Primary colonisers

Bonfire Moss - Funaria hygrometrica Graham Watkeys

Bonfire Moss - Funaria hygrometrica Graham Watkeys

Another in the series of updates on interesting species recorded at Taf Fechan sees the inclusion of Bonfire moss AKA Common cord-moss as number 554 on my list.

The Taf Fechan reserve is known as an important location for Bryophytes and is acknowledged as one of the best sites in Glamorgan for these small but fascinating plants.

Funaria hygrometrica by Sture Hermansson

Funaria hygrometrica by Sture Hermansson

Recognisable by its wavy setae (the stalk that holds the spore baring capsules) Funaria hygrometrica is a primary coloniser of fire sites; in fact it miraculously and invariably turns up almost as soon as the fire goes out.

Being a specialist of what is essentially an extremely geographically random and sporadically generated habitat it must be ready to colonise and germinate at a moment’s notice.

Millions of its spores must be drifting in the wind hoping to land on the right habitat; it’s not just pollen floating around in the air. Primary colonisers do a vastly important and often underrated job, they are able to tolerate, and even thrive in, very hostile habitats and their death and decay provides humic organic material to what is effectively a sterile environment eventually allowing other plants to grow; they bring back life to the scorched earth.

Finding an unrecorded moss species at Taf Fechan was a bit of a surprise but it is usually very inconspicuous when not fruiting, now is the best time of year to look for this species on old fire sites as well as other hostile habitats, for example the moss found on old compost in plant pots is probably this species.

Graham Watkeys - Taf Fechan voluntary warden