, but vascular plants were also recorded. This is an account of what was found.

Berberis vulgaris found along the edge of Lower Deans Wood
Lower Deans Wood is a small part of the extensive beech hangers on the steep Chiltern escarpment slope. These are rather grand, empty-looking places, but decent lists (given below) of vascular and lower plants were assembled over the course of a few hours (74 and 58 taxa, respectively). The first record of the day was of Berberis vulgaris (barberry) at the edge of Lower Deans Wood: it is on the Oxfordshire draft Rare Plants Register and is an Oxfordshire first for SU79; it is known in the Bucks part of the hectad a few miles away in the churchyard in Turville.

Frozen (and out of focus) Nowellia curvifolia on rotting wood with Lophocolea bidentata
The woods did not give the appearance (to me at least) of being bryologically very exciting to begin with, with scraps of mosses on the bases of trees and the ground covered in a dense layer of beech leaves. However, as we got into the wood and conditions became steeper and more humid, things became much more inviting. Dead wood proved especially productive and the first notable find was the Atlantic liverwort and deadwood specialist Nowellia curvifolia. Several other deadwood specialists were found, including the mosses Aulacomnium androgynum, the nationally scarce Herzogiella seligeri, and Dicranum tauricum. Contrasting with Nowellia, the latter three have a distinctly south-eastern bias in their distributions.

Where the ground was bare, the clay and exposed flints attracted much attention and proved interesting. Chief amongst the finds here was a little fruiting Eurhynchium-like thing which Oli suggested might be Oxyrrhynchium schleicheri. This it turned out to be. This is a relatively uncommon plant nationally, typically associated with sandy ground, but is known from across the Chilterns. On exposed flints were also found the tiny Seligeria calycina and a nice little patch of Trichostomum crispulum. There were also some beautiful colonies of Plagiochila porelloides.

Plagiochila porelloides
The vascular plants were much as one would expect of a beech wood, i.e. very little. A few ‘ancient woodland indicators’ were present, e.g. Galium odoratum (woodruff) and Euphorbia amygdaloides (wood spurge), and there were some beautiful old cherry trees, one of my favourite features of the Chilterns landscape. Ferns were abundant in places, particularly along the top of the wood in Watlington Park where the soil appeared somewhat leached, with extensive stands of Dryopteris borreri, D. dilatata and D. filix-mas. Members of the D. affinis aggregate are fairly common in the Chilterns, and specimens of the segregate D. borreri were interesting with what looked like two morphotypes present: the typical morph. borreri and also morph. robusta. The latter has rectangular dissections to the pinnules which have rather un-borreri-like rounded and somewhat tapering ends. It has not been recorded in the county.

A rare find: fruiting Brachythecium glareosum. O.L. Pescott
Also along the edge of the Park were some spectacularly mossy ash and sycamore trees, with great streaks of Orthotrichum lyellii and O. stramineum. We held out hope for Leucodon sciuroides but nothing epiphytic of note was forthcoming. The ground proved a little more interesting, with Brachythecium glareosum on exposed flint, and the calcifuges Campylopus flexuosus, C. pyriformis and Ceratodon purpureus on churned-up earth. B. glareosum even had sporophytes, a rare occurrence and seemingly a first record for the county.

The meeting concluded with a march back to the cars through Christmas Common, which accounts for most of the weeds on the list.

Vascular plants

Scientific name
Acer pseudoplatanus
Agrostis capillaris
Anthoxanthum odoratum
Anthriscus sylvestris
Bellis perennis
Berberis vulgaris
Brachypodium sylvaticum
Carex sylvatica
Castanea sativa
Chaerophyllum temulum
Chamerion angustifolium
Cirsium vulgare
Corylus avellana
Crataegus monogyna
Dactylis glomerata
Deschampsia cespitosa
Digitalis purpurea
Dryopteris borreri morph. borreri
Dryopteris borreri morph. robusta
Dryopteris dilatata
Dryopteris filix-mas
Euphorbia amygdaloides subsp. amygdaloides
Fagus sylvatica
Fraxinus excelsior
Galanthus nivalis
Galium aparine
Galium odoratum
Geranium dissectum
Geranium robertianum
Geum urbanum
Glechoma hederacea
Hedera helix
Helminthotheca echioides
Heracleum sphondylium
Holcus lanatus
Hyacinthoides non-scripta
Hypochaeris radicata
Ilex aquifolium
Lamiastrum galeobdolon subsp. argentatum
Lamium album
Lapsana communis
Larix decidua
Leucanthemum vulgare
Lonicera periclymenum
Mercurialis perennis
Moehringia trinervia
Oxalis acetosella
Poa trivialis
Potentilla sterilis
Prunella vulgaris
Prunus avium
Prunus laurocerasus
Prunus spinosa
Pteridium aquilinum
Quercus robur
Ranunculus repens
Rosa arvensis x canina (=R. x irregularis)
Rosa canina agg.
Rubus fruticosus agg.
Rumex acetosa
Rumex obtusifolius
Sambucus nigra
Schedonorus arundinaceus
Sonchus oleraceus
Sorbus aucuparia
Stachys sylvatica
Stellaria holostea
Taraxacum agg.
Taxus baccata
Urtica dioica
Veronica montana
Veronica serpyllifolia
Vicia sepium


  Scientific name Fruit
  Amblystegium serpens  
  Atrichum undulatum Y
  Aulacomnium androgynum  
  Brachytheciastrum velutinum Y
  Brachythecium glareosum Y
  Brachythecium rutabulum Y
  Calliergonella cuspidata  
  Campylopus flexuosus  
  Campylopus pyriformis  
  Cryphaea heteromalla  
  Dicranella heteromalla  
  Dicranoweisia cirrata  
  Dicranum scoparium  
  Dicranum tauricum  
  Eurhynchium striatum  
  Fissidens taxifolius  
  Herzogiella seligeri Y
  Homalothecium sericeum  
  Hypnum cupressiforme var. cupressiforme  
  Hypnum cupressiforme var. resupinatum  
  Isothecium alopecuroides  
  Isothecium myosuroides Y
  Kindbergia praelonga  
  Mnium hornum  
  Orthotrichum affine Y
  Orthotrichum diaphanum Y
  Orthotrichum lyellii  
  Orthotrichum stramineum Y
  Orthotrichum tenellum Y
  Oxyrrhynchium hians  
  Oxyrrhynchium pumilum  
  Oxyrrhynchium schleicheri  
  Plagiomnium affine  
  Plagiomnium undulatum  
  Polytrichastrum formosum  
  Rhizomnium punctatum  
  Rhynchostegium confertum  
  Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus  
  Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus  
  Seligeria calycina  
  Syntrichia laevipila  
  Thuidium tamariscinum  
  Trichostomum crispulum  
  Ulota bruchii Y
  Zygodon conoideus  
  Frullania dilatata  
  Lophocolea bidentata  
  Lophocolea heterophylla  
  Metzgeria consanguinea  
  Metzgeria furcata  
  Metzgeria violacea  
  Nowellia curvifolia  
  Plagiochila asplenioides  
  Plagiochila porelloides  
  Radula complanata  

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a really positive expedition, with plenty of note-worthy bryological finds.