Flanders Moss NNR
Rory Whytock of the British Bryological Society writes about a recent visit to Flanders Moss:
“Every Year the British Bryological Society organise outings to under-recorded areas throughout the UK. So, when it was announced that we were going to be targeting areas west of Stirling, a visit to Flanders Moss NNR was considered a must! The aim of the visit was to record as many bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and hornworts) as possible; there were some old records of bryophytes that Reserve Manager, David Pickett, wanted re-found and some areas that held relatively few records. The main point of interest for bryophytes on Flanders Moss is the lowland raised bog which is one of the largest and most in-tact in the country. Here, we hoped to see some of the uncommon sphagnum species associated with this habitat including Sphagnum austinii, Sphagnum fuscum and an unconfirmed record of the Nationally Scarce Sphagnum majus.
We started our day recording in the birch woodland on the west side of the NNR, which was really just an exercise to increase species’ records for the area before we got to the ‘exciting’ part of the day, recording the Sphagnums. How wrong I was to think like that! The woodland turned out to hold a very good range of species, but also some exciting rarities. The first rare species to get everyone’s attention was Cryptophallus mirabilis – a specialist liverwort which is totally white and grows underground among Sphagnum hummocks at the base of birch trees. It is Nationally Scarce and many members of the BBS group had never seen it before, including myself. Whilst huddled around this rather odd species, a call came from one of the true experts of our field, Gordon Rothero, to say that he had found Buxbaumia viridis (another Nationally Scarce species). This new record was a significant range expansion for the species, with the nearest other locality being at Killiecrankie about 70 miles north. The stronghold for the species is at Aviemore in Caledonian Pine forest where there were very few records outside that area until recent work on the species found it to be more widespread than previously thought.
After lunch we started recording on the bog and it wasn’t long before we started finding some of firm brown hummocks of our target species. Sphagnum fuscum has recently been split into two species, S. fuscum and S. beothuk; these are not currently identifiable in the field so samples were taken from a selection of hummocks to establish what species occurs where on the site. Later examinations revealed S. fuscum and S. beothuk do occur on the NNR making it one of the few sites in the UK to have both. Rounding the day off with finding the rather lovely “maggoty” looking Sphagnum austinii hummocks made the day a very special one. Sphagnum majus was not found and the site looked fairly unsuitable for it, but that’s not to say it isn’t out there somewhere!”
If anyone is interested in recording bryophytes or learning more about them then please visit the British Bryological Society’s website at http://www.britishbryologicalsociety.org.uk/
Rory Whytock – all photos by Rory Whytock”