Bryophyte report of visit to Chedington Woods

Chedington Woods

Andrew Branson | 4-06-2023

Bryophyte report of visit to Chedington Woods

I first walked through Home Wood and the newly planted areas to the east of the lake. These contained some excellent signs of colonisation by epiphytes such as Plenogemma phyllantha and Lewinskya affinis, Orthotricum pulchellum and Cryphaea heteromalla. The recent minute liverwort colonist Myriocoleopsis minutissima was present on several trees. On some of the older ash trees there was a more established flora including Neckera pumila, N. complanata and Radula complanata. The sides of the stream running east from the lake had some typical plants of shaded wet clay such as Fissidens taxifolius, Pohlia melanodon and Plagiochila asplenioides, as well as the thallose liverworts Conocephalum conicum and Pellia endiviifolia.

I then walked along the eastern spine of the woods from Riscombe and Ashland Coppice, through Coal Pit Coppice to Plantation Coppice. From a bryophyte point of view the most striking aspect of this part of the wood were the banks above the ditches by the main rides. The underlying geology is a mixture of Frome Clay Formation, which is a calcareous mudstone, and Wattonensis Beds Member, which is a Jurassic limestone. This results in a calcareous plant community, with species such as Ctenidium molluscum, Eurhynchium striatum, Hylocomiadelphus triquetrus, Calliergonella cuspidata and the diminutive Dicranella howei, a species only recently recognised as British. Unfortunately, you have to check this last species’ leaf section microscopically (it looks like the underside of the leaf has extra clusters of cells) in order to confirm the identification. This community in Dorset is more usually found on humid chalk downland slopes, rather than woodland rides.

Further south in Plantation Coppice I looked at another of the woods’ deep gullies (goyles). The section I looked at was interesting in that the edges of the gulley had a number of elms, including the broad species Small-leaved Elm (Ulmus minor agg.) and Wych Elm (U. glabra) and probably hybrids as well. Also, Ash and Hazel, but interestingly some large specimens of lime. I first thought these might be Small-leaved Lime (Tilia cordata) as the base of the trunks did not have the epicormic shoots usually associated with the hybrid lime (Tilia x europaea) but on looking more closely at the vein axils on the underside of the leaves I think this is probably what it is. Small-leaved Lime has chestnut hairs on the undersides of the leaves and the leaves I checked had white hairs, which in Dorset indicates they are the hybrid lime. Perhaps to be sure they should be checked later in the season when in fruit. Still, these are fine trees and unusual to find this species in a woodland setting such as this.

The bryophytes along the stream were good, with several species again typical of wet, shaded damp calcareous clay, such as Fissidens taxifolius, F. viridulus, Pellia endiviifolia and Oxyrrhynchium hians. On the harder rock in the stream itself were lots of the local (and very boring looking) Rhynchostegiella teneriffae (Teesdale Feather-moss, which is a bit of a misnomer as it is more commonly found in streams in western England and Wales), including some patches in fruit, and the common Rhychostegium riparioides. Of more interest was a large patch Mesoptychia turbinata (Top Notchwort) in deep shade above a bend of the stream. This is a tiny mat-forming liverwort that grows in humid situations on calcareous soils. It is more commonly found in Dorset in shaded quarries and sheltered banks in chalk grassland. It has been recorded at nearby Bracketts Coppice Nature Reserve in a similar situation.

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The golden branches of Ctenidium molluscum (Comb-moss) with their tightly curled leaves.

Lime trees in the gulley at Plantation Coppice.

Mesoptychia turbinata (Top Notchwort) in deep shade at Plantation Coppice.