Browndown, Gosport, Wednesday, 27th March 2013

A meeting looking at the shingle beech of Browndown, Gosport, where John Norton has been finding lots of interesting lichens. We met at 10.30, at the large car park at western end of Browndown grid reference SZ5689 9965. Led by Neil Sanderson and John Norton, with Eric Clement, Ginnie Copsey and Andrew Cross attending. The weather was grey and cold but not quite as bitter as it had been for the last few days.

We started at the western end with John leading us to areas of interest. The first stop (Waymark, B01 SZ56941 99512) was just outside of Browndown proper, where John had previously collected the rarely seen Lecanora salina Nb (DD/NR) on flint. The site was disturbed and fairly enriched recreation grassland grading into shingle. Scraps of this lichen were found, basically a Lecanora dispersa group species with irregularly crenulate thalline margins and a thallus of rounded granules, but none of these were as good as the earlier collected specimens. Inside Browndown there was some more Lecanora salina Nb (DD/NR) on flint. Before starting to recording fully in 1km square SZ5799, I had a look at a big upright timber poking out of the sea just below high tide line Waymark, (B02 SZ56990 99438). As the tide was in and I found I had a leak in my welly, this was not easy, but there were a few fine thalli of Caloplaca maritima (a maritime rock species, rare on sea edge timber in Hampshire), an abundance of Lecanora zosterae Nb (NS) (as common on coastal timber as on the habitat on which it is traditionally looked for, dead vegetation) and bight yellow farinose Caloplaca limonia (the common yellow taxa grouped in Caloplaca citrina s.l. until recently) and Trapeliopsis flexuosa and probably more (there is a lichen with a dark disk with a thalline margin, to the left of the main Lecanora zosterae colony, in the photograph below, not noticed at the time. Thoughts of the locally rare Lecanora actophila went though my mind but actually probably the common Rinodina oleae).

Post in the sea

Once inside grid square SZ5799, I started recording in ernest, first noting Amandinea lecideina Nb (NS) on flint. This is a coast rock specialist that John found new to Hampshire from Browndown. Really a lichen that needs checking under the microscope, but can be distinguished once known from a site by the areolate (cracked) dark thallus and medium sized lecideine (without a thaline margin) black apothecia. We then moved into an area denominated by Parched Acid Grassland (NVC Agrostis – Festuca – Rumex Grassland, U1) (Waymark, B03 SZ57098 99404). At the start, this had large patches dominated by Cladonia squamules, mostly Cladonia humilis, but with patches of Cladonia cervicornis ssp. cervicornis. There was also some poor material of an as yet not fully identified taxa which may be Cladonia pulvinella (more about this latter) along with Cladonia furcata.

By Waymark B04 (SZ57156 99413) larger Cladonia were more prominent within the Parched Acid Grassland, with the attractive acid grassland specialist Cladonia foliacea becoming frequent, along with abundant Cladonia cervicornis ssp. cervicornis and Cladonia furcata and some Cetraria aculeata. A patch of Peltigera canina was also spotted. The flints were no longer maritime in character, with Porpidia soredizodes and Rhizocarpon reductum dominant.

Cladonia foliacea and habitats

Further east (Waymark B05, SZ57274 99380) heathers started appearing, with Heather Calluna vulgaris, Bell Heather Erica cinerea and Bristle Bent Agrostis curtisii (NVC Ulex minor – Agrostis curtisii Heath, Agrostis curtisii sub-community, H3c), in a very dry form of Bristle Bent Heath with some unusual species present. These include frequent Nottingham Catchfly Silene nutans (RDB Near Threatened). The mix of lichens at first was similar to the Parched Acid Grassland, with abundant Cladonia foliacea, Cladonia cervicornis ssp. cervicornis and Cladonia furcata, but with Cladonia diversa appearing and then Cladonia portentosa. To the east a little Cladonia squamosa var subsquamosa was found at what would have been Waymark B06 if I had remembered to record it. This was of the typical form without a wide funnel, not the heathland form with a flaring chestnut cup so common in the New Forest. Some small black apothecia on a flint picked up in this area proved to be the common Amandinea punctata, not the coastal Catillaria atomarioides, which I thought it might be.

By Waymark B07 (SZ57459 99408) the heath had become much more diverse with a patch of abundant Cladonia gracilis, along with Cladonia crispata var. cetrariiformis and some Cladonia foliacea s.l. with squamules well over 2cm long, and therefore matching Cladonia convoluta VU (NR). This taxa, however, is now widely thought to be very doubtful, and may just be a large form of Cladonia foliacea. There appears to be no way, other than size, to separate the two taxa. The Cladonia cervicornis ssp. cervicornis in this rich sheltered habitat, started to proliferate, but still had large dissected squamules, so was just large Cladonia cervicornis ssp. cervicornis, not Cladonia cervicornis ssp. verticillata. The latter taxa can probably be deleted from the site list, it is typical of much more impoverished heaths than this.

Possible Cladonia convoluta or very large Cladonia foliacea?

