Bryophytes at Dungeness

Last Sunday a group of about a dozen of us gathered at RSPB Dungeness for the second meeting this season of the SE group of the British Bryological Society, led by Jan Hendey and Stephen Lemon. I’d only been to Dungeness once before, a year ago in June on a hot still weekend, and only visited the shingle down by the sea. I hadn’t appreciated how diverse the site was a bit further inland, or that it is a National Nature Reserve. Or how cold it can be at this time of year. Anyway, here we are gathering together:

and you can see that I was fiddling with my phone getting ready to take this group picture:

Jan told us about the various finds at the site over the years, which certainly surprised me. Naively, I imagined that the site would be fairly species-poor, but the listings on the NBN show 33 species of liverwort and 186 mosses have been recorded in the wider area. Francis Rose recorded Porella obtusata here, and that was one of the many plants we were looking out for.

It didn’t take that long before one of the first local specialities turned up, and it was all over the place, especially growing on the stunted Prunus, and sometimes on the shingle itself. This is a species I’d only ever seen in Devon before.

This was right by the main track into the reserve and many of the cars that drove past were understandably keen to know what we were looking at. I’m not sure how impressed they were, since our organism was somewhat smaller and less active than those observed by most of the visitors to the reserve. However, it is pretty distinctive, and this picture shows the hooked teeth at the tip of the leaves:

Many of the old gravel pits have now matured and got some very interesting things growing in them. I certainly wasn’t expecting Sphagnum at Dungeness:

Jonathan Sleath’s response rather sums it up:

As Steve noted, the mosses can colonise everything:

However, we were all getting rather cold and members of the group gradually started to depart, leaving only a handful to the bitter end. And there were, of course, other distractions.

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