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Posts Tagged ‘Dog Lichen’

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

Thanks for coming by.

 

 

 

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I’d heard about a very special place in Antrim, New Hampshire, a town that lies about 20 miles northwest of Keene. The place is called Loveren’s Mill, named after Josiah Loveren, who in 1864 became the third owner of a combined saw and grist mill originally built in 1798. The mill changed hands several times until it finally closed in 1920. It isn’t the mill site that I went to see however-there is an Atlantic cedar swamp on the property that pollen tests have shown is at least 4000 years old, and most likely much older.

1.Trail Sign

The Atlantic white cedars (Chamaecyparis thyoides) here aren’t cedars at all-they are white cypress-but they are also very rare and appear in just a few pockets along the Atlantic coast. One reason they are so rare is because they grow so slowly, in some cases taking hundreds of years to reach a foot in height.

 2. Stone Foundation

I don’t know if this old stone foundation was for a mill, house, or barn but it sits close to the north branch of the Contoocook River.

 3. Contoocook

The Contoocook river is notable as the only river in New Hampshire to run north instead of south. This photo was taken near the site of the mill, which stood a little way upriver on its far side.

 4. Plant Covered Boulder

 As you move away from the river deeper into the woods you can feel that this is an ancient place. Every stump, boulder and log is a garden, covered with mosses, liverworts, ferns, lichens and fungi.

5. Boardwalk

 Before too long, off the main trial to the right, a 200 foot long boardwalk leads through the spongy peat mosses into a grove of cedars.  Atlantic white cedar swamps are rare in New Hampshire and are considered globally rare as well. This swamp is unusual because of its 1,083 foot elevation and by the way the surrounding hills funnel cold air down into it. Because it stays so cool it supports plant life that is usually found only in boreal forests much farther north. I’ve heard that in spring the trails are lined with pink ladies slippers and native pink azaleas. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a great variety of orchids here, along with sundews, pitcher, and other plants that like cool, acidic water.

 6. Cedar Swamp

You don’t want to step off the boardwalk because you would probably sink into the floating mat of mosses up to your knees if you did-the trees in this photo are growing in standing water. They can’t stand much fluctuation in the water level, and their survival here shows that things haven’t changed much over the millennia. Still, I have heard that the boardwalks are sometimes under water in spring from snow melt, so it must fluctuate some.

 7. Cedar Fruiting

Fruiting cones show that the cedars which are actually cypress must be happy. The flat, scaly leaves and grayish, peeling bark are common to both cedar and cypress, so it is easy to confuse the two. Though many cypress are deciduous, these Chamaecyparis thyoides are evergreen, which makes identification even more difficult.

 8. Larch Branch

Eastern larch (Larix laricina) is another tree that prefers wet, swampy ground and they do quite well here in the swamp. They like to be cool and can stand temperatures down to -85 degrees F. Other trees found here include balsam fir (Abies balsamea) and red spruce (Picea rubens) and like the cypress, these trees are usually found much farther north in boreal forests.

 9. Fern Moss aka Thuidium delicatulum

There were so many different mosses growing here that I might have to do a post on just mosses. This beautiful thing is one of the fern mosses called delicate fern moss (Thuidium delicatulum). It is very lacy and fragile looking and I don’t see it too often. This moss forms large mats and will grow in sun or shade as long as the soil is moist. It is available commercially for moss gardens.

 10. Dog Lichen (Peltigera polydactyla)

I saw many lichens in the area, but I didn’t expect to see this dog lichen (Peltigera) growing on a moss covered stump. I should have gotten a few photos of its underside-that would have made species identification easier. I’ve never seen it before so I’ll have to re-visit it to be sure about its identity. It grows right beside the trail so it shouldn’t be too hard to find again.

 11. Dog Lichen Apothecia

This is one of the fruiting bodies (apothecia) of the dog lichen in the previous photo. I’ve heard three different stories of why this is called “dog” lichen. One says that the lichen itself is shaped like a dog. Another says spiky projections on the lichens look like dog teeth, and the third says that the apothecia curl into a shape that resembles a dog’s ear, which you can see happening in this photo.

 12. Worm Like Lichenized Fungi (Multiclavula mucida)

These greenish white growths were the size of toothpicks. I found them growing on a debarked log and as it turned out that is an important identifying characteristic. At least, I’ve identified them as much as I’m able to. Depending on whom you ask these growths are either fungi or lichens.  One web site says they are lichenized fungi, so I’ve decide to go with that. Their name is Multiclavula mucida, and the mucid part of the scientific name means slimy. That’s also important, because these lichenized fungi always grow in association with green algae and the algae is what makes the log in the photo look so slimy. I’ve never seen these before.

 13. Creeping Snowberry 2

Something else I’ve never seen is the evergreen creeping snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula). With no flowers it was hard to identify, but I’m fairly certain that the small trailing plant with alternate leaves in the above photo is it. This plant is classified as a prostrate shrub in the same family as American wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), which is commonly called teaberry or checkerberry. It has greenish white flowers in spring which are followed by round white berries that are twice the size of the leaves. The berries are said to taste like wintergreen and the crushed leaves smell like wintergreen. This plant is also called Moxie Plum because it is thought to have been an ingredient in the original Moxie soft drink, along with gentian root. Native Americans had many uses for this plant.

 14. Alboleptonia sericella Mushrooms

These small white leptonia  (Alboleptonia sericella) mushrooms were very small and hard to photograph. The largest one is about the same diameter as a pea. I can’t think of anything to compare the smallest one to, but it was tiny. These mushrooms have pink spores and some mushrooms in this family are a beautiful midnight blue.

