Finding Moonwort

Colin Cheesman

Colin Cheesman

Head of Plantlife Cymru

22nd August 2017

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Moonwort © Roger Butterfield

Each year we are joined by a great bunch of volunteers on Plantlife's Cae Blaen-dyffryn reserve, to conduct the annual orchid count and to work out the condition of the meadow.

Remarkably we have been doing this now for nineteen years!

But the species that eludes us and has done so for ten years is Moonwort (Botrychium lunaria). A short and distinctive fern with a single sterile frond and a different fertile frond. The citation states, “while Moonwort, Botrychium lunaria, is also locally frequent, forming one of the largest populations in Carmarthenshire.”

Each year after the volunteers have completed the condition survey and just before lunch we have our Moonwort wander with eyes cast down into the sward looking for the diminutive fern. But to no avail. It is known for disappearing and re-appearing but ten years is getting ridiculous.

So this year we have mapped all the historic records and we are holding two scything courses to try and reduce the competition from vegetation. In addition we will also make use of the maximum amount of grazing that is allowed by Natural Resources Wales of six cows for eight weeks. This will also reduce the amount of vegetation and be good for a whole host of species including the orchids and the moonwort.

We’ll find out how successful we have been next year. Now, what cake shall I bake to celebrate 20 years of volunteer recording for next year’s count?