More about Plants of Mid Wales
Here is a brief summary of the main habitats to be found in the landscape of Mid Wales and mention of some of the plants that you might encounter when staying in Mid Wales.
The high plateaux of the Cambrian Mountains is covered with heather, grass and rush moorland. In drier places there develops an intimate mix of Bell Heather, Ling, Bilberry and Western Gorse, while in wetter places Purple Moor Grass often dominates although Cross-leaved Heath and Cranberry sometimes find a foothold and in boggy areas Sphagnum mosses, Cotton Grass, Butterwort and Sundew grow. Walking over the Nationals Trust owned Abergwesyn Common or the RSPB’s Carngafallt Nature Reserve is a great way to experience the wildlife of these moorland habitats.
The area of land that lies between the wild hill tops and the valley fields is called the ffridd in Welsh. These mainly bracken covered hillsides are dissected by wet flushes, springs and narrow streams, rock outcrops, cliffs and scree and are scattered with Hawthorn, Rowan and Birch trees. The rock outcrops sport a wonderful array of lichens, some of which are notable and rare.
Woodlands that clothe the valley sides are predominantly Sessile Oak with branches festooned with lichens and an understory of Bilberry. Some have ancient trees over 350 years old, some on steep, boulder strewn slopes have grown trees gnarled and twisted around the rocks.
The mixed deciduous woodlands are of Oak, Birch, Alder, Ash, Rowan and Hazel with some Hawthorn, Blackthorn and Holly and occasionally Beech and on the woodland floor along with grasses, ferns and mosses, Wood Sorrel is frequent with Violets, Barren Strawberry, Lesser Celandine, Germander Speedwell and occasional patches of Bluebells. Often on wetter soils the mixed woodlands have a richer ground flora including three species of Violet, several species of ferns, Wood and Water Avens, Moschatel and Yellow Pimpernel.
Conifer woods are represented by a few blocks of planted Larch and Sitka Spruce which can be good for fungi in the autumn.
Examples of all these types of woodland can be found when visiting the Elan Valley.
A variety of grasslands can still be found among the unimproved, enclosed meadows while many farmland fields have been reseeded with fast growing, nutrient rich grasses to feed the grazing sheep and cattle.
Dry, permanent pastures on steep ground are where Mountain Pansies, Tormentil and Speedwells grow – a good example being grassland at the Radnor Wildlife Trust’s Gilfach Nature Reserve.
Traditional hay meadows, such as those still surviving in the Elan Valley, have Butterfly Orchids, Yellow Rattle, Greater Burnet and Wood Bitter Vetch as specialities while flowers of Buttercups, Clover, Hawksbeards, Hawkweeds and Hawkbits, Eyebright, Stitchwort, Sorrel and Knapweed provide a haze of colour in early summer.
Unimproved wet rhos pastures in the valley bottoms have Devil’s Bit Scabious, Ivy-leaved Bell Flower, Sneezewort, Ragged Robin and Heath-spotted Orchids flowering among the rushes and sedges.
Hedgerow trees include Ash, Blackthorn, Hazel and in damper places, Alder and Sallow. There is also the occasional Crab apple and Bird Cherry – easier to locate when in blossom. Wild Roses and Honeysuckle climb along the hedgerows, scenting the summer evening air.
Water is very much a part of the Mid Wales landscape, from boggy pools on the hill top moorland it finds runnels that fall and cascade down fast flowing streams into wider rocky brooks and eventually to boulder strewn rivers like the Elan, Marteg and Wye.
Few plants grow in the ponds, streams and rivers as the water is acidic and nutrient poor. Ditches support Water Forget-me-not and Blinks, pond edges Water Purslane, Starwort and Marsh St. John's Wort, deeper parts of the ponds Bog Crowfoot, Toad Rush and the Small Sweet Grass, while on the fast flowing stream and river bed rocks straggling clumps of the aquatic moss Fontinalis antipyretica is the largest British moss with stems sometimes up to one metre long. Along the riversides can be seen Greater Woodrush, Marsh Woundwort, Pink Purslane and Yellow Loosestrife.
In wet, marshy areas Marsh Marigold, Marsh Bedstraw, Marsh Birds-foot-trefoil, Golden Saxifrage, Lousewort, Bog Pimpernel, Marsh Violet, Common Valerian and Hemlock Water Dropwort flower.