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Posts Tagged ‘Liverwort’

1. Hoar Frost

I thought the colors of the wet leaves and tiny feathers of hoar frost in this puddle were very beautiful. Hoar frost forms when twigs or other things coated in warm water vapor meet cold air. I’ve been to this place before and the water here never seems to freeze. It seeps in a small rivulet all year round and sometimes even feels warm to the touch. That could be an illusion though, because when the air temperature hovers just above zero many things feel warm.

 2. Goldenrod Seed Head

Goldenrod lived up to its name when a ray of golden sunshine fell on it. There seem to be plenty of seeds left for the birds but berries and other fruits are going fast. I’ve read that in cold like we’re having now they look for what has the highest fat content first.

3. Burning Bush Berries

There are still berries on the invasive burning bushes (Euonymus alatus) near the river. Birds seem to wait until spring to eat these. Even though they don’t seem to be a first choice birds sure do spread the seeds around and there are large swaths along the riverbank where almost nothing but burning bush grows. They have shaded out and overcome almost all the native plants in that area.

4. Blue Ashuelot

The Ashuelot River taught me that if I took a photo of it with the sun over my shoulder it would be very blue and on this day it didn’t disappoint. I was standing on a bridge when I took this and the river on the other side of the bridge, just a few feet away but with the sun in front of me, was gunmetal gray and looked completely different.

5. Mallard Pecking a Stone

Even though she had to have seen me standing on the bridge a female mallard came floating downstream, quacking loudly. I watched her dive several times and then she swam over to a rock and started pecking it, like a woodpecker pecks at a tree. It was a loud enough tapping to echo through the woods and I couldn’t figure out what the attraction was until I saw that she held an acorn in her beak and was trying to crack it open on the rock. I’ve read that ducks eat acorns but I’ve never heard of them cracking them open on rocks. Maybe this one was smarter than your average duck.

 6. Liverwort on Maple

When it gets cold dark, almost black spots appear on the bark of trees. They are really there all the time but are kind of a reddish color and not quite so noticable at other times of year when there are so many other things to see. Those who think they’ve never seen a liverwort might want to stop and take a closer look at these dark blotches because they are Frullania liverworts, one of the few liverworts that can thrive in dry places.

7. Liverwort on Maple

There are about 800 species of Frullania liverworts and many grow as epiphytes on the bark of trees and shrubs where the humidity is high. Epiphytic plants take nothing from the host plants they grow on, so this liverwort does no harm to trees. Tree cutters on the other hand might find that they itch a bit after handling logs covered with this liverwort because it can cause something called woodcutter’s eczema. This eczema, called phytodermatitis (basically an itchy rash,) haa been seen in loggers and others who regularly handle logs or cord wood with this liverwort on them. It doesn’t sound like anything serious and usually disappears in two or three weeks once the person stops handling logs, but how do you get a logger to stop handling logs? It sound like they’d better wear gloves and long sleeves.

8. Vole Tracks-2

Vole tracks in my yard made it look as if the snow had been zipped up. Look closely and you’ll see that this pattern echos that found in the frullania liverworts in the previous photo.Nature seems to use many of the same patterns over and over, but in very different ways.

9. Lichen Garden

A pine tree fell and as I looked it’s branches over I was astounded by the number of different mosses and lichens that had been growing way up in the topmost part of it. In the book Gathering Moss author Robin Wall Kimmerer writes about a field expiriment involving chipmunks and sticky paper. When the chipmunks ran across the sticky paper whatever was on their  paws stuck to the paper, and she found that many mosses travel by way of chipmunk paws. It’s one explanation for how mosses can grow so high up in trees, and I wonder if it applies to lichens as well. Of course both lichens and mosses release spores that are borne on the wind, so that’s another way that they must use to find their way into the tree tops.

