Saturday, 6 December 2014

There's Gold in Them, There Hills!

Poking around Daranlas (the rock feature, not the village) this afternoon, I decided to have a close look at the deep clefts in between the various boulders and outcrops, from which it is formed.
When I shone my torch into one of the deep, dark clefts, I was startled and delighted to see a glint of gold shining back at me, but the cleft was to narrow to allow me in, even to get a decent photo. Encouraged, I hunted around the other clefts and in a really narrow one (50mm), I found more, but this was closer to the entrance, so I was able to get this photo.

It is a moss, called Schistostega pennata (Goblin's Gold) and it exists in two stages: the fronds, which can be seen towards the top of the image, dull green and a sort of green fuzz, called protonema, which in this species has large cells, which are shaped in such a way as to reflect light like cats eyes, giving it a golden green tint as it does so. It is always found in really dark, fairly dry holes, such as animal burrows, usually in sandy soil.
George Tordoff found it a few months ago, under a sandstone outcrop, at Cnwc, above Troedyrhiw, which is why I was looking for it. I think this is the fourth
record of it in Glamorgan.

If you go prospecting for this particular gold, be aware that all that glitters isn't Goblin's Gold. There are a couple of common leafy liverworts which live in similar situations and if they have beads of moisture on their leaves, will reflect torchlight back, with a silvery, golden green colour.