Wooson’s Hill, Mark Ash Wood, New Forest, 30 December 2011

The New Year Wessex Lichen Group meeting was held at Wooson’s Hill, Mark Ash Wood in the New Forest. The weather was overcast but dry, with Neil Sanderson leading. Also attending were Phil Budd, Sara Cadbury, Ginnie Copsey, Mark Jason & Becky. The aim of the meeting was to refind some Lobaria species records recorded in this area in the 1990s, as a start to the BLS Lobarion Project and to record an area of ancient Beech not looked at for sometime to refind known sites for rare Beech specialist species and search for new species.

We meet at the Milliford Bridge car park and went on a forced march to the western end of Wooson’s Hill along the road; otherwise we would have never reached the target trees. With a few minor distractions we reached the west of Wooson’s Hill. This has groups of very old sheltered but well lit Beech with Bracken glades and a thin infill of younger Oak between. It is a surviving extension of Mark Ash Wood sandwiched between two Inclosures in a band of open Forest linking up to Wood Creates to the east.

Off the road and into the first grove of old Beech we soon found our first rich tree MA01 (tree MA01, SU 25425 07762). This had abundant Pyrenula nitida VU (NR, BAP), Pertusaria velata VU (NS, IR, BAP) and Megalaria laureri EN (NR, IR, BAP). The latter was a small thallus, which appears to be new colonist since the 1990s, when this tree was certainly searched but the Megalaria laureri was not found; an exciting find for this very rare species. Near to this was one of the known Lobaria trees (tree MA02, SU25410 07756). This still supported a healthy colony of Lobaria pulmonaria Nb (IR) on an area of about 0.75m across. There had been some regression but the thallus was regrowing well. Associated lichens included Pyrenula nitida VU (NR, BAP), Thelopsis rubella and Pachyphiale carneola. An odd occurrence was Porina aenea growing on the head of an old aluminium nail marking a NHM monitoring quadrat location, with Lecanora expallens on the plastic tag.

Tree MA02, the Lobaria pulmonaria colony

Nearby Melaspilea lentiginosa NT (NR, IR) was recorded parasitising Phaeographis dendritica on an old Beech (MA03, SU25423 07756) and just beyond this the second known Lobaria Beech tree was refound (tree MA04, SU25439 07743). This was found to still support a large colony of Lobaria virens Nb (IR), over a meter long. Also on the tree were Pyrenula nitida VU (NR, BAP), Pachyphiale carneola, Opegrapha multipuncta and Melaspilea lentiginosa NT (NR, IR) was recorded parasitising Phaeographis dendritica.

Tree MA04, the Lobaria virens colony

We then moved westwards to the edge of the stand and recorded twig species on a fallen old Beech where we also had lunch.

Fallen tree & lunch site

Curving back to the south we picked up another Beech with Pyrenula nitida VU (NR, BAP) (MA05, SU25345 07707). Beyond this was an impressive Beech pollard with two broad arrows carved on to the bolling; these are marks made by the Office of Woods, probably made in the 18th or early 19th century at the earliest, with surviving examples now only seen on Beeches trees and mainly on maiden trees (tree MA06 SU25378 07698). They are thought to have been used prior to felling operations to indicate “leave this tree”, the broad arrow being a sign of crown property (see this link). A single thallus of Megalaria laureri EN (NR, IR, BAP) was found in a rain track on the bolling. Megalaria laureri was recorded on this was a tree in 1993 & 1998 (tree NF2F), when 1 thallus was also found. Also on this tree in 2011 were Melaspilea lentiginosa NT (NR, IR, BAP), Pyrenula nitida VU (NR, BAP) and Rinodina roboris Nb (IR).

Tree MA06, showing broad arrows

We then reached a grove of Beech where a small amount of Lobaria pulmonaria Nb (IR) was found in 1998. Beside this was an impressive old Rowan looking like a small Ash from a distance; this had an abundance of Anisomeridium ranunculosporum along with Schismatomma niveum Nb (IR) but nothing spectacular. No Lobaria pulmonaria was found in the grove and this colony appears lost. Two trees did support a couple of old Beech specialists, which have only been discovered in the last few years. Tree MA07 (SU25442 07674) had Arthonia zwackhii NT (NR) parasitising Phaeographis dendritica and tree MA08 (SU25474 07658) with Strigula tagananae Nb (DD, BAP). Two Beeches also supported Pyrenula nitida VU (NR, BAP) (MA09 SU25467 07683 & MA10 SU25463 07678).

Further east we looked at a few more old Beeches as the light failed. Tree MA11 (SU25510 07717), was a known Megalaria laureri EN (NR, IR, BAP) Beech tree. The Megalaria laureri was duly refound along with Melaspilea lentiginosa NT (NR, IR, BAP) and two new species, more Strigula tagananae Nb (DD, BAP) and Phlyctis agelaea NT (NS). The latter is a very good record; it is a pollution sensitive species lost from the east of England since the 19th century. There had been one record from the New Forest in 1974 but since then the eastern most UK record was from Melbury Park in Dorset. In 2009 I refound it on an ancient Beech in Busketts Wood and in 2010 on one in Mark Ash Wood, so this was the third record. The hiatus might partly be to do with the older editions of Dobson showing a picture of a K + red reacting form of Pertusaria multipuncta, rather than Phlyctis agelaea, fortunately the current edition has corrected this. I had also just gained good search image for Phlyctis agelaea, from seeing it earlier in 2009 in Ireland, where it is still frequent.

Finally the next Beech along (tree MA12, SU25524 07729) produced more Phlyctis agelaea NT (NS) along with Pyrenula nitida VU (NR, BAP) and Pertusaria velata VU (NS, IR, BAP). Also on this tree was an Arthonia sp parasitising Lecanora expallens. Back at the microscope this proved interesting; it had one septate spores 11- 12.5 x 4um, and K + olive reactions in the apothecia, but nothing matched in the LGBI or the draft lichenicolous keys; so it might be new. Brian Coppins stated from the description:

“I don’t know of any Arthonia on L. expallens, or on the thallus of any other species – the Arthonia spp on Lecanora spp seem to be confined to the apothecia. So, yours could be ‘new’, but do check that it is not A. muscigena misbehaving itself.”

However, before I could get back to check the specimen, the dog ate it; that is the new lurcher pup got into the office and found nice bits of wood and bushy Usnea to chew and tear to bits! I have not got back to get a new specimen yet.

During the survey I noted 93 taxa, including two Endangered species, two Vulnerable and Three Near Threatened Red Data Books species (species list below), recording a rich veteran Beech assemblage in detail. The very rare crust forming Beech specialists seemed too be doing much better than the leafy Lobaria species, which are nationally much more widespread. The former showed evidence of recent colonisation, while none was found for the Lobaria species.

On the way back Ginnie added Usnea florida NT (BAP) in SU26 07.

Download route and way points to view Google earth: Woosons Hill WLG 30-12-11

Species List