10. Pixie Cup Lichen

Pixie cup lichens are squamulose lichens with fruticose fruiting structures called podetia. Squamulose means they have scale like lobes that often overlap like shingles and the green leafy bits in the above photo are the squamules. The parts that look like tiny golf tees are called podetia. Podetia means a stalk like growth which bears the apothecia, or fruiting bodies. Finally, frucitose means a lichen with bushy, vertical growth. Since this example has squamules even growing inside the tiny cups it must be a pebbled pixie cup lichen (Cladonia pyxidata). Pixie cups grow on the ground and rotting logs and stumps. Some also grow in stone. No, I don’t carry all of this information around in my head; it all comes from the book Lichens of North America.

11. Oak Tree

I think most of you who read this blog know that I’m colorblind. That’s why I didn’t trust my own eyes when I drove by this oak tree and saw that it was full of pink leaves.  Pink leaves? It can’t be, they have to be brown, I thought.

12. Oak Leaves

Imagine my surprise when my color finding software looked at these leaves and saw salmon pink in both dark and light shades. Maybe I can trust my own eyes after all. Of corse, the color finding software doesn’t say that every leaf is pink-it just sees pink here and there. It also sees orange, several shades of brown including tan and chocolate, green, gray and Navaho white. What if I were to take up a paintbrush and paint an oak tree with all of those colors in its leaves-would you all think I had been out in the sun too long?

13. Shadows on Snow

The oak tree with pink leaves reminds me of the time my art teacher in high school, a wonderful woman named Norma Safford, told me that snow shadows should be blue. I argued that they should be gray because that’s what I saw. It was photography that finally showed me that Mrs. Safford had been right all along. Somehow my vision has been corrected in that area at least, because I now see blue snow shadows in person as well as in photos.

 14. Ashuelot Falls

The setting sun tried to turn the Ashuelot River falls to molten gold one afternoon but old man winter wasn’t having any of that and he won the battle.

15. River Ice

It always pays to slow down and take a closer look at nature, even when all you see is ice. I couldn’t even begin to count how many times I’ve thought Huh, would you look at that.

Outdoors is where the great mystery lies, so going into nature should be a searching and humbling experience, like going to church. ~Skip Whitcomb

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Last weekend we had a beautiful warm, sunny Saturday so I decided to visit one of my favorite places, an old railroad cut in Westmoreland that in winter becomes a cold, hard world of ice and stone.

 1. Ice Canyon

There was so much snow that I wasn’t sure if I’d see any living thing other than trees. I was surprised to find the wind blowing here because the day was calm. It is always at least 10 degrees cooler here than the surrounding area, winter or summer, and now I’m beginning to wonder if the place doesn’t create its own wind as well because, as I think back to previous trips, it always seems to be blowing here.

 2. Ice Climbers

In the deepest, most shaded part of this man made canyon a group of ice climbers were training. I’ve recently learned that the New Hampshire branch of the Appalachian Mountain Club holds ice climbing clinics here and it looked like that was what was going on. I didn’t bother them and let them have the ice to themselves. Ice was not what I was here for. 

 3. Ice Formations

Still, it’s impossible to ignore the ice formations. With ice like this it’s no wonder that they come here to train. I saw some rotten ice but I’m sure they know enough about what they do to avoid it.

 4. Mosses

This is what I came for-to see something green and growing. Mosses, lichens, liverworts and an incredible assortment of ferns and other plants have grown undisturbed in this place for nearly 2 centuries. I think someone could easily spend a lifetime trying to identify them all.

 5. Mountain Haircap Moss

This is a very wet place, with groundwater constantly running down the rock faces, and the mosses love it. This mountain haircap moss (Polystrichastrum pallidisetum) still had a few closed spore capsules (sporophytes) meaning that it’s busy trying to cover even more stone ledges.

 6. Fallen Tree 

This tree that has fallen and spanned the gap is my signal to start looking for liverworts, but as I looked at the ice covered walls it was hard to imagine anything growing in such harsh conditions.

 7. Canyon Walls

Fortunately in places the sun warms the stone enough to keep the walls clear of ice and this is where many plants choose to grow.

