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Posts Tagged ‘Rose Moss’

1. Ashurlot Wave

Something I like to do every now and then is watch the waves on the Ashuelot River, but we’ve been in a drought most of the summer so there haven’t been any to watch. Finally last week 4 1/2 inches of rain fell in a day and there were some serious waves after that. The river has a rhythm and its waves form at fairly regularly spaced intervals and I find it challenging to see if I can get shots of the waves as they form. It’s not as easy as it sounds but it can be done if you can tune out everything but yourself and the river.

2. 40 Foot Falls

Of course since I saw the Ashuelot River at bank full I thought waterfalls would be roaring but as 40 foot falls in this photo shows, I was wrong. The beaver pond that feeds this stream must have been low enough to absorb all the rainfall without having much effect on the outflow.

3. Hole in Boulder

I find a lot of blasting holes drilled through boulders. There is nothing unusual about drilling and blasting stone here in the granite state but I often find these boulders out in the woods where you wouldn’t expect a steam or air powered drill would be able to go, and that’s odd. This example was out in the middle of nowhere but was too perfect to have been drilled by hand with a sledge hammer and star drill, so it had to have been machine made. If I’d had a golf ball in my pocket I could have rolled it right through this hole.

4. Chipmunk

I interrupted this chipmunk as he ran about busily looking for seeds to stuff his cheeks with and he was clearly not happy about that, so I took a quick couple of photos and let him get on with his work. Chipmunks will watch you pretty closely in the woods and will often follow along beside you, making a chipping or chucking sound to tell the other animals and birds that you’re in the neighborhood. Chickadees do the same thing.

5. Concentric Boulder Lichen

I found a single example of a concentric boulder lichen (Porpidia crustulata) a few years ago and hadn’t seen one since until recently. Though it’s very hard to find it’s easy to identify; the body (thallus) of the lichen is always ashy gray and its black spore bearing bodies (Apothecia) grow in concentric rings around the lichen’s center. It’s not one of the prettiest lichens but it is one of the rarest in this area and I was happy to see it.

6. Dog Lichen

Dog lichens aren’t rare but they are unusually big for a lichen; I’ve seen hand size examples. Lichens like water and can often be found growing beside or even among water retaining mosses as this one has. Because it’s been so dry it’s been a rough summer for water loving mosses and lichens but they are very patient and simply sit and wait for rain. The 4 1/2 inches of rain we had last week has perked them right up and this dog lichen was pliable once again instead of crisp. If you want to know what one feels like just pinch your earlobe. The lichen is thinner but it feels much the same.

7. Script Lichen

Some trees have beautiful ancient runes scribbled on their bark in the form of script lichens. The light colored part is the body of the lichen and the darker “script” is where it releases its spores. There are 39 species of script lichens in North America and many more throughout the world, and their most important identification characteristic is their squiggly apothecia. I’ve seen examples that have apothecia that all run horizontally or vertically, but most seem random like those in the photo. I think it would take the better part of a lifetime just to identify the 39 species in North America. This photo has been enlarged so everything seen here would fit behind a dime with room to spare.

8. Rose Moss

Mosses appreciated the rain. This beautiful rose moss (Rhodobryum roseum) was very dry and brown the last time I saw it. It grows on a limestone boulder so it must get the heat that the stone absorbs from the sun as well as from the sun itself. I know of only one place to find this moss.

9. Rose Moss

Rose moss gets its common name from the way that each plant looks like a tiny rose blossom. At this magnification some of the leaves look as if they’ve been sprinkled with gold dust. Spore production takes place in the center of each small “blossom.”

10. Stairstep Moss

Another moss that I can find in only one place is stair step moss (Hylocomium splendens.) In the right kind of light its leaves are somewhat shiny and that leads to another common name: glittering wood moss. It is also called splendid feather moss and I’m sure I don’t have to explain how it came by that name. This is a tough moss that grows in boreal forests into the Arctic. It is considered an indicator of undisturbed, stable soil though I find it growing in soil that has built up on the top of a stone.

11. Stairstep Moss

You can see a bit of the glitter in stair step moss leaves in this photo. The name stair step moss comes from the way each new branch steps up from the middle of the older branch. It is said that this moss grows a new branch each year and its age can be revealed by counting the branches. If true that would mean that this example was at least 4 years old.

12. Polypody Fern Sporangia

Polypody ferns (Polypodium virginanum) are producing spores and each of its spore producing sporangia looks like a tiny basket full of flowers. This is the time of year to be looking at the undersides of ferns fronds. How and where the sporangia grow are important parts of an accurate identification for some.

13. Possible Common Earthball aka Scleroderma citrinum

I think this puffball is an example of the common earth ball (Scleroderma citrinum,) but I’m not certain of that. It’s one that I’ve never seen before and I can’t come up with an exact match for it, either in my mushroom books or online. It was bigger than many puffballs I see; maybe 5 inches long by 3 wide.

14. Possible Common Earthball aka Scleroderma citrinum 3

Whatever its name is this puffball was a beautiful thing, and studying it took me out of myself for a time. As I look at it now it reminds me of an aerial view of a village.  With yellow roads.

15. Wolf's Milk

But when is a puffball not a puffball?

16. Wolf's Milk

Answer: When it is a slime mold. Wolf’s milk slime mold is also called toothpaste slime because of the consistency of its inner plasmodial material. It’s usually pink but this example was orange. I’ve only found one example where the plasmodium was pasty like toothpaste. It’s usually more liquid like the above example. As it ages it will turn into grayish powdery spores.

17. Slime Mold

There are other slime molds to be seen at this time of year as well, like this beautiful orange example which I believe is Hemitrichia calyculata. It has gone from its moving plasmodial feