28 August 2011

A Touch of Autumn

It really felt like autumn yesterday afternoon as a cool breeze blew birch and poplar leaves around Baglan Energy Park. I love this site with its sandy areas of brown field compartments, which provide habitats for an incredibly diverse flora. It always seems to me that nature is trying to win something back here after hosting decades of industrial enterprise. Species, otherwise rare in Neath Port Talbot (and Glamorgan), include Wall Bedstraw (Galium parisiense), Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria), Yellow Bartsia (Parentucellia viscosa), Sharp-leaved Fluellen (Kickxia elatine), Basil Thyme (Clinopodium acinos), Common Calamint (Clinopodium ascensdens), Distant Sedge (Carex distans) and Autumn Lady's-tresses (Spiranthes spiralis) which is shown below.

This fabulous little plant is a harbinger of the autumn and the last orchid to flower. Until yesterday I had never seen it in Neath Port Talbot although Elsa Wood found it previously in Gwrhyd Meadows near Pontardawe in 1991, one of its few inland sites in Glamorgan. It is predominantly a plant of coastal, calcareous grassland in Wales – there’s a nice population on Mumbles Hill.

Mushrooms and toadstools are synonymous with autumn and yellow waxcaps are currently putting on a good show in the short turf around the energy park. There are a number of confusing yellow species. Persistent Waxcap (Hygrocybe persistens - photo below) is variable in form and similar to the Golden Waxcap (Hygrocybe chlorophana), which is a more common grassland species. The pointed projection on the cap (the umbo) is a useful diagnostic feature. The cap is quite sticky in young specimens and it often splits at the edge.

The autumn flavour was enhanced by the conspicuous bunches of berries on trees and shrubs planted around the energy park. I’ve posted a selection of photos - Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), Alder Buckthorn (Frangula alnus), Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) and Whitebeam (Sorbus aria) below. Bring on the season of 'mellow fruitfullness'!

All photos taken yesterday afternoon at Baglan Energy Park.

1 comment:

Barry Stewart said...

We saw plenty of Autumn Lady's-tresses in typical short coastal grassland on Pennard Cliffs today, some dare I say it were already going over! The cool dry air is really drying things out and very few fungi were noted. Very nice photos Charles, I especially like the Sloes.