The Mosses & Liverworts Group
The bryophyte flora of the Island comprises 74 liverworts, of which eight are considered to have become extinct, and 271 mosses, of which perhaps sixteen are extinct. There are, in addition, one unconfirmed liverwort and twelve unconfirmed moss species.
Some Bryology Sites on the Isle of Wight, V.C.10
By Lorna Snow
The Isle of Wight is an area with rather complex geology, dominated by the chalk ridge which runs from the Needles at the West to Culver Cliff at the East. This ridge is a continuation of the chalk cliffs of Dorset and divides the Island roughly in half. North of the chalk the land is heavy clay and marl with some plateau gravel in isolated spots so that most of the land is pasture or woodland. South of the chalk the land is mainly Lower Greensand with more chalk downland in the south at Ventnor and St. Catherine’s.
A full account of the geology and habitats, together with an up-to-date account of the bryophytes, can be found in the new Isle of Wight Flora (Pope, Snow, and Allen) 2003.
The Rev. Livens recorded widely over the Island, with help from H.H.Knight and others in the early 1900’s, and Percy Long, who lived in Carisbrooke, recorded during the 1930’s and 1940’s. The BBS visited the Island in 1964 and again in 2002.
America Wood SZ5682
This is a Woodland Trust property and SSSI. An ancient oak/birch woodland with a stream cutting a gully through the middle. Pseudotaxiphyllum elegans, Epipterygium tozeri (which is uncommon on the Island), and three species of Metzgeria are among the 50 or so species that have been recorded here. Park at the far end of Upper Hyde Farm Lane, and walk up to your left past the arable field, and down the steps into the wood. SZ577811. It is well served by footpaths.
Shanklin Chine SZ5881
This is a private site, open to the public on payment of an entrance fee during the season, Easter to October usually. The best access is from the southern end of the Esplanade, where there is parking. The chine is a shaded woody gully with a waterfall at the top.
73 species have been recorded including Anthoceros punctatus, and Phaeosceros laevis. Philonotis marchica grows on a vertical rock face near the top entrance, but is very small. Leptobarbula berica is found in a dark corner by the top entrance – this is one of only 4 sites on the Island, but it could be overlooked so if you find it anywhere else Lorna Snow would be happy to hear from you.
There is a chalybeate spring at the lower end of the chine, and also some remains of the 1939-45 Pluto Pipeline, which carried petrol over to the troops in France. Also during this war the vertical sides of the Chine were used as a climbing training area for the Royal Marines prior to the raid on Dieppe. Parking SZ585811
Luccombe Chine SZ5879
A sheltered wooded valley, liable to slippage in wet weather, leading to the beach, but with many steps. Pohlia wahlenbergeri v. calcarea was recorded from, here in 1927 (BBSUK) but there are no records since. Fissidens crassipes was recorded from the waterfall in 1964, but has not been refound since.
Records in 2002 included Bryum gemmiferum, Cratoneuron filicinum, Eucladium verticillatum, Hookeria lucens, Scorpiurium circinatum, and Cololejeunea minutissima. Wet ledges to the east and west of the footpath above the beach are worth exploring.
Parking area in a lay-by on the main road, next to the tea rooms, SZ580789. Follow footpaths for some 0.5km down to the chine.
Bonchurch Landslip SZ583876
This SSSI is part of a much larger area of old landslip where the Upper Greensand overlies the Gault Clay, or Blue slipper as it locally known. An area of large boulders still prone to slip after prolonged wet weather, now getting overgrown with Ivy (Hedera helix hibernica).
Metzgeria pubescens was found there in 1906 but there are no records of it since. Mnium stellare, on the other hand, has been found there since 1909 and is still there. Marchesinia mackii is another species recorded once but not seen again. Phaeosceros laevis, Leptobarbula berica, Scorpiurium circinatum and Cryphea heteromalla are among the 69 species recorded there in 2002.
Parking area is the same as for Luccombe Chine, SZ580789, but take the footpath leading down from the side nearest the tea rooms.
Rocken End SZ4975, National Trust. SSSI
Part of the western end of the area of landslip which starts at Bonchurch, the whole area is still liable to slippage after prolonged wet weather. Conditions permitting – park in the NT car park at the end of Sandrock Road. This is where the big slide of 1920 occurred, which broke the old road to Blackgang. In 2001 another slide has made the site of Southbya nigrella inaccessible.
PLEASE TAKE CARE. The land between the car park and the lighthouse is better, with short chalk grassland with limestone outcrops. It is a very good site for bryophytes, with 70 species recorded recently, including Bryum dunense, B.torquescens, Tortula viridifolia, Cryphea heteromalla, Fissidens dubius, Pterygoneuron ovatum and Cephaloziella baumgartneri.
Its main claim to fame, however, is the Acaulon triquetrum which survives in quantity on the outcrops. Cratoneuron filicinum used to form tufa in the stream by the car park, but this has gone now. When the land settles it will probably be found again in another part of the area. Parking at SZ494757.
Headon Warren SZ30/31 85/86 National Trust. SSSI
The area was visited by H.H.Knight and Rev. Livens in 1906. An area of gravel cap over chalk, at the western end of the Island, with heather cover. This is the largest area of heathland on the Island.
The land on the north side is badly slipped and a trap for unwary ankles, so take care. This is a very good area for lichens as well as mosses – 22 species of Cladonia, among others, have been found. 34 species of bryophytes were recorded recently, including Scapania complanata, Campylium chrysophyllum, Polytrichum piliferum, all scarce on the Island.
Lophocolea semiteres was a new species for VC10 in 2002, when Hennediella macrophylla, Leptodon smithii and Aulacomnium androgynum were also found. Park in the road at SZ319859. Follow the footpath up onto the ridge
Combley Great Wood, SZ5489
A mixed plantation ancient woodland on wet clay, belonging to the Forestry Commission, Part SSSI. In 1906 this was one of only three sites on the Island for Rhodobryum roseum, but since then there has been only one other record – at East Afton near Freshwater.
Other records include Entosthodon fasciculare, Hertzogiella seligeri, Hookera lucens, Cirriphyllum piliferum, and Leucobryum glaucum.
There has not been any systematic recording done in this wood since 1995, so it is still possible that Rhodobryum roseum might survive. Park in the road near SZ545895, at a small layby off the narrow road. There is good access along footpaths and rides.
Firestone Copse SZ55 90/91
A Forestry plantation with some mixed woodland, and gravel rides, bordered on the western side by a stream running into Wootton Mill Pond. Part SSSI. Percy Long recorded Archidium alternifolium here in 1926, but this was before the Forestry planting.
Pseudephemerum nitidum, Ciriphyllum piliferum, Fissidens exilis, and Homalia trichomanoides have all been recorded here. Pleurozium schreberi was found in 1984, but there have been no Island records since. In the spring this is a good site for wild daffodils.
Parking at the Forestry site with picnic area, SZ911557. There is good access along footpaths and rides.
Shide Chalk Pit SZ5088 SSSI
A large old disused chalk pit on the edge of Newport, with a varied flora and a stream running through which gives rise to tufa forming species – Eucladium verticilatum. Other species include Campyliadelphus chrysophyllus, Chryhea heteromalla, Fissidens andianthoides, Encalypta streptocarpa, Aloina aloides, Bryum torquescens and Gymnostomum viridulum ( a new species for VC10) which were found in 2002.
This is also a good site for blue butterflies and chalk grassland flowers. Park by the Tyre Depot and pub at the road junction at Shide. SZ504881. Cross the main road to the east, turn left and take the right turn 140 meters nearer Newport. The entrance is a gate in the fence on the right. Follow the steps down to the quarry floor.