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Posts Tagged ‘Boreal Oak Moss’

I decided to prune a very old, overgrown Forsythia at work last week. This is what I found on the oldest branches; Lilliputian gardens. I think I recognize star rosette (Physcia stellaris) and hammered shield lichens (Parmelia sulcata,) but others are a mystery. 

Another branch had what I think is yellow witches butter (Tremella mesenterica.) It doesn’t have quite the same appearance as other witches butter fungi I’ve seen but that could be because it was very young.

I’ve learned, with help from knowledgeable readers, that what I have thought was a beard lichen in the Usnea family is actually a bushy, beard like lichen in the Evernia family, called Evernia mesomorpha. The differences, if I understand what I’ve read correctly, are in the flattened, antler like branches. Its common name is boreal oakmoss and it falls out of trees here on a regular basis, but this one was growing on that same Forsythia.

Anyone who knows the Forsythia well knows that, like a raspberry, when a branch tip is allowed to touch the soil it will root and create another plant. Part of what I wanted to do when cleaning up this bush was removing all the baby plants that surrounded the main shrub, and when I started digging I found golden thread like roots like that seen in the photo. They reminded me of the roots of the goldthread plant (Coptis trifolia) but there were none of those growing here. Were they from the Forsythia? I can’t really say but it wouldn’t surprise me with so many other parts of the plant yellow.

One of the reasons you don’t let a Forsythia’s branch tips take root is they form a kind of cage  around the plant so you can’t get a leaf blower or rake in there to get the leaves out. So, once I had all the plants but the main one removed I started in on the leaves underneath it and found this. I thought at first it was a fungal mycelium mat but after a closer look I’m not so sure.

This looks more like a slime mold to me but I don’t see many of them in the early spring. I’m still not sure what it was, but it was fun to see.

One of the strangest things I saw on this Forsythia was a large witches broom, which I removed. Then I saw hundreds of these; smaller witches brooms just getting started. Each one of those little bumps is going to turn into a shoot that will be about 8 inches long, if the one I cut off is any indication. Botanically speaking a witches broom is an “abnormal proliferation of shoots on one area of a stem.” Many shrubs and trees exhibit this abnormal growth and sometimes it is desirable; Montgomery dwarf blue spruce for instance is one of the best dwarf blue spruces, and is from a witches broom. In some cases it isn’t at all desirable; witches broom on rice can be fatal to humans. There are many causes, depending on the plant. Witches brooms are usually caused by either a rust fungus or a parasitic plant such as mistletoe, but there is an aphid known to cause honeysuckle witches’ broom, and on hackberry trees (Celtis occidentalis) it is caused by both a powdery mildew fungus and a tiny mite. On cherry and blackberry it is caused by bacteria carried by insects from elm or ash trees. In the case of Forsythia I can’t find the cause, but how amazing is it that all of these interesting things were found on a single shrub?

I saw this happening to a fallen beech leaf. I would guess that it’s how decomposition happens to a leaf.

I was splitting wood again and found this little critter under the bark of an oak log. I looked it up and found this: “The flat worms that appear under oak tree bark are larvae of pests called flatheaded borers, so named due to the flattened segment behind their heads and flattened bodies. Flatheaded apple tree borers (Chrysobothris femorata) feed on a variety of plants including oaks. The larvae display cream-hued bodies and dark heads with a total length of approximately 1 inch, and adults are black to green beetles. Typically appearing on freshly planted trees during summer, apple tree borers tunnel into bark, resulting in girdled branches, dieback and sometimes tree death. Releasing natural enemies that are available at garden supply retailers, such as parasitic wasps, provides biological control.” This creature’s darker head is on its right end, I believe.

We had to take a window out of a building where I work and when we did this chrysalis fell out of it. After a bit of searching I found that it was a moth chrysalis, but even Bugguide.net can’t seem to pin it down any closer than that. Apparently it could be any one of several different moths. When you hold it in your hand the pointed end jiggles, so it was obviously alive. We put it outside and wished it well. It’s interesting to me that you can see where the head is, where the wings are, and what is obviously the tail.

We had a little snow on the 24th and though it messed up spring cleanup plans at work for a day or two it melted quickly and was gone by the end of the week. Spring snows are common but nobody gets too upset about them because we know it’s simply too warm for them to last. The thawed ground melts them quickly. Much of March has been cool and damp.

