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Posts Tagged ‘Marginal Wood Fern’

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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1. Stream Ice

This year winter seems determined to overstay its welcome and has brought record low temperatures and record high snowfall amounts. Even though we’ve had mini thaws where the temperature rose to 40 degrees for a day or two, most of the time we have been well below freezing during the day and below zero at night. Because of that the snow that has fallen is melting very slowly.

 2. Melting Snow

The snow in the woods is knee deep, which makes going rough. I recently bought some gaiters to keep my pant legs dry and make life a little easier, but another good storm will mean snowshoes for sure. One way to make it easier to get around is to look for south facing spots like that in the photo above where the snow has pulled back some. These are great places to look for mosses and other plants that stay green throughout winter.

 3. Fern on Ice

Ferns might look fragile but evergreen ferns like this intermediate wood fern (Dryopteris intermedia) aren’t. This one was growing in the midst of an ice sheet. There aren’t many ferns that are evergreen in New England so winter is a good time to hone one’s identification skills by getting to know them. This one is very similar to the marginal wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis). Both the words “intermediate” and “marginal” in the fern’s common names refer to the placement of the spore bearing structures (sori) found on the undersides of the leaves.

 4. Evergreen Christmas Fern

Another fern commonly seen in winter is the evergreen Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides). This one is easy to identify by its leaflets that resemble little Christmas stockings. The narrow fine teeth that line the edges of the leaflets and the short leaf stalks can also be seen in this photo. When seen at this time of year it is obvious that evergreen Christmas fern has had its branches flattened by the weight of the snow because they splay out all over the ground. Once new fronds emerge these will brown and die off.

 5. White Poplar Bark

Winter is also a good time to learn how to identify trees by their bark since there is no foliage in the way. A tree with light to dark, mottled gray bark with diamond shaped marks in it is a young white poplar (Populus alba). The diamond shapes are the tree’s lenticels, which are air pores. The bark on white poplars can be very white at times like a birch, but it is usually light gray when young. Older trees have darker gray, furrowed bark at their bases.  White poplar was introduced from central Europe and Asia in 1748. It can now be found in every state except Alaska, Arizona, and Hawaii.

 6. Hedwigia cillata Moss 

Mosses are easy to find in winter if you look at logs and stones where the snow has retreated. This Hedwigia ciliata moss with its white leaf tips is usually found growing on boulders and is very easy to identify. Common names include Hedwig’s fringeleaf Moss, Hedwig’s rock moss, and Fringed Hoar-moss. Johann Hedwig was a German botanist who studied mosses in the eighteenth century. He is called the father of bryology and lends his name to this and many other mosses.

 7. Slender Tail Moss aka anomodon attenuatus

This moss has never appeared on this blog in this dry state before. Long-leaved tail moss (Anomodon attenuates) is also called tree apron moss because it is quite common on the lower part of tree trunks. When wet its leaves stand out from the stem and it takes on a more feathery appearance and looks completely different than it does in the photo. This is a good example of why serious moss hunters do so after it rains.

 8. Moss aka Dicranoweissia cirrata

This is another first appearance on this blog. Curly thatch moss (Dicranoweissia cirrata) grows on rotting logs and stumps and is very small, with leaves that curl when dry. After a rain its leaves will straighten out and this moss will look very different than it does in this photo, which is why I’ve found it so hard to identify. Tiny growths on the leaves called gemmae are intended to break off to perpetuate the species.

 9. White Cushion Moss

White cushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum) can appear silvery, white, bluish green or grayish green but it always forms a thick cushion and stands out from the mosses that might surround it. It likes plenty of water and shade and grows on rotting logs or on stone when there is enough soil. It is probably the easiest of all the mosses to identify.

 10. Beard Lichen

March is a month known for its wind and anyone who studies nature can take advantage of that fact, because there are all kinds of things falling from the trees at this time of year. This beard lichen (Usnea) was lying on top of the snow and at 4 1/2 inches long is the longest I’ve ever seen. It is said that if you take a single strand of this lichen and gently pull it apart lengthwise you’ll find a white cord inside, but it must take extreme magnification to see it because I’ve never been able to.

 11. Gilled Bracket Fungus 

Another bracket fungus that mimics the common turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) is the multicolor gill polypore (Lenzites betulina).  Since turkey tails have pores and these have gills they are hard to confuse. Multicolor gill polypores start life very white but turn gray as they age. They have some zoning like turkey tails and are often covered with green algae.

 12. Gilled Bracket Fungus Closeup

This is an extreme close-up of the underside of the multicolor gill polypore in the previous photo. These are clearly not pores.

NOTE: Thanks to help from a knowledgeable reader and more experience identifying fungi I now know this to be the Thin-maze flat polypore (Daedaleopsis confragosa). The photo does actually show pores but they’re elongated and can resemble gills. I’m sorry if my incorrect identification caused any confusion.

 13. Hobblebush buds 

In my last post I talked about bud how scales enclose and protect buds throughout winter. Not all plants use bud scales for protection though; some like the hobblebush in this photo have naked buds.  Instead of using bud scales plants with naked buds often use fine hairs like those that can be seen on the fuzzy leaves and stems of the hobblebush. If there isn’t a flower bud between them the tiny naked leaves almost look like hands clasped in prayer. I like to imagine that they’re praying for spring like the rest of us, but I don’t know for sure.

Winter lies too long in country towns; hangs on until it is stale and shabby, old and sullen. ~Willa Cather

Thanks for stopping in. Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead 1 hour tonight!

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Last weekend (before our latest snowstorm) I decided to look for signs of spring. What follows is some of what I found.

 1. Skunk Cabbage Swamp

I started my search in a low, swampy area where hundreds of skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) plants grow. The plant smells just like its name suggests and I could smell them as I tiptoed through the snow, trying not to step on them.

 2. Skunk Cabbage

I saw signs of life. Skunk cabbages are one of the earliest spring plants, and through a process called thermogenesis are able to generate temperatures far higher than the surrounding air. You can often see evidence of skunk cabbage having melted its way through several inches of solid ice.

 3. Skunk Cabbage

The maroon thing with yellow-green splotches that looks like a tongue in the lower right corner is this year’s skunk cabbage flower (spathe), just starting to poke up out of the soil.

 4. Script Lichen aka Graphis alboscripta 

Script lichen (Graphis scripta) doesn’t have anything to do with spring except to remind me that soon it will be much harder to find lichens because of foliage.  Script lichen grows on tree bark and is seems to be quite rare here. I’ve only seen two examples in my lifetime, but a lot of that could be because I forget to look for them.  The dark lines that look like some type of strange cuneiform writing are the apothecia, or fruiting bodies of this crustose lichen. These were much larger on this example than on the other one that I found.

 5. Shagbark Hickory Bud 

The terminal buds of shagbark hickory (Carya ovate) are quite large and can fool you into thinking that they are swelling because of spring sap flow but no, they are this way all winter. We have to have several sunny days above freezing to trigger sap flow, so it’ll be awhile yet before buds really start to swell.

6. Hazelnut

I loved all the movement and texture in these American hazelnut seed pods. Hazelnuts (Corylus Americana) are usually snapped up quickly by bears, squirrels and other animals but in this spot I could have collected pockets full of them. It makes me wonder why the animals aren’t eating them.

 7. Hazelnuts

The tasty hazelnuts are also called filberts. Each one is about as big in diameter as an M&M candy. It’s strange to see them this late in the year.

 8. Marginal Wood Fern Sori

Native evergreen marginal wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis) gets its common name from the way its spore cases or fruit dots (sori) grow on the margins of the leaflets (pinnules). These ferns grow new sori on fertile fronds each spring and release their spores in July and August. The sori are no bigger than a match head.

9. Marginal Wood Fern Sori Closeup

On marginal wood fern the sporangia inside the spore cases are covered by a membranous cover called an indusium or fruit cover. When the sporangia are ripe they push this cover off so the tiny, dust like spores can be released.  This only happens on a dry day when there is a dry breeze so the spores might be carried as far from the parent plant as possible. Some ferns, like polypody (Polypodium vulgare), lack indusia and have naked spore cases.  The fiddleheads of this fern are covered with golden brown scales and are among the first to appear in spring.

 10. Tinder Fungus aka Fomes fomentarius

This example of a tinder polypore (Fomes fomentarius), also called horse hoof fungus, looked ancient but probably isn’t that old. This bracket fungus produces spores at all times of year but through spring and summer studies have shown that as many as 800 million can be produced in a single hour. The fungus is also known for its ability to stop bleeding and was recommended for that purpose by none other than the father of medicine himself, Hippocrates (460 – 370 BCE).

11. Frullania Liverwort

If you see a tree with what looks like fine, lacy, brown or purplish spots all over its trunk a closer look might show the spots to be Frullania eboracensis liverworts. This is the only liverwort in this region that can stand a dry environment. It is considered a northern species and is quite common here. I find it on maples and oaks. Though the one in the photo is dime sized they can get to the size of a grapefruit.

12. Frullania Liverwort

Frullania eboracensis liverworts are considered leafy liverworts. The above photo shows how the almost microscopic, zipper like, zig zagging leaves overlap. Not seen are the sac like lobes on their undersides. The leaves radiate outward from a central point and become very dark in winter, lightening as the air temperature warms. Quite a few lighter colored ones can be seen here, so maybe they feel spring in the air.

13. Willow Catkins

Last time I visited this willow it had one catkin showing, but on this day there were many. I haven’t been able to figure out which willow it is yet, but its catkins are quite small. Male catkins appear much earlier than female catkins, so there’s a good chance that these are male.

Spring might seem like it’s far off but if you go by nature rather than the calendar, you can see it happening right now.

Even in the winter, in the midst of the storm, the sun is still there.  Somewhere above the clouds, it still shines and warms and pulls at the life buried deep inside the brown branches and frozen earth. ~Gloria Gaither

Thanks for stopping in.

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It takes about a half hour to get there from my house but the trip to Rhododendron State Park in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire is always worth the effort and is a trip I try to make at least once each week at this time of year. It’s out in the middle of nowhere and is one of those places that approaches what the true wilderness must have looked like before European settlers arrived.

