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Posts Tagged ‘Baby Tooth Moss’

1. New Boot

I bought some new rubbery waterproof boots so I could walk in drainage ditches, swamps, and streams without getting my feet wet. The only trouble with them is, they aren’t insulated. When you’re walking on snow that means you don’t stand around in one place for too long with them on. I learned quickly that the way to keep your feet warm in these boots was to keep walking so, with boots for the water and Yaktrax for the ice, off I went in search of fruiting liverworts.

2. Drainage Ditch

Between the stone walls of this old railroad cut and the rail bed are drainage ditches that the railroad engineers designed in the early 1800s, and which still work well. But without boots on they also keep you from getting close to any of the mosses, ferns, and liverworts that grow on the ledge walls. The water isn’t much more than 8-12 inches deep but it is spring fed and very cold, even with boots on.

3. Icy Walls

In places the drainage ditches are still frozen over and I walked on them where I could, but much of the ice hanging from these 30 foot high walls is rotten at this time of year so you have to pay attention to what is hanging above you.

4. Ice Colors

I took this photo to show the subtle color variations in the ice. It can be quite beautiful in various shades of blue and green.

5. Fallen Ice

The ice can also be quite dangerous. The pieces in this photo are as big as tree trunks-plenty big enough to crush someone.

 6. Fallen Rock

Ice isn’t the only thing falling from these walls. I’m wondering if I shouldn’t also buy a hard hat, though this stone was big enough to make wearing a hard hat a waste of time.

7. Mossy Walls

Finally after a short hike I saw some signs of life.  The constant drip of water over these stones makes this a perfect home for all kinds of masses and liverworts.

8. Great Scented Liverwort Growing on Stone

It’s hard to tell from this photo but liverworts are quite small. Length varies but the width of the above example of the great scented liverwort (Conocephalum conicum) is only about a quarter to half an inch. Liverworts don’t have roots but they do have “anchoring structures” called rhizoids that help them cling to vertical surfaces. Liverworts that grow in flat, green sheets like this one are called thallose liverworts. Thallose means “a green shoot or twig.”  They are quite different from leafy liverworts.

 9. Great Scented Liverwort Closeup

I didn’t see any liverworts with male or female fruiting structures but many had small “buds” at the ends of the branches indicating that new spring growth has begun. Conocephalum conicum is the only liverwort that looks like snake skin so its beauty is all its own. The surface looks scaly because of the way the liverwort’s air chambers are outlined, and each of the tiny white dots in the centers of the “scales” is an air pore.

10. Marginal Wood Fern

Marginal wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis) was in a perfect position to show me how it got its common name. Its sori, (spore cases) sit on the outer margins of the underside of each leaf (pinnule).

11. Marginal Wood Fern Sori

This is a closer look at the marginal wood fern’s sori. A single sorus is a cluster of sporangia, which are the structures that produce the spores. In some instances they look like tiny flowers on the underside of the fern leaf. Some ferns have sori that are naked or uncovered but marginal wood fern’s sori are covered by a thin, cap-like membrane called an indusium. If you can see the individual sporangia like those in the photo, then you know the membrane has come off and the fern has released its spores.

12. Dog Lichen

Something I hadn’t seen here before was this membranous dog lichen (Peltigera membranacea). Since it is a water lover it makes sense that it would grow here. This lichen often grows near moss because mosses retain the water that it needs, and this one was growing right on top of a large bed of moss. In her book Gathering Moss author Robin Wall Kimmerer speaks of lichens being the pioneers that etch rock faces so mosses can gain a foothold, but dog lichens seem to have it backwards since they seem to have moved in after the mosses.

13. Baby Tooth Moss aka Plagiomnium cuspidatum

Baby tooth moss (Plagiomnium cuspidatum) was busy with spore production. As they mature the sharply pointed sporophytes will become more barrel shaped with flat ends, and will bend until the capsules droop just past horizontal. I wonder why so many mosses, lichens and liverworts decide to release their spores at this time of year. I’m sure wind and water must have something to do with it.

14. Green Algae

The bright orange color in this green alga (Trentepohlia aurea.) comes from the carotenoid pigment in the algae cells called hematochrome or beta- carotene, which is the same pigment that gives carrots their orange color.