Throughout the site were bits of old concrete, relics from past military use, which added common concrete weeds to the list. It was now getting to lunch time and we hunkered down out of the wind sheltered by some scrub with Oak trees (Waymark B08, SZ57504 99391). These trees were duly listed, and John pointed out a very odd looking lichen. I could see it was a Lecanora, but it was peculiar and strikingly different from the adjacent Lecanora chlarotera. It had lightly pruinose disks and the thallus was covered in worts that were clearly apothecia initials and in the field was tested Pd – and C–. As there was more than one thallus I took a small sample and worked on it at home. Using the key in the LGBI it came out as the rarely recorded Lecanora hybocarpa. Putting up the picture and description at the UK lichens Yahoo Website, produced a response from Brian Coppins that I probably had the closely related Lecanora sinuosa Nb (NR), which differs from Lecanora hybocarpa mainly in the thallus being covered in warts formed from apothecia initials. It was described from the Netherlands, where it is uncommon and has only been recorded from England very rarely and is new to Hampshire; quite a find.

Lecanora sinuosa on Oak branch

The adjacent Oak also produced some Physcia stellaris, a coastal species in Hampshire and a Gosport speciality long known from Browndown, along with some good material of Ramalina canariensis. After lunch we passed though the eastern end of the heath finding a small amount of Cetraria muricata among the Cetraria aculeata, which is abundant through out the heath and grassland, along with an increase in the cover of Cladonia portentosa. There was also further large plants of Cladonia foliacea s.l./Cladonia convoluta VU (NR) (Waymark, B09 SZ57569 99402). A flint with Catillaria atomarioides was collected here. This is actually quite distinctive, with its very small apothecia on a black thallus.

The heath then passed sharply back into Parched Acid Grassland (Waymark, B10 SZ57694 99405), with Peltigera canina abundant, hollows had the liverwort Riccia sorocarpa. To the east in the grassland was some more some poor material of an as yet not fully identified taxa which may be Cladonia pulvinella (more about this latter) (Waymark, B10 SZ57859 99359) and further large plants of Cladonia foliacea s.l./Cladonia convoluta VU (NR) (Waymark, B12 SZ57932 99337). Concrete between B11 and B12 supported some Leptogium gelatinosum, supposedly a common species but, off limestone rocks and similar artificial substrates, most material once so named seems to be Leptogium intermedium or Leptogium pulvinatum, at least in Hampshire.

From the acid grassland we recorded a scrubby and wooded area in SZ5899. A bit of time was spent on a White Poplar thicket, with a rich nutrient enriched bark flora. There was nothing outstanding but Lecanora barkmaniana Nb (NS), Lecanora carpinea and Illosporiopsis christiansenii parasitising Physcia adscendens and Xanthoria parietina were found.

From here we crossed a large spread of Parched Acid Grassland called the Landing Area. This produced Peltigera canina at Waymark B13 (SZ58275 99188) and an interesting community at Waymark B14 (SZ58320 99131). This has three Peltigera species with the local Peltigera neckeri Nb (NS) along with Peltigera canina and Peltigera hymenina. The Cladonia species included Cladonia rangiformis, Cladonia humilis and good material of the possible Cladonia pulvinata. This has basal squamules similar to Cladonia humilis and a corticate base to the cups but the fine soredia of Cladonia humilis are replaced by course corticate granules (schizidia). This is what I was previously calling Cladonia hammeri (see the Beaulieu Heath West meeting), but initial TLC analysis by the Natural History Museum rules out both this and Cladonia pocillum. The material has both fumarprotocetraric acid and a second acid, which is potentially bourgeanic acid. One possibility I had not considered earlier was Cladonia pulvinella, as the previous descriptions gave this species this as having atranorin, fumarprotocetraric and bourgeanic acids. However, the Spanish Cladonia flora (Burgaz & Ahti, 2009) devides the species into two chemotypes, one with fumarprotocetraric and bourgeanic acids and one with fumarprotocetraric and atranorin acids. This taxa is very similar to Cladonia hammeri but is described as having a more irregular and jagged cup margin than Cladonia hammeri. The material found at Browndown, very much matches Cladonia pulvinella, but, from its Spanish distribution Cladonia hammeri could be present in Britain as well and it is not clear that they can be easily separated easily other than by TLC.

Possible Cladonia pulvinella & Peltigera neckeri

Around the east side of Browndown Battery John led us to a very undisturbed area of shingle in a new 1km square SZ5898. About the Waymark B15 (SZ58323 98900) this had some impressive growths of the normally epiphytic Parmelia saxatils and Evernia prunastri on the moss covered shingle along with richly colonised flints. The latter had Buellia aethalea, Buellia ocellata, Catillaria atomarioides, Porpidia soredizodes, Rhizocarpon reductum and Xanthoparmelia mougeotii. The picture below shows a pebble with all the crust forming species listed above. Andy also found some more possible Cladonia pulvinella here. Walking out to the eastern car park before being ferried back, we crossed a wet hollow with the moss Bryum pseudotriquetrum, including fertile material; fertile material appears not to have been recorded in Hampshire before. Beyond the wet hollow there was some more possible Cladonia pulvinella at Waymark B16 (SZ58552 98867) in dry grassland.

Shingle habitat
A scan of a rich pebble (K + Y – R = k + yellow to red spot test & Pd + O = Pd + orange spot test)

We recorded a transect across Browndown, visiting some of the best bits, but there is clearly much more to explore in this large and rich site. The discovery of of Lecanora sinuosa Nb (NR), new to Hampshire was exciting and confirming that the taxa which may be Cladonia pulvinella is widespread on the site suggests it is going to be quite frequent in the south at least.

We recorded a total of 76 taxa and a CCP index (Cetraria/Cladonia/Pycnothelia index) score of 17, (high quality heathland lichens sites typically scoring over 15).

Species List

Download KMZ file to view route and waymarks in Google Earth, or view as picture below