8. Velvet Shank Mushroom aka Flammulina velutipes

I saw a few clusters of velvet shank mushrooms (Flammulina velutipes) growing on a dying American elm. This is a true “winter mushroom” that fruits from September to March and can live through being frozen solid. When young velvet shanks are ivory colored but age to reddish brown. They are usually dark in the center of the cap and lighter colored toward the edges. These examples were no bigger in diameter than a nickel, but I’ve seen them reach 3 inches.

 9. Velvet Shank Mushroom Gills

Velvet shank gets its common name from the velvety feel of its stem, which is lighter near the cap. Jerry from the Quiet Solo Pursuits blog thought of the idea of using a telescoping mirror to see the underside of mushrooms instead of kneeling in the snow. I bought one and it works great but this one was high enough on the tree so I didn’t need to use it. The mirror idea might be good for those who have trouble kneeling.

 10. Narrow Mushroom Headed Liverwort

The first liverwort I saw was the narrow mushroom-headed liverwort (Preissia quadrata). This liverwort can be either male or female, or have can have both male and female reproductive structures on a single plant. Fruiting structures are short, umbrella shaped, spore producing growths that usually appear in March. The examples in the photo were just starting to grow fruiting bodies, which are the 5 or 6 little bumps that can be seen on the body (thallus) of the liverwort. I’ve circled one in white to make it easier to see. These will rise on short stalks before opening like an umbrella. Male reproductive structures will have flat tops and look like small mushrooms and females will look like tiny palm trees. I hope to be there to see them.

11. Snakeskin Liverwort

The snakeskin liverwort (Conocephalum conicum) reproduces in much the same way as the narrow mushroom-headed liverwort, but I didn’t find any getting ready to do so just yet. This is also called great scented liverwort and I remembered to smell it this time. I was astonished by its fresh, clean scent that immediately reminded me of air fresheners. It was kind of lemony, kind of spicy, but in the end impossible to accurately describe because I’ve never smelled anything exactly like it. It’s another interesting facet of an interesting and very unusual plant.

 12. Wild Strawberry 

Wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana) was a plant I didn’t expect to see growing on these rocks in February but there it was, still attached to its parent by its runner (stolon).

 13. Railroad Shack 

It looks like the old lineman’s shack is going to make it through another winter even though half of the roof, most of the floor, and most of the siding boards are gone. Many were taken to be used as bridges across the drainage ditches on either side of the rail bed and they can still be seen here and there along the trail.

14. Railroad Shack Graffiti

I don’t know when it was built but according to the graffiti on its back wall the shack will see at least its 90th anniversary next year. My father was born and grew up in this town and I can’t help but wonder if he ever saw the inside of this building. He was 18 in 1925.

15. Large Ice Farmation

It’s going to be a while before all of the ice has melted in this place but spring is happening, even here.

There is beauty, heartbreaking beauty, everywhere. ~ Edward Abbey

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1. Brickyard Brook

Recently, after seeing a great example of a liverwort on the Plants Amaze Me blog I wondered why I never saw such things. After thinking about it I realized that, just like anything else in nature, if I wasn’t seeing liverworts it was because I wasn’t looking in the right places. Since they like to grow where they never dry out completely I headed for a local brook to see if there were any there. Leafy liverworts look kind of like seaweed, so I didn’t think I’d have too much trouble finding at least one example.

2. Foliose Lichen

One of the first things I spotted was this foliose lichen, which I think might be called rag bag lichen (Platismatia glauca). It was growing on a tree limb and was very beautiful. It is one that I don’t think I’ve seen before.

3. Foliose Lichen

I wanted you to be able to see the beautiful growth patterns in the center of the foliose lichen shown in the previous photo, so this is a cropped version. This could also be crumpled rag lichen (Platismatia tuckermannii).