Since it prefers growing on lime-rich substrates these algae are a good indicator of what type of stone or soil is in the area. If you are looking for plants or wildflowers that like lime rich soil, like hepatica, marsh marigold, or many orchids, seeing orange (green) algae can be an important clue to the type of soil in the area.

15. Pocket Moss aka Fissidens adianthoides Closeup

The grayisg thing on the right side of this photo is a pine needle. I didn’t plan on it being in this shot but since it is it can be used to give a sense of the size of this maidenhair pocket moss (Fissidens adianthoides). This moss is a water lover that grows near waterfalls and streams on rock, wood, or soil. What shows in this photo would fit on the face of a penny.

Many of the things that grow here are very small and the light is often poor because of the high rock walls, so I have to get quite close to them to get a decent photo. These new boots let me do that and I’m happy with them. If you find yourself in a similar situation you might want to try a pair.

Some of nature’s most exquisite handiwork is on a miniature scale, as anyone knows who has applied a magnifying glass to a snowflake.  ~Rachel Carson

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1. Pond Ice

This photo of pond ice does something to satisfy that abstract craving that I have every now and then. It seemed to want to be in black and white so I granted its wish, even though it hardly changed from the original. These shards of ice were quite long and looked like they had just started to form. The process of ice crystals beginning to form in super cooled water is called nucleation.

 2. Bracket Fungi on Bracket Fungi

There were bracket fungi growing on this tree when it fell. Bracket fungi have their top toward the sky and bottom toward the soil but when the tree they grow on falls, what was horizontal can become vertical. They solve that problem by growing young, horizontal bracket fungi from the older ones that now grow vertically. That’s determination.

 3. Bracket Fungi on Bracket Fungi

A shot from another direction shows that these bracket fungi have teeth.  I think they might be Steccherinum ochraceum, which is a tooth fungus that can form brackets and is strongly affected by gravity and sunlight.

4. White Pine Bark

This old white pine had very colorful bark. There were several other old specimens growing quite close together but this was the only one that looked like it wanted to be as colorful as a sycamore.

 5. Crumpled Rag Lichen aka Platismatia tuckermanii

Last year I did a post with this lichen in it and at the time I thought it was an example of a spotted camouflage lichen (Melanohalea olivacea), but after doing a little more research I’m now fairly certain that it’s a crumpled rag lichen (Platismatia tuckermanii .)The large greenish brown discs are apothecia or fruiting bodies, and they help identify this lichen. I usually find these on birch limbs.

6. Heather Rag Lichen

I think this is an example of a lichen called heather rags (Hypogymnia physodes), but there are so many that look almost the same that I can’t be completely certain. This lichen has gray, inflated, puffy looking lobes like heather rag lichens do, but so do many others. Heather rags gets its common name by its habit of growing on unburned heather in the United Kingdom, but it is also quite common here in the north eastern U.S.  No matter what its name, this example is a beautiful lichen.

7. Heather Rag Lichen Closeup

Lichen books say to look for soralia bursting from lobe tips when identifying heather rags lichens. Soralia are clusters of intertwined alga and fungi that form a granule-like mass, and I think I see a few of those in this close up. Soralia are a vegetative way for lichens to reproduce. Once separate from the main body of the lichen they will start new lichens, just as taking a cutting from a plant produces a new plant.

8. Small Brain Jelly Fungi

These yellow fungi looked like tiny dots, about half as big as a pencil eraser, on a fallen log. It wasn’t until I saw the photo that I realized they were very small examples of “brain” fungi, possibly Tremella mesenterica, also called witch’s butter. If so they are the smallest examples I’ve seen of that fungus.

9. Pear Shaped Puffball

I saw some pear shaped puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme) on a log and noticed that the darker, outer skin had split to reveal a lighter inner surface.  I assumed that this meant that they were ready to release their spores and poked one with a stick. Sure enough it puffed out some spores, which show as light gray powder in this photo. Inhaling enough of these spores can result in lycoperdonosis, which is a respiratory disease that starts out like a cold. The disease causes symptoms similar to those found in pneumonia, and is sometimes misdiagnosed as tuberculosis or pneumonia. If left untreated it can be fatal.

