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Posts Tagged ‘Mosses’

1. First Snow

I’ve been working on a difficult post that needs a lot of research and I knew I wouldn’t have it done in time to post today, so I thought I’d do another to show you what winter is doing here in New Hampshire. So far we’ve had plenty of cold but only a dusting of snow, as the above photo shows.

2. Foliage on First Snow Day

This photo was taken on the same day that the first one was. That was how fast the snow melted.

3. Puddle Ice

But as I’ve said, we’ve had plenty of cold so winter is creeping rather than howling in this year. This photo is of the kind of puddle ice that is paper thin and full of oxygen and makes tinkling sounds when you break it. This example had the silhouette of a flying eagle in it, and I’ve circled it so you could see it. All I have to do is hear this kind of ice breaking and I’m immediately transported back to when I was 9 or 10 years old. I used to love riding my bike through puddles with this kind of ice on them in the spring. It was always a sign that, before too long, school would be letting out for the summer.

 4. Stream

Streams freeze from the banks in toward the middle and this one has started doing just that.

5. Icicles in Stream

Anywhere water splashes, ice will form.

 6. Ice Formations

Rising and falling water levels decorate the edges of stones with ice baubles.  When you see this happening you know it won’t be long before the stream has frozen over. The stones have lost any heat they might have had stored from the sun.

7. River Ice

It’s no different along the Ashuelot River; anything that water splashes on is coated in ice.

8. Ice Needles

Ice needles are poking up out of the soil. A lot has to happen for ice needles to form. When the air temperature is below 32 degrees F right at the soil surface and the soil and groundwater remain thawed, hydrostatic pressure can force the groundwater, sometimes super cooled, out of the soil where it freezes instantly into a “needle.” As more water is forced out of the soil the process is repeated over and over, and each needle grows in length because of more water freezing at its base. Often these needles freeze together to form ribbons, and that is what this photo shows.

9. Deep Cut

One of my favorite places to find winter is in this man made canyon, hacked out of the rock when the Cheshire railroad was built in the 1800s. It’s an endless source of fascination and wonder for me because of the unusual plants that grow there. Winter had already started before I got there.

 10. Icicles

The sun doesn’t reach down beyond the tops of these 40-50 foot high walls in very many places but even where it did it didn’t throw enough heat to melt the ice.  The ice here can be very beautiful and is often colored in shades of blue, green and yellow, stained by minerals and vegetation.

11. Icicles

When you walk through here in summer you hear the constant drip of groundwater, and in winter you see as well as hear it.

12. Ice Formations With Spider

I’ve put a red circle around the spider who found his own Everest. He’s just to the lower right of center. As often happens I didn’t see him until I saw the photo.

 13. Icy Liverworts

There are thousands of liverworts living here and many are slowly being entombed in the ice. There’s a good chance that they won’t be seen again until spring.

14. Ice Covered Moss

Mosses too, are being encased in ice. Life on these walls is tough, but these plants can take it.

15. Fallen Tree

For those who might be thinking big deal-a few icicles, this photo from last year shows what those few icicles will have become by February. They grow as big as tree trunks, and people come here to learn how to climb them. For me it’s interesting to see how they start, and then how they grow.

What a severe yet master artist old Winter is…. No longer the canvas and the pigments, but the marble and the chisel. ~John Burroughs

Thanks for stopping in.

 

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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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A while ago I had the urge to just walk into the forest without following a path, so I took a break from home renovation and followed a small stream near my house. Though this might sound like bushwhacking, once you get through the dense layer of shrubs at the edge of the forest that are all reaching for the sunlight, forests are usually surprisingly open and easy to walk through. A word of warning: if you aren’t familiar with an area then going into the woods alone would be ill advised unless you stay on a well-marked path. I’ve been lost in the woods just once and believe me, that was enough. 

I saw deer tracks in the mud at the edge of the stream and took pictures of them, but they really aren’t recognizable. I’m sure many animals drink here. 

