Species of the Month - April 2011

Townhall Clock, Moschatel

Adoxa moschatellina

Townhall Clock is a unique plant that for a long time was believed to be the only member of its family.  Recently the genera Sambucus (Elder) and Viburnum (Guelder Rose, etc) have been transferred to its family (Adoxaceae) as a result of genetic studies.  But the Townhall Clock is very different from these.  It is a small plant with square flowerheads having one flower on each of the four faces and another one on top.  It flowers in April.

Adoxa moschatellina   Adoxa moschatellina


Adoxa moschatellina


Adoxa moschatellina
Basal leaf

It likes damp places with partial shade and neutral to alkaline soil with limited vegetation cover (not grassland).  It spreads by underground rhizomes from which leaves and stems arise at intervals, causing the plant to form moderately dense patches that usually contain other plant species as well.  The basal leaves are long-stalked with three leaflets, each with three further divisions.  The flowering stem has two opposite leaves, each of three leaflets.  In the evening the flowers are supposed to have a musky scent.  The fruit is a green berry but is often not produced.

Wikipedia has good pictures and info.  The BSBI distribution map shows the plant is on the edge of its range in Argyll with only 6 post-1999 records.  Perhaps we can add some more...

Date of sighting 
Grid reference 
Name of finder 
Your name (if different) 
Email (not needed if I already know it!) 
Approx. size of patch, e.g 2 x 1 metres 
Associated species 
Was rust fungus present? (see pics below) 
Any other fungi/insects on plant? 
Any other details 


By filling in this form you agree that the information contained in this form may be collated and disseminated manually or electronically for environmental decision-making, education, research and other public benefit uses in accordance with the LNHG data access policy.  Your email address will not form part of the record and will not be passed on to anyone.

Carl Farmer
G Biological Records Manager


Sightings so far

8 April - Found a patch 2 x 1 metres on an east-facing slope in an oakwood near Connel.  The plants were in full flower but some were distorted by the effects of the rust fungus Puccinia albescens, which only occurs on Adoxa.  This was only the second vice-county record for this fungus and appears to be the third furthest north ever.

The picture below shows a stem apparently felled by the fungus, though it could be that the fungus attacked after it became weak for some other reason.

Puccinia albescens


Puccinia albescens
Close-up of the fungus, which occurs on the leaf underside, leaf-stalks and stems

I've added a field for the fungus to the sightings form.  Photos can be sent to sightings@lnhg.org.uk

16 Apr - following the lnhg Scammadale walk, some of visited a gully where Townhall Clock grows and found it in good shape, spread over an area at least 6 x 3 metres and probably much more (access was difficult and time short).  No rust fungus was found on the plants.  It was growing with the equally uncommon Alternate-leaved Golden Saxifrage, among a carpet of the common Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage.

29 Apr - found an unexpected patch of it near Kilninver, not previously recorded there.  Habitat was unusual as it was partly under bracken (which is not up at this time of year) and also partly sheltered by a boulder and by old tufts of Scaly Male Fern (which do remain up over winter).  The patch was about 4 x 1 metres but there was only one flowering shoot.  It had a very small amount of the rust fungus.  It was growing with Goosegrass, Celandine and Marsh Hawksbeard.  Many woodland flowers grow happily under bracken because it gives them light in the spring just like woods do, and shade later on to stop competing vegetation.  This patch didn't look as happy as the Scammadale patch though.


Note you can still send in records for past species of the month.  Here is the list of species we've had so far:

Mar 2011 - Frogspawn

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All photos and other content copyright Carl Farmer except where stated