10. Sweet Birch Seeds aka Betula lenta

If you see a cherry tree with this type of growth on it you have found a sweet birch (Betula lenta,) not a cherry. I’ve pointed that out because its bark looks a lot like cherry bark and they are sometimes confused. The cone like object pictured is a female catkin. These catkins begin to shatter and release their seeds in late fall. The seeds, a few of which can be seen in the photo, are called nutlets and are winged, much like an elm seed. The easiest way to identify sweet birch is by chewing a twig. If it doesn’t taste like wintergreen, it isn’t sweet birch. Native Americans boiled the sap and made it into syrup. If enough corn is added, birch beer can also be made from it. After chewing quite a few twigs it seems to me that syrup or beer made from this tree would taste a lot like oil of wintergreen, and I don’t know if I could handle wintergreen flavored flapjacks.

11. Plagiomnium cuspidatum Moss

I found a large patch of baby tooth moss (Plagiomnium cuspidatum) growing on a flat boulder in the sun. This moss can be a little tricky to identify because it has two types of stems with different growth patterns. Vegetative stems trail like a vine and stems with fruiting capsules (sporophytes) stand upright as they are in the photo. Each leaf has tiny serrations from its tip down to about mid leaf, and that’s a good identifying feature.

 12. Plagiomnium cuspidatum Moss Immature Sporophytes

The sun had melted a dusting of snow from the patch of baby tooth moss just before I found it and many of the sharply pointed  immature sporophytes had tiny drops of water clinging to them. When mature the sporophytes will be more barrel shaped with flat ends, and will bend until the capsules droop just past horizontal.

Go to the winter woods: listen there; look, watch, and ‘the dead months’ will give you a subtler secret than any you have yet found in the forest. ~ Fiona Macleod

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After over a year of using my moss identification guides to identify various mosses, I think I’m ready to do at least one post on them. I’m fairly confident that the following plants are what I think they are, but I don’t have access to a microscope so none of this information should be taken as absolute gospel. Information about the guides I’ve used can be found under the “Books I Use” tab at the top of the page.

1. Rocky Hillside

My thoughts usually turn to mosses and other forest floor dwellers at this time of year because they’re so easy to see with no leaves in the way. Instead of roots mosses have small, thread like rhizoids. Since they can’t take up water like vascular plants they absorb it like a sponge over their entire surface, and when they’re seen in abundance as in the above photo, it’s a fair bet that the soil is either quite moist or the area is shaded enough to keep  them from drying out between rains. Though some mosses can go for quite a while with no water, most need regular replenishment. Like lichens, mosses can look very different when they are dry, so serious moss hunters like to do their hunting after a rain.

 2. Rose Moss aka Rhodobryum roseum

Since I’ve never paid very close attention to mosses I never realized that some of them, like rose moss, had leaves that are quite big-easily big enough to be seen with the naked eye-and can be quite beautiful. Rose moss (Rhodobryum roseum) gets its common name from the way its rosettes of leaves look like tiny flowers. When rose moss dries out its leaves contort and fold upward like petals of flowers that close at night. I found a large colony of this moss growing on a boulder.

 3. Maidenhair Pocket Moss aka Fissidens adianthoides

Pocket moss gets its common name from the way the lower lobe of its leaf curls around its stem to form a pocket. That feature can’t be seen in the photo and neither can the way the central nerve, or vein of each leaf stops before it reaches the leaf tip, but those two features plus the fact that the example in the photo was constantly dripped on by ground water tell me that this is maidenhair pocket moss (Fissidens adianthoides).

4. Maidenhair Pocket Moss Sporophytes aka Fissidens adianthoides

The capsules where some mosses produce spores are called sporophytes. In the case of maiden hair pocket moss the capsules are like a tiny barrel that is covered on one end by a calyptra, which is a piece of tissue that looks like a stocking cap. When the spores mature the calyptra dries out and falls off, but before it does the fruiting bodies of this moss remind me of cranes. Or herons.  Under the tiny stocking cap is a lid (operculum) that also comes off so the spores can be released. This happens at different times of year for different mosses.

 5. Medusa Moss aka Hedwigia ciliata

The name medusa moss (Hedwigia ciliata) comes from the way this moss looks like a bunch of tangled worms when it dries out. This moss is fairly common but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it grow quite as long as it was here. It was obviously in a good location for optimum growth.

 6. Medusa Moss aka Hedwigia ciliata 2

This is a closer look at the Hedwigia ciliata in the previous photo. It is also called white tipped moss and is almost always found growing on large boulders in the woods.