 4. Lemon Drops

I saw several examples of lemon drops here and there along the brook. Lemon drops (Bisporella citrina) are sac fungi that are very small and very hard to photograph. They are disc shaped when small and eventually become saucer shaped. Sometimes they fruit in the hundreds on fallen hardwood logs. They are one of the easiest fungi to see in the woods, but because they are so hard to photograph I usually take many from several different angles.

 5. Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) grew on a rotting hardwood stump. These white mushrooms are also easily seen. Their caps overlap like shingles and it always looks like they are crowding each other, trying to grow as close as possible. They have a very short stem that is sometimes absent. Tiny worms called nematodes live on plant and fungal tissue but not on oyster mushrooms. Scientists discovered in 1986 that oyster mushrooms “exude extracellular toxins that stun the worm, whereupon the mycelium invades its body through its orifices.” What this means is that oyster mushrooms are actually carnivorous. They also consume bacteria (Pseudomonas and Agrobacterium) in order to get nitrogen and protein. It’s like something out of a science fiction novel.

 6. Pool in Brickyard Brook

There are several large pools along this stretch of brook. These are the kinds of places where I love to just sit for a while, listening to the woods. On this day there was a large bird circling overhead and making a very strange sound that sounded like a cross between the croak of a great blue heron and the caw of a crow. It’s a sound I don’t remember ever hearing and though I’ve listened to many bird calls online, I can’t find the exact sound that the bird made.Though there aren’t many leaves on the trees in this photo there were still enough in the canopy to prevent me from seeing what kind of bird it was.

 7. Moss Mnium punctatum

I thought that this might be a liverwort but it turned out to be a moss called Mnium punctatum. Though some mosses like this one can resemble vascular plants, mosses have no xylem and phloem, or vascular tissue. This is why mosses are classified as Bryophytes-plants that have no roots, leaves, or stem. They also have no flowers or seeds and reproduce through spores. Since mosses have no roots they need to grow in areas with adequate moisture. This one was growing in soil that was dripping wet.

 8. Rock Covered With Liverwort Bazzania trilobata

Something about the moss on this stone didn’t look quite right.

 9. Liverwort Bazzania trilobata

That’s because it wasn’t moss at all-it was a liverwort that looked like a mass of centipedes. Though not the one I was looking for this liverwort, called greater whip wort (Bazzania trilobata), was interesting and had a beauty all its own. It is quite small-each “leaf” is only about 1/8 inch (3mm) wide. The way the leaves hang down gives the shoots rounded backs and make them appear insect like. They almost look as if they’ve been braided.

 10. Liverwort Bazzania trilobata

The “trilobata” part of the scientific name comes from the way each leaf ends in 3 lobes or notches. This characteristic tells you that you have the correct liverwort when trying to identify it. Like mosses liverworts are bryophytes and have no roots. Unlike mosses liverworts won’t stand anything but pure, clean water. Even chlorinated water can harm them, so if you see liverworts growing in your area you know the water is good and clean.

 11. Ledge Face

Since I didn’t have any luck finding the liverwort that I was after at the stream I decided to try another place where stone ledges stay wet from dripping groundwater. They are also covered with colorful lichens, as the photo shows. These looked like orange sulfur fire dot lichens (Caloplaca flavovirescens) but this was liverwort day, so the lichens will have to wait for another time.

 12. Liverwort Conocephalum conicum 2

I hadn’t walked very far when I saw this mass of plants growing on the ledges. It was obviously not moss, but was it what I was looking for?

13. Liverwort Conocephalum conicum

Yes it was-the very reptilian liverwort called great scented liverwort (Conocephalum conicum), also called snakeskin liverwort, for obvious reasons. I didn’t know it at the time but if you crush this liverwort it is supposed to have a very unique, spicy scent. The reason it looks so snake like is because of the way its pores and air chambers are outlined on its surfaces. It is the only liverwort with this feature, so it is very easy to identify. In my opinion it is one of the most interesting and beautiful things found in nature, and it was well worth searching for.