 1. RSP Sign

This park is a true botanical park and the only one of its kind in the state. People from all over the world come here to see the native rhododendrons (Rhododendron maxima) that grow here. The park contains the largest grove of these rhododendrons known to exist in New England. Common in south eastern states, they have reached the northernmost point of their growth here. The park was designated a national Landmark in 1982.

 2. RSP Marginal Wood Fern

Paths are wide and level in most areas. They are also shaded for the most part, and lined with marginal wood fern (Dryopteris marginalis) and many other plants.

3. RSP Wildflower Sign

Signs clearly mark the trails. I took a photo of this one because I come here for the wildflowers rather than the rhodies. Most wildflowers that grow here are quite common and what you would expect to find in New England. Partridgeberry, teaberry, wild sarsaparilla, bunchberry, blue bead lily, pink lady’s slipper, painted trillium and many others too numerous to list grow here. There are other orchids besides lady’s slippers, but they are very hard to find.

 4. RSP Rhododendron Grove

This native rhododendron isn’t like others-it blooms in mid-July rather than in spring. The land that they grow on is low and often quite wet and I think that’s why they have been left alone since Captain Samuel Patch settled here in 1788. The higher surrounding land was farmed but not where the rhodies grew. In 1901 a subsequent owner almost had the land logged off for timber but instead it was bought and given to the Appalachian Mountain Club with the stipulation that it be protected and open to the public forever after.

 5. Native Rhododendron Maxima

The National Park Service calls them pink, but I see white when I look at the blossoms. Though most of these plants are quite tall it is still easy to get close to the blossoms.

6. RSP Trail

The trunks of the shrubs grow in impenetrable thickets in places, and are so tall that you walk through “rhododendron tunnels” as you follow the pathways.

 7. RSP Mushroom

 With all of the large leaves of the rhododendrons overhead reaching for the sun it can be quite dark in some areas. That is why this park is also one of my favorite mushroom hunting places.

8. RSP Slime Mold

You know there isn’t much sunlight reaching the ground when you see slime molds. Sunlight is their number one enemy.

9. RSP Tiny Orange Mushroom

Some of the most interesting things here are small and hard to see. I’ve seen people walking the paths quickly as if they were in a hurry to be out of the park, and I often wonder how much they might have missed. This is the kind of place where you need to walk very slowly while scanning the woods along the sides of the path if you are to see very many wildflowers. I just found an orchid growing right beside the path that I must have walked by at least 20 times last year without seeing. It’s a small thing that isn’t blooming yet, so it doesn’t appear in this post. I’ve also found other plants here that I haven’t ever seen anywhere else.

10. RSP Stone Wall

What makes this place so special for someone like me is how the land has gone virtually untouched by man since at least 1901 because there are certain plants that absolutely refuse to grow in anything but old, undisturbed soil.  Unless a tree falls across a trail nature is allowed free reign here. As you can see in the photo a tree fell on a stone wall a long, long time ago and was left where it fell. This kind of hands off approach is important to many species of plants, and you really never know what you’ll find here.

 11. RSP Pipsissewa

Seeing pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellate) growing in sunny spots was one of the clues that I might see something even more special. I’ve noticed that this is a plant that prefers growing in undisturbed soil.

12. RSP Striped Wintergreen

Only another plant hunter will understand how my pulse quickened when I saw this striped wintergreen (Chimaphila maculate) with flower buds. This plant is rare in all of New England but seems especially so in this corner of New Hampshire. I know of only two small plants and I’ve never seen them bloom until now. Someone from Connecticut wrote to tell me that they knew of a few colonies there on undisturbed land and I have also heard of isolated colonies in New York where it is listed as exploitably vulnerable, meaning when people see it they pick it or dig it up. The plant grows as far west as Illinois, but it is endangered there and also in Maine.

If you happen to see this plant please do not dig it up or pick the flowers! It will not grow in your garden, so leave it in the forest for the rest of us to enjoy.

 13. RSP Striped Wintergreen Blossom

 There is a fairly good chance that if you live in New England, you have never seen this flower. This was my first ever glimpse of it and I was surprised to see how much the blossom looked like that of pipsissewa. I shouldn’t have been though, because both plants are native wintergreens. If you’d like to see the pipsissewa blossom just click here.

 14. RSP Striped Wintergreen Blossom 3

I hope the small flies that are on the blossoms are pollinators so the plants will set seed.

15. RSP Patch House

Included in the park is the center chimney cape that Captain Samuel Patch built with his son sometime before he died in 1817. Captain Patch served in the Revolutionary war and took part in the battle of Bunker Hill and, though his house has changed hands a few times since being built, it looks to be true to its original footprint.

 16. RSP Sign

The house is closed to the public but what I like most about it is its old gardens that contain some very old plants like valerian and wood betony. This is also the location of the only moth mullein plant that I know of.

If you’d like to read more about the park just click here. I’ll be going back there today hoping to find an orchid finally blooming. I’ve been waiting for 6 weeks to see its flower.

The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life activity; it provides protection to all beings, offering shade even to the axeman who destroys it. ~ Gautama Buddha

Thanks for stopping in.

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