The north face

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday 6 March 2011 19:33

Jo and I had fun in the new land at the foot of the Downs to the north of Ditchling Beacon today. I was preoccupied by mosses, the north face of the Downs is often damper and a little more humid and coupled with all the rabbit grazing, the mosses in this area totally outgun the herbs and graminoids in terms of percentage cover. You can see how much brighter green the foreground is in this photo, the sward is over c80% moss in most places.
Chalk grassland mosses have really caught my attention for some reason.  First up is the handsome large moss, Big Shaggy-moss Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus (top photo). I also found loads of Common Pygmy Woodlice Trichoniscus pusillus in this moss which was actually a tick for me!

The three commonest mosses there are the golden Yellow Feather-moss Homalothecium lutescens, the abundant Neat Feather-moss Pseudoscleropodium purum and the sharply-pointed Pointed Spear-moss Calliergonella cuspidata. In this photo we have a species new to me, it's Slender Ditrichum Ditrichum gracile (the one with long wispy leaves) and is a species I have over looked there before. There is also some Great Plait-moss Hypnum lacunosum in this shot.
As we were leaving I noticed what I thought was going to be more Comb-moss Ctenidium molluscum (there is a lot there) but as I bent down I realised I was looking at a little Thuidium. I took a sample and I am sure this is the scarcer Philibert's Tamarisk-moss Thuidium assimile, a species I know is on the site but I have not been able to find before! Three new species in one day leaves me on 3139.
There was one moss, a large acrocarp, that I have not been able to identify but I have a sample so I'll see what I can do with it. Finally, there were both Bloody-nosed and Lesser Bloody-nosed Beetles on the crawl today, here they are side by side so you can see the size difference.

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