There were plenty of grape vines (Vitis) to get hung up on if you didn’t watch where you were going. I like the way the bark falls in strips from older vines. 

I got hung up on grape vines several times because my eyes were on the forest floor. I was looking for things like this moss, which was very busy producing spores. Each of these stalks has a spore capsule at the end and is called a sporophyte. When ripe they will release the spores needed for a new generation of moss.

What I think is plume moss (Ptilium crista-castrensis), covered the base of this tree. If you compare their size to the maple leaf laying on the ground you can get an idea of how small these are. They look like tiny ferns.

These really are ferns, though it’s too soon to tell what species. The fiddleheads are just breaking through the soil surface.

Lichens and fungi all seemed be reaching for this small pool of sunlight. I’m not sure what the round, flat white fungi are, but they were about half the size of a fingernail. 

Jelly fungi grew on a branch. These looked orange to me in the woods, but now look yellow in the photo and resemble witch’s butter. (Tremella mesenterica) Other names are golden jelly and yellow brain fungus. 

These tiny bracket fungi also look orange to me. I’m not sure what these are but I’ve been seeing them everywhere over the last two or three weeks. They’re smaller than your thumbnail and seem to prefer the shady undersides of dead branches.

These bracket fungi were big enough to photograph without a macro lens. At first I thought they were turkey tails (Trametes versicolor) but now I’m not so sure. I think they might be a type of parchment fungi, but I’m still trying to identify them. 

I’m not sure if these bumps on a log were the egg stage of a mushroom or some type of puffball.  They were smaller than a dime and since they weren’t pear shaped obviously aren’t pear shaped puffballs. Another mystery to add to the countless others in nature.

After a couple hours of roaming through the woods I decided to head home and leave it to the grapevines. I’ll be sure to return though, because there is a lot left to see.

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Since we’ve had the fourth least snowiest December of all time, I’ve had an easy time getting into the woods. It’s amazing how much variety and color can be found in winter.

 American winterberry, or native holly, (Ilex verticillata) is one of a handful of shrubs that will survive growing in standing water for part of the year. This one was in deep and I couldn’t get any closer to it without getting wet feet. I found it growing in a local cemetery where they have quite extensive wetlands that are being taken over by the invasive purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria.) Local college students have been digging out the loosestrife and encouraging natives like winterberry. This one attracted me from quite far off because it was ablaze with red berries. Since it takes both a male and female to produce berries I know that there is a male lurking somewhere nearby, but until he grows leaves he’ll be hard to find.

 

 In the early spring red wing blackbirds will return and perch on cattails (Typha) like this one. Females will use cattail leaves to weave their nests among the stalks. Once the cup shaped nest has been plastered with mud inside she will line it with soft, cottony cattail seeds and grasses. Red wing blackbirds eat a lot of harmful insects, so having plenty of marshland to attract them is a good thing. Muskrats use cattails to build their lodges, which look similar to a beaver’s, and other animals like deer and raccoons use them for cover. The inside of a cattail stalk contains a sticky juice that is an excellent emergency antiseptic, and the boiled roots can be dried, ground, and used as very nutritious flour. 

This dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) growing in a sunny spot didn’t seem to know or care that it was December 22nd. Is it any wonder they appear so early in spring? All parts of the dandelion are edible, and it is one of the most nutritious plants known. It is being grown in gardens more and more, and can now be found for sale in farmer’s markets and health food stores. Native Americans used dandelion to treat kidney disease, skin problems, heartburn, and upset stomach, and many herbalists still use it medicinally today.

  This mossy log also made this day seem more like spring than winter. I don’t have much experience identifying mosses, but I like the colors of these. It’s interesting to me that such delicate looking plants can stand up to the ravages of winter snow and cold. They are really much tougher than they look; moss can grow in temperatures just above zero degrees. Reindeer eat them because they contain a chemical that keeps their blood warm-much like the anti-freeze we use in our cars.

 

Winter can be found if one looks closely. See-there it is in the ice on this pond.

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