Wednesday 20th March
Our inaugural field meeting of the Botanical Cornwall Group centred on the Red Data Book species (RDB) Three-lobed Crowfoot (Ranunculus tripartitus) and Land Quillwort (Isoetes histrix) which both appear early in the year. The meeting also acted as a taster for the following Saturday meeting on the 23rd March, which was held for those not able to attend the weekday meeting. Four members met at the National Trust carpark at Kynance (SW 689132). Rose Murphy, BSBI recorder for East Cornwall led the group with Ian Bennallick assisting. Rachel Holder, National Trust warden for the coast at Kynance, also joined the group and guided us to the first Lizard speciality, Land Quillwort.
Rachel took us through the Lizard heath, with its distinctive ?Rock Heath? assemblage of species including Cornish Heath (Erica vagans), European Gorse (Ulex europeaus), Ling (Calluna vulgaris) and Spring Squill (Scilla verna), to a site close to Holestrow (SW694129). Many plants of Land Quillwort were seen at the base of a rock outcrop that had been incorporated into a stone wall field boundary. Associated species included Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), Danish Scurvy-grass (Cochlearia danica), Cock?s-foot (Dactylis glomerata), Fescue (Festuca sp.), Crested Hair-grass (Koeleria macrantha), Lesser Hawkbit (Leontodon saxatilis), Blinks (Montia fontana ssp. chondrosperma), Changing Forget-me-not (Myosotis discolor), Buck?s-horn Plantain (Plantago coronopus), Spring Squill (Scilla verna) and English Stonecrop (Sedum anglicum). The plants were initially hard to find, as they were almost indistinguishable from other rosette species present. However keen eyes soon spotted the distinctive ?Catherine wheel? arrangement of the leaves. The leaves are slightly duller green than those of the Spring Squill, and when identified, much thinner and numerous than in other rosette species. Land Quillwort also has a distinctive double row of stomata on the upper surface of the leaves. An excellent close-up photo of a plant and the location can be seen in the meetings photos part of the web-site. Further more robust plants were found around small rocky outcrops in the adjacent field where a further associate, Fenugreek (Trifolium ornithopodioides), was seen. Walking back to the car park, similar areas around rocky outcrops were investigated but no further plants were found. Other species seen included Black Bog-rush (Schoenus nigricans), and two species locally common on the Lizard but very rare in Cornwall, Dropwort (Filipendula vulgaris) and Great Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis).
After an early lunch Rose led the group north to Kynance stream to search for Three-lobed Crowfoot in the tracks between the stream and Kynance Farm. Species of note seen included Prostrate Broom (Cytisus scoparius ssp. maritimus), Spring Sandwort (Minuartia verna) and Bloody Cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum) on a rocky outcrop and Great Fen-sedge (Cladium mariscus) beside Kynance stream. Due to steady rain for much of the morning, Kynance stream, usually easy to cross, proved too deep, cutting off our route to the track to Kynance where Three-lobed Crowfoot was known to grow. With no chance of seeing Three-lobed Crowfoot, a decision was made to search similar tracks at Predannack (SW6715) about three miles north of Kynance.
En route to Predannack the group stopped at Lizard Village (SW702126) to search for Early Meadow-grass (Poa infirma) on Lizard Green. The Green is used as a carpark, especially in busier summer months. Many plants of the very similar Annual Meadow-grass (Poa annua) were seen in the bare rocky patches of the green, but a small yellowish-green grass seen to have the ?jizz? of Early Meadow-grass was checked. The anthers proved to be the very small (0.2mm to 0.4mm) a character that distinguished the plants from Annual Meadow-grass, which has anthers 0.5mm to 0.8mm. Close-up photos of Early Meadow-grass and the location can be seen in the meetings photos part of the web-site. Fenugreek was also seen in the well-worn parts of the Green.
Walking along the footpath from Predannack to Kynance (SW671159), Ivy-leaved Crowfoot (Ranunculus hederaceus) was seen in a small stream and Common Whitlowgrass (Erophila verna) on the rocky path sides. Not far along the track-way, known locally as ?Pig?s Ear?, Three-lobed Crowfoot was seen in puddles which had formed in tractor ruts in the track. The early leaves, shaped like small forks, were seen, as well as flowering plants showing the very neat three lobed appearance of the mature floating leaves that gave the species its common name.
The final site visited was a track northeast of Traboe Cross (SW738212). This track crosses heathland and is well known for the abundance of Pygmy Rush (Juncus pygmaeus) that appears in early June. A record of a crowfoot species with capillary leaves in a shallow pool near the track was made in July 1998. The plants were not identified as Three-lobed Crowfoot at the time as no flowering or fruiting material was seen and also by mid-summer plants of Three-lobed Crowfoot have usually disappeared. Small shallow pools were searched near the track but no crowfoot species were seen. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) was seen in shallow erosion pans, and small pools had a range of species including Shoreweed (Litorella uniflora), Bog Pondweed (Potamogeton polygonifolius), Lesser Spearwort (Ranunculus flammula ssp. flammula), Floating Club-rush (Eleogiton fluitans), Bulbous Rush (Juncus bulbosus) with very fine leaves, and Alternate Water-milfoil (Myriophyllum alterniflorum).