 7. Membranous Dog Lichen aka Peltigera membranacea 3

The last time I saw a dog lichen it was growing on a rotting stump but this one, Peltigera membranacea, was growing on a mossy boulder. Dog lichens are associated with mossy area because the mosses provide the moisture that they need. This is known as a membranous lichen, which simply means that it is thin and pliable. It is also a foliose lichen, meaning that it is lobed, or leaf like. The upper part of the body (Thallus) is undulating or veined as seen in the photo. This lichen was large and easy to see. It was also probably quite old.

 8. Membranous Dog Lichen aka Peltigera membranacea

The white “roots” on the underside of the lichen body are called rhizines. On some lichens these can be quite bushy but on Peltigera membranacea they are narrow, thin and “fang like”. They are one of the identifying characteristics of this lichen along with its thin, flexible, undulating thallus.

I’ve heard another theory behind the name “dog lichen.”  It says that the name refers to the large, lobed body of the lichen looking like dog ears. It sounds plausible, but so do the other three theories I’ve heard. One says the fang like rhizines look like dog’s teeth, another says the entire lichen body looks like a dog, and yet another says that the apothecia, or fruiting bodies, look like dog ears.

 9. Fan Shaped Club Moss

Fern allies are “seedless vascular plants that are not true ferns, but like ferns, disperse by shedding spores.” Mosses don’t fit this description because, though they produce spores, they are not vascular. Club mosses fit the description perfectly and are called “club” mosses because their fruiting structures (strobili) are club shaped. These club shaped, cone-like structures are where the spores are produced. The club moss in the photo, known as fan shaped club moss (Diphasiastrum digitatum), doesn’t have any strobili showing. In fact, as I was choosing the photos for this post I realized that I have never seen this club moss in its fruiting stage.

 10. Running Club Moss

Another club moss that I have never seen fruiting is running club moss (Lycopodium clavatum). This plant gets its name from the way it sends out long, horizontal stems. All along the horizontal stem erect stems form at intervals and roots form where it touches the ground. I had to brush the leaves away from the horizontal stem so we could see it, because when it’s buried it’s difficult to tell this club moss from others. I can’t say that these plants are rare here, but I don’t see them too often.

 11. Baby Tooth Moss aka Plagiomnium cuspidatum

Baby tooth moss (Plagiomnium cuspidatum) doesn’t look like a moss at all to me, with its long, vining habit and (relatively) large leaves, but it is one. Though far too small to be seen in the photo, this moss gets its common name from the way the upper margins of the leaves are toothed. The cuspidatum part of the scientific name comes from cuspid, which comes from the Latin cuspis and which means a tooth with a single point, like a canine tooth. It is said that this moss is very common in eastern North America, but I can’t remember ever seeing it before I took this photo. It grows in moist hardwood forests on stones, logs, or soil.

12. Brocade Moss aka Hypnum imponens

Brocade is a “heavy fabric interwoven with a rich, raised design” and that description really fits brocade moss (Hypnum imponens), which always looks to me like it was embroidered by elves or some other forest dwellers. This moss, with its orange, yellow, and brown highlights and fern or feather like shape is one of the easiest to identify. It forms dense mats on moist ground. This moss was once used as stuffing for mattresses and pillows and the Hypnum part of the scientific name comes from the word Hypnos, name of the Greek god of sleep.

 13. Plaited Shaggy Moss aka Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus

A good example of why botanists use scientific names instead of common names is this moss, Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus. Its common names are shaggy moss, plaited shaggy moss, big shaggy moss, rough goose neck moss, rough neck moss, and even electrified cat’s tail moss. I kid you not. Apparently someone thought that if you somehow plugged in a cat its tail would look just like this moss.

 14. Yellow Feather Moss aka Homalothecium lutescens

When I saw how pale this yellow feather moss (Homalothecium lutescens) was I thought it was sick, but this is the way it is supposed to look. It has kind of a loose, airy look that I like. It’s also called ragged yellow moss and fossil evidence has been found that dates it as far back as the Pleistocene epoch, from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago.

Our minds, as well as our bodies, have need of the out-of-doors. Our spirits, too, need simple things, elemental things, the sun and the wind and the rain, moonlight and starlight, sunrise and mist and mossy forest trails, the perfumes of dawn and the smell of fresh-turned earth and the ancient music of wind among the trees.~ Edwin Way Teale

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