 15. Contoocook Pool

There were many places where the river widened into pools that would be nice to sit beside for a while, but I didn’t have the time this day. That doesn’t bother me because I know I’ll be coming back in the spring. On just a short 3 mile hike I saw 6 or 7 plants that I’ve never seen before, and that amazes me enough to make re-visiting this place a top priority for next season. I get excited just thinking about what plants I might see from spring through summer in this fascinating place.

As you sit on the hillside, or lie prone under the trees of the forest, or sprawl wet-legged on the shingly beach of a mountain stream, the great door that does not look like a door opens. ~ Stephen Graham

Thanks for coming by.

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The city of Keene, New Hampshire sits on an ancient lake bed surrounded by hills. One of these is west hill, which I climbed recently. In the late 1800s the Colony family of Keene owned several large parcels of land on west hill. Today the land, called the Horatio Colony Preserve, is open to the public.

The road seen here was laid out in 1763, long before the Colony family owned the land. In the 1800s when they owned the land the road was still used by horse drawn carriages but now it slowly dwindles down to a narrow, very steep foot path. I read a posting on line that said the path “meandered” to the top, and I guess it does-if you call an almost vertical climb a meander.

This cabin was built in 1937 by Horatio’s grandson, also named Horatio, as a place to write. Horatio the younger wrote several books, including books of poetry and essays. 

This sign mentions the tip top house at the top of the hill, which was my goal on this day. 

I hadn’t traveled far past the cabin when I saw that this large white pine had blown down. This root ball was huge-probably 12 feet across-but was also very shallow. It didn’t leave much of a depression when it fell like you would expect.  That’s most likely due to the very moist soil found on this hill. When soil is constantly moist a plant doesn’t have to send its roots too deep to search for moisture. White Pine trees (Pinus strobus) often have a tap root like a dandelion that can extend as much as 12 feet into the soil, but this one didn’t. 

It doesn’t take long for mushrooms to start growing on fallen trees.  I think these were oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus.) 

This toothed mushroom (Hericium americanum) was quite high up on this standing tree. 

These wolf fart puffballs (Lycoperdon pyriforme ) were the last fungi I saw for a while because the forest changed from relatively open canopy hardwood to more dense hemlock. For a while it was so dark that very little grew there. Though we think of mushrooms as lovers of darkness even they seem to need some light to grow. The name ‘wolf fart’ is from the Greek “lyco” which means “wolf” and “perdon” which means “to break wind.” The person who named them had a strange sense of humor, apparently. 

Higher up the hill the gloom began to subside and I saw some dog lichen (Peltigera canina) growing on mossy tree trunks. Dog lichen is a foliose or leaf-like lichen. It is called dog lichen because its fruiting bodies look like dog’s teeth. It was used to treat rabies in the middle ages for the same reason.  This looks a lot like some liverworts, but doesn’t have a vein (nerve) in the center of each “leaf.”

Just to the right and quite out of focus is a beech drop plant (Epifagus americana .) I saw many of these on this hill but didn’t get a decent picture of any of them.  Beech drops are parasitic on the roots of beech trees. 

I came to a huge granite outcropping that was covered with rock tripe (Umbilicaria mammulata,) which is another large foliose lichen. I’ve never seen so much rock tripe in one spot. Usually it grows on boulders near lakes and ponds but in this case the constant drip of water down the rock face makes this spot a good home for it and mosses. 

A closer look at some rock tripe (Umbilicaria mammulata.) 

This view is one reason to climb to the top of the hill. This looks to the north with Surry Mountain in the distance. Surry Mountain is known for its quartz crystals and once had a gold mine on its summit. West hill had a lead mine. 

Goldenrod grows in what’s left of Horatio the elder’s Tip Top House. The stone foundation and some cast iron pieces are about all that is left. 

Heather is the last thing I expected to see at the top of this hill, but it was in full bloom and was beautiful. I don’t know what variety this is but I know it is heather because heather blooms in the fall. Heaths bloom in the late winter or early spring. Heather is not native so someone must have carried this plant here.

Two kinds of reindeer lichen grow over the boulders in quite large colonies. I think this might be gray reindeer lichen (Cladonia rangiferina.

I think this one is called woodland reindeer lichen (Cladonia arbuscula.) Its growth habit isn’t as tight and rounded as the previous lichen and it is much lighter in color. 

In my experience in the New Hampshire woods, this fern is rarely seen, though it is supposed to be abundant. I think this is Polypodium virginianum, called rock polypody. The polypody fern family includes about 1000 species but only two of them are native to the northeast-rock polypody and Appalachian polypody (Polypodium appalachianum.) This fern is evergreen and looks and feels much like the evergreen Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides,)  but the odd way that the leaflets are aligned on either side of the stem quickly shows that it isn’t that fern.  There were very large colonies of this fern scattered here and there, mostly growing on boulders. Thoreau liked them and said that “Fresh and cheerful communities of the polypody form a lustrous mantle over rocky surfaces in the early spring.” 

Of course there were turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) because I see them wherever I go. Now that the underbrush is thinning again these are becoming much easier to see. Last year they were more blue / purple and this year they are mostly shades of brown. I want to watch them closely this fall and see if cold affects their color.

That’s it for this half day trip up one side of West Hill and down the other. I can’t wait to return next spring-I have a feeling that many hard to find wildflowers might grow here. Thanks for stopping in.

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves ~John Muir

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