27 June 2011

Three great little annual plants in Neath Port Talbot

I've seen Sharp-leaved Fluellen (Kickxia elatine) elsewhere in Glamorgan before, but until yesterday, never in Neath Port Talbot. These were growing out of gravel and tarmac near Brunel Dock. This fantastic little snapdragon is better known as an annual weed of arable land and has become increasingly scarce in recent years like many other arable weeds.

Nearby, there were numerous clumps of this rather nondescript bedstraw. It turned out to be Wall Bedstraw (Galium parisiense), a rather rare plant more typically found in eastern England and a long way west of its normal, native range. This could be a new county record (Barry should be able to tell us) and it is interesting to speculate on how it got to Neath Port Talbot. One possibility is that it was introduced in the wild flower seed used in the grasslands around Brunel Dock and the Quays. It seems to be well established, but it is an annual so it may not be able to establish itself there in the long term. Time will tell. Unlike the common bedstraws it has pinkish-green flowers.
Other characteristic features include the forward pointing prickles on the edge of the leaves. The older leaves also tend to deflex.

About a mile away to the west, across the other side of the Briton Ferry Bridge, and in a similar habitat, there is a fabulous little population of Common Cudweed (Filago vulgaris). This is another species which has undergone a large decline in recent decades - not so common cudweed anymore! However this is now the fourth site for this species in Neath Port Talbot in recent years. It too is an annual and it rarely persists for more than 3 or 4 years any where in my experience.

All these plants require the sort of open disturbed habitats associated with brownfield sites.


Barry Stewart said...

There's nothing on my system or the BSBI Big Database showing any records of Wall Bedstraw in Glamorgan, so looks like a new vice-county record. I notice too that your Common Cudweed observations appear to be the only modern (i.e. new millennium) records in Glamorgan other than a site in Merthyr.

Rob Ladds said...

Hi Charles!
2 years ago I cleared a field in Sandy Lane of scrub and bracken, by JCB. Several plants of what I took to be Common cudweed sprang up, only to dissappear in all the grass last year.
Had to look them up as I hadn't seen it before. I'm not an expert, but is there anything else very similar.
Glad you're still firing on all botanic cylinders.
Cheers, Rob

Charles Hipkin said...

Thanks for the info Barry. I've seen Common Cudweed on Bryn Tip in recent years (this millenium) and in Neath town centre and Jersey Marine in the late 1990s - it all seems like yesterday.
And on that note.... great to here from you Rob. Common Cudweed could be mistaken for Small Cudweed which is much more slender, and Marsh Cudweed perhaps. But it is pretty distinctive and it probably was what you saw.
Not sure all cylinders are firing Rob, but there's still a pulse!