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|Caithness Fern Survey
In the summer of 1972 the County Recorders were asked to submit their lists of ferns for an atlas of fern distribution in the British Isles which it was intended to publish early in 1973. Now Caithness had not had an active recorder for many years and J. Gunn had just taken on that task. He found that the fern records were quite inadequate for the purpose and that drastic action was needed. An army of helpers was recruited and they sallied forth with polythene bags at the ready, picking armfuls of anything that looked like a fern. The county was divided up according to the 10 km lines of the national grid of the Ordnance Survey map to give 26 squares or parts of squares. For instance the square ND16 (or 39/16) contains Thurso and district and is here shortened to 16 since that is not ambiguous within Caithness. The response to the request for assistance was very good and soon there was a deluge of bracken, cow-parsley leaves and bits of wild carrot, all mixed in with a most marvellous collection of very good ferns and fern-allies. The sorting out of all this material was greatly helped by the presence of Miss E. R. Bullard the Orkney Recorder, who is very well-versed in the study of ferns. Eventually large parcels were sent to the British Museum for formal identification, and a list emerged of the squares in which each species of fern occurs. These will appear as dots on the distribution maps placed in the appropriate square.
The principal helpers and collectors included V. Hewison, D. Savage,
S. Elder, Reay Youth Club, P. Batey, J. Sinclair J. McCulloch, D. Oliver,
K. Butler, Miss Stewart, Mrs. McLeod, Wick High School, A. Black,
P. Williamson, J. Erridge, Mrs. Chisholm, A. Stirling, A. Kenneth.
The list of ferns and fern-allies known by the end of 1973 is given below. The catalogue number (as given by Dandy) is given, followed by the Latin name and its author. Then the English name (as given in the recent catalogue of English names by Dony, Rob and Perring) is given. An attempt has been made to indicate the first observation of the plant in the county, although this aspect is much under-worked and there may well exist earlier records to be found. Finally a list is given of the squares in which the plant has been seen. Some of these are underlined and this indicates that this record is an old one and not recently seen.
That is not the end of the fern hunting. There is room for a lot more records of the ferns which are difficult to recognise and of plants such as Lycopodium which the hunters may not have been looking for. But the survey does show how the goodwill and interest does exist for such a venture, and how people with a limited knowledge of the subject can make a really valuable contribution to it.
1/1 Lycopodium selago L. Fir Clubmoss
1/3 Lycopodium annotinum L. Interrupted Clubmoss
1/4 Lycopoclium clavatum Stags-horn Clubmoss
1/5 Lycopodium alpinum L. Alpine Clubmoss
2/1 Selaginella selaginoides (L) Link Lesser Clubmoss
3/1 Isoetes lacustris L. Quillwort
4/1,Equisetum hyomale L. Rough Horsetail
4/5 Equisetum fluviatile L. Water Horsetail
4/6 Equisetum palustre L. Marsh Horsetail
4/7 Equisetum sylvaticum L. Wood. Horsetail
4/8 Equisetum pratense Ehrh. Shady Horsetail
4/9 Equisetum arvense L. Field Horsetail
4/10 Equisetum telmateia Ehrh. Great Horsetail
5/1 Osmunda regalis L.
7/2 Hymenophyllum wilsonii Hook. Wilson's Filmy-fern
8/1 Pteridium aquilinum (L) Kuhn Bracken
9/1 Cryptogramma crispa (L) R.Br. Parsley Fern
14/1 Phyllitis scolopendrium (L.) Newm. Hart's-tongue
15/1 Asplenium adiantum-nigrum L. Black Spleenwort
15/4 Asplenium marinum L. Sea Spleenwort
15/5 Asplenium trichomanes L. Maiden Spleenwort
15/6 Asplenium viride Huds. Green Spleenwort
15/7 Aspienium ruta-muraria L. Wall-rue
18/1 Athyrium filix-femina (L.) Roth Lady-fern
19/1 Cystopteris fragilis (L.) Bernh. Brittle Bladder-fern
21/1 Dryopteris filix-mas (L.) Schott Male-fern
21/2 Dryopteris pseudo-mas (Wollaston) Holub Scaly Male-fern
21/3 Dryopteris abbreviata (DC.) Newm. Dwarf Male-fern
21/6 Dryopteris cartliusiana (Villar) H.P.Fuchs Narrow Buckler-fern
21/7 Dryopteris dilatata (Hoffm.) A. Gray Broad Buckler-fern
21/ Dryopteris assimilis S. Walker
21/8 Dryopteris aemula (Ait.) Kuntze Hay-scented Buckler-fern
22/2 Polystichium aculeatum (L.) Roth Hard Shield-fern
22/3 Polystichium lonchitis (L.) Roth Holly Fern
24/1 Thelypteris limbosperma (All.) H,P. Fuchs Lemon-scented Fern.
24/3 Thielypteris phegopteris (L.) Slosson Beech Fern
24/4 Gymnocarpium dryopteris (L.) Newm. Oak Fern
4/5 Gyinnocarpium robertianum (Hoffm.) Newm. Limestone Fern
25/1 Polypodium vulgare L. emend. Shivas. Polypody.
25/1 Polypoclium interjectum. Shivas.
28/1 Botrychium lunaria (L.) Sw. Moonwort
29/1 Ophioglossum vulgatum L. Addert’s-tongue.
BSBI meeting 1972 Dunnet Head