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

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I recently hiked around a local pond called Goose pond. It was cool that morning and mist was rising off the warm water. I didn’t see a single goose, but they will be here soon to wander through the cornfields looking for stray kernels. If you hike at a normal pace it takes about an hour to get around the pond, but it usually takes me 3 hours or more. I have to go slow if I want to see things like what I have posted here. This is usually quite a busy place with plenty of hikers, but not on this morning. I think it was too early. I saw quite a few lichens at the pond. This reindeer lichen (Cladonia rangiferina) grows in areas that are quite sunny and dry. This is a fructicose lichen, meaning it is shrubby looking.  These lichens grow on the ground rather than on trees or stones and are slow growing. The small one pictured could be decades old. In parts of Europe these lichen are eaten by reindeer. This is another fructicose lichen called beard lichen (Usnea.) It grows on trees instead of on the ground and is very common in pines and hemlocks in our area. It’s sometimes called old man’s beard. Most lichens are very sensitive to air pollution and will not grow where the air isn’t clean. Fringed wrinkle lichens (Tuckermannopsis Americana) always remind me of leaf lettuce. This type of lichen is foliose, or leaf like. These are also quite common in this area-on conifers especially-and can be quite colorful. When a large pine or hemlock falls the upper branches are often covered with this type of lichen. Our rocks are very old here. I took a picture of this one because it looked like it had been folded before it had fully cooled however many millions of years ago. It was covered in moss and lichens. I’ve been watching this blue lichen for over a year now. When I showed it in this blog last year I said it was purple, but my color finding software has corrected that mistake. This type of lichen is known as a Crustose or crusty lichen because it forms a flat crust that can’t be lifted or peeled off of whatever it is growing on. In my experience blue lichens are quite rare.Rock Tripe (Umbilicaria mammulata) is foliose lichen that likes to grow on boulders that are near water. I found several of these on this hike and they were all quite small. This one wasn’t much bigger than a dime. Rock tripe is edible and has saved the lives of people who were lost and starving in the past.This spot of yellow cructose lichen was also about the size of a dime and grew in full sun among mosses and other lichens. I think this might be a sulphur fire dot lichen (Caloplaca flavoirescens,) but I’m not 100% sure.  I don’t see too many yellow lichens.Orange is another color that I don’t see much of in the world of lichens, but I’m convinced that they can be just about any color we can imagine. The book Lichens of the North Woods by Joe Walewski lists only two or three orange lichens and none look like this one. I’d have to call it an orange cructose lichen, even though up close it looks like somebody spilled some type of chemical on this stone. This cructose lichen is called tile lichen (Lecidea tesselata) and it grows on stone in full sun. It is described as a “chalky white or blue gray surface forming circular patches with sunken black disks.” The only thing about my identification that bothers me is that the black disks are not sunken, but actually stand proud of the surrounding surface. You have to zoom in quite close to see this. The chances of my finding a single stone for a second time are very slim unless it is a large boulder that is easy to remember. I took a picture of this stone because I liked its colors and grain patterns, but I didn’t see the small dark spot in the center until I looked at the photo.  As it turns out this dark spot is midnight blue, according to my color finding software. I don’t really know if this is a lichen or a mineral embedded in the stone but midnight blue is a rare color indeed. Azurite and malachite can be deep blue, so it is possible that it is a mineral and not a lichen. The trouble is I don’t remember where the stone is so I can take a second look with a magnifying glass. I’m fairly certain that this is an example of a liverwort rather than a lichen because it was growing in the wet, saturated sand at the water’s edge. A liverwort is a flowerless, spore producing plant. Liverworts like wet places but I haven’t seen too many lichens growing in wet sand.  A closer look shows a “vein” (nerve) running down the center of each leave and lichens don’t have this feature that I know of. Liverworts get their name from early herbalists who thought that some of these plants resembled a human liver.

The Wilderness holds answers to more questions than we have yet learned to ask ~ Nancy Wynne Newhall

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