Considering the gale-force winds, steady drizzle and mist for much of the day as well as spumes of sea-foam in the wind along the path between Kynance and Holestrow, the members were as enthusiastic as they left the Lizard as they started.
Saturday 23rd March 2002
Seventeen members met at the National Trust carpark at Kynance in similar but less windy weather than on the Wednesday. The group visited the site of Land Quillwort at Holestrow and found a new population around a rocky outcrop in a field adjacent to the site visited on Wednesday. Once people distinguished the Quillwort from other similar looking species, more plants of the Quillwort were found. Again the leaves arranged like a ?Catherine wheel? were seen, each with it’s double row of stomata. Two members made an excursion to the slopes at Caerthillian, where other populations had been seen in the past but no further sites were detected. On returning to the carpark, Dr. Colin French, BSBI recorder for West Cornwall, who had the task of making lists of species for the sites on the day, found a crowfoot suspiciously like Three-lobed Crowfoot in a small pool, one of a few, near the National Trust carpark. After an early lunch the group visited the small pool. In one pool exotic species including Water-lily (Nymphaea sp.) and Curly Water-thyme (Lagarosiphon major) were found as well as several Goldfish! However in the other pool a small crowfoot was growing in relatively deep water, deeper than Three-lobed Crowfoot is usually found. Further examination of the small flowers and leaves confirmed the species as Three-lobed Crowfoot.
Following the route taken the previous Wednesday, north to Kynance Farm, some of the group stopped in one place to see several plants of Erica x williamsii, a hybrid between Cornish Heath (Erica vagans) and Cross-leaved Heath (Erica tetralix). Not usually identifiable at this time of year, but there were some persistant tiny flowers that made the identification certain. This hybrid is usually found at the zone between the drier heath, where Cornish Heath is most frequent and the wetter heath where Cross-leaved Heath is found. Unlike the previous Wednesday the group managed to cross Kynance stream. Gathering at Kynance Gate (SW687137) beside the stream, Rose Murphy explained the botanical importance of the south-facing slopes on the north side of the stream. This part is known locally as ?British Village?. Later in the year Dwarf Rush (Juncus capitatus), Yellow Centuary (Cicendia filiformis) and Thyme Broomrape (Orobanche alba) can all be seen, and the slopes also have populations of Land Quillwort.
The track was followed north-west towards Kynance Farm. About half way along the track, in a flooded rut, a few plants of Three-lobed Crowfoot were seen. More plants were seen in a flooded tractor rut at the end of the track near a gateway. Here the group gathered to discuss the habitat requirements of Three-lobed Crowfoot. Photos of the group at this locality are in the ?meetings photos? section of the web-site. The identification of the Water-starwort (Callitriche sp.) that was found growing with the Three-lobed Crowfoot puzzled members of the group. Fruiting material was taken for further identification, and this material was independently identified as Intermediate Water-starwort (Callitriche hamulata). Through a muddy gateway, which had several puddles with tadpoles and Palmate Newts, the group walked toward the coast to see if the Prostrate Asparagus (Asparagus prostratus) was visible at Lawarnick Pit (SW682134). Before Lawarnick Pit was reached, a rocky outcrop known to support a population of Spotted Cat?s-ear (Hypochaeris maculata) was explored. The Spotted Cat?s-ear could not be seen at this time of year, but Western Clover (Trifolium occidentale), with thick rounded leaflets, was found around the base of the outcrop. At Lawarnick Pit the Prostrate Asparagus, so prominent in the summer months, proved difficult to find, but one small burgeoning shoot was found beneath a dead stalk, the previous year?s plant. A survey of Prostrate Asparagus carried out by one of the group?s members in 2001 proved that it is widespread along the section of coast from Kynance to north of The Horse (SW673141).
The group walked north along well-worn paths to see more Land Quillwort in erosion pans on the cliff-tops at Rill Ledges, and although some plants were found, these were much smaller than the plants seen earlier at Holestrow. Chives was also noted in the pans and Fringed Rupturewort (Herniaria ciliolata ssp. ciliolata) was seen on the path. The group retraced their steps to Lawarnick Pit and down towards Kynance Cove, admiring a couple of courting Ravens on the way. Crossing the beach of beautifully rounded red and green coloured serpentine pebbles, which certainly looked like crystallised dragon skin, the group ascended the path to the car park stopping to admire the wonderful views and noting the Babington?s Leek (Allium ampeloprasum ssp. babingtonii) beside the stream.
The last excursion was to Lizard Green to see the Early Meadow-grass seen on the previous Wednesday. The meeting ended in brilliant sunshine and good spirit.
The next meetings on the Lizard, Wednesday 22nd May and Saturday 25th May will explore some of the same areas as visited in March, but it is hoped that the following species will be seen :- Dwarf Rush (Juncus capitatus), Yellow Centuary (Cicendia filiformis), Long-headed Clover (Trifolium incarnatum ssp. molinerii), fully grown Prostrate Asparagus, Spotted Cat?s-ear and Thyme Broomrape.