The road I travel to work on was a winter wonderland and it reminded me of the words of William Sharp, who said “There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the forest clothed to its very hollows in snow. It is the still ecstasy of nature, wherein every spray, every blade of grass, every spire of reed, every intricacy of twig, is clad with radiance.”

At my house we had just under 5 inches. Though it looks fluffy in the photo is was actually heavy and wet, as spring snows often are.

In the 1800s René Lalique was a French glass designer known for his art deco designs. One of his best known creations was the grayish frosted, matte finish crystal he used for perfume bottles and other items. I thought of that glass when I held this piece of puddle ice up to the sun, and I wondered if one day Mr. Lalique held up his own piece of puddle ice. Maybe that’s where he got his inspiration for such a beautiful glass. If we keep our minds open inspiration can come to us from any bit of nature we happen to see.

If there is one thing I see lots of it is fallen trees, but the beautiful grain pattern in this old dead pine caught me and held me one morning. I took lots of photos of it but this closeup was my favorite. I couldn’t see all the beauty in this world if I lived 10 lifetimes.

Before the new leaves appear and when the spring rains fall to plump them up, orange crust fungi are at their most beautiful. To me they are like a beacon in the woods. Their startlingly bright orange color among the leftover browns and grays of winter call to me from quite a distance.

I stopped one day to see if the spring beauties that you saw in the last post were blooming and a large shadow passed over me when I got out of the car. And then another, and when I looked up there were two turkey vultures flying low, swooping in circles around me. What could they be after? I wondered until I saw a dead raccoon and then I knew that I had interrupted their meal. But darn it I had flowers to see and I thought they could wait for a few minutes while I did. Apparently they thought so too because they sat in the top of a nearby tree to wait. The raccoon certainly wasn’t going anywhere.

Every night when I get home from work this joyful scene is what greets me; thousands of beautiful little moss spore capsules glowing in the afternoon sun. One day last week I decided I wanted to know more about these little friends, so even though mosses can be a challenge to identify I started trying to find out their name.

Here is one of the spore capsules and its stalk. If I have identified it correctly by April the capsules will turn a light brown and their pointed tip (operculum) will fall off so their spores can be released to the wind through a fringe of teeth (peristome) at the end of the capsule. I’ve watched them over time and they started out straight up and thin, like a toothpick.

I think that this moss might be one called baby tooth moss (Plagiomnium cuspidatum,) though I’m still far from sure. One reason I’m having such a hard time is its size. What you see here is so small I can’t even think of anything to compare it to. I probably took 30 photos to get just this one of its leaves and you can still barely see the tiny teeth that should line the upper half of each leaf.

I teased a tiny piece of this moss out of the pack and brought it inside, thinking that I could get a better shot of it but I found that it started drying out instantly, and the leaves started curling into their dry state, so I can’t see any of the tiny teeth I hoped to see. What this photo does show is how the stalk that supports the spore capsule comes right up out of the center of the leaves. I’ve read that it should have a tiny foot where it meets the leaves but I can’t see it here. If you know what this tiny little moss is I’d love to hear from you.

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive. ~Eleanora Duse

Thanks for stopping in. Take care everyone, and be safe.

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1. American Bittersweet Berries

I don’t see many American bittersweet vines (Celastrus scandens), so I was happy to see this one. The invasive Oriental bittersweet is far more common in this area and is quickly outpacing the natives, mainly because its berries are more enticing to birds and its seeds germinate much faster. The easiest way to tell American bittersweet from Oriental is by the location of the berries on the vine; American bittersweet berries grow on the ends of the vines and Oriental bittersweet berries grow all along them. While both vines climb trees and shrubs, American bittersweet is less likely to strangle its host like Oriental bittersweet will.

 2. Black Eyed Rosette Lichen aka Physcia phaea

I’ve been seeing these very small lichens all over the trees and even though they all seem to be fruiting at the moment, I’ve struggled with their identity. With the help of the book Lichens of North America I think I can finally say that they are black eyed rosette lichens (Physcia phaea). At least with about 80% certainty. They are very common; in fact they are so common that they are one of those things that you see so much of, you stop paying attention. This winter I noticed that they all had fruiting bodies (Apothecia), which are the tiny black disks with gray margins, and that got me interested because I had never seen them produce spores. Why so many lichens do it in winter is still a mystery to me.

3. Boreal Oak Moss aka Evernia mesomorpha

This beard lichen and the dead tree it was on looked so ancient that I had to get a photo. ‘Methuselah’ was what I thought as I clicked the shutter. I think this is boreal oak moss (Evernia mesomorpha) because of its antler like shape and because of the way that it looks like it has been here since the dawn of time.

According to many scientists it might be possible, because many believe that lichens never really die. Even if you chop one to pieces the pieces just make more lichens. They have even survived 2 weeks in the vacuum of space and grew on like nothing had ever happened when they returned to earth. Some believe that lichens have the best chance of any earth bound life form of colonizing other planets.

4. Highbush Blueberry Buds

I took a few shots of these bright red highbush blueberry buds (Vaccinium corymbosum) and was surprised when I saw what the camera did to the shadows on the snow in the background. They came out looking like studio portraits, and very patriotic ones at that.

5. Hemlock Bark

I’ve been paying attention this winter to the way the cold can make some lichens change color and how white pine sap turns blue in the cold, but I’ve also noticed that cold also enhances some colors and makes them more vibrant than they are in the warmer months. I know this old eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) well since it grows near my house but, though most hemlocks have a red tint to their bark, I never noticed the deep red on this tree’s bark until this winter even though it must have always been there. Now I’ve got to remember to watch it and see if the color fades as we warm up.

6. Hemlock with Zig Zag Scar

I wanted to visit another eastern hemlock to see if its zig zag scar had changed any since last year. It hadn’t.  I never have been able to figure out for sure what would have caused this scar, but it comes right up out of the ground, travels for about 3 feet up the trunk and stops. It’s a very deep scar so the wound was made quite a while ago.

7. Hole in Pine Tree

I thought I saw a bird peeking out of this hole in an old white pine but it turned out to be just a clump of leaves and pine needles. But how did those leaves and pine needles get in there? Maybe it’s a woodpecker’s nest.

8. Wisteria

I don’t know if a bird or a human planted this old wisteria vine, but it has grown up into the crown of a tree just off the parking lot of an elementary school. It has been there for quite a while and flowers beautifully each year, full of very fragrant white and blue flowers that hang down from the tree and make it look as if the tree is flowering.

9. Wisteria in Fence

It has also grown through the school’s chain link fence; so much so that it’s hard to tell where the vine ends and the fence begins. Of course its new growth sprawls all over the place like wisterias will do, but since the vine isn’t technically on school property there is only so much that can be done. Each year the maintenance people at the school chop off everything they can reach but of course the wisteria just says ‘thank you very much’ to that treatment and grows even more vigorously. It’s hard to win when you’re doing battle with a well-established wisteria.

10. Wisteria Buds

I stopped to take a photo of the wisteria’s beautiful dark buds, which remind me of those of black ash.

 11. Snowmelt

This photo might not look like much to the uninitiated but to the winter weary it’s like a dream come true. Each spring, ever so slowly, the snowbanks begin to retreat back from the road edges and little strips of grass appear and start to green up quickly. Seeing it happen is akin to taking a good dose of spring tonic, and it gives us our second wind.

12. Sap Bucket

This is the newfangled way to tap maple trees; at least for smaller operations. The large maple syrup producers have the plastic tubing strung from tree to tree with vacuum pumps at the end that keep the sap moving and literally sucks it out of the trees. The sap should be running this week; it’s getting warm enough now.

13. Skunk Cabbage Swamp

I went to the place where skunk cabbages grow but the snow was still too deep to see any. Since they can raise their internal temperature above that of the surrounding air through a process called thermogenesis, I’m sure they are melting the snow around themselves as I write this. If the warm weather keeps up I might see them within a week or so.

 14. Daffodils in Snow

I’ve never heard of daffodils having thermogenic capabilities but there they were, coming up through the snow. Maybe they’re in as much of a hurry to see spring as the rest of us are.

 15. Daffodils

It sure is nice to be able to see and smell some dirt again. There are other signs of spring that I couldn’t show here, like the feel of the warm breezes out of the south or the sound of ice falling off the roof and the constant drip of what doesn’t fall. Skunks are just coming out of hibernation and the Boston Red Sox are back on TV playing spring training baseball games, so it really does seem like spring is finally on its way.

Science has never drummed up quite as effective a tranquilizing agent as a sunny spring day. ~W. Earl Hall

Thanks for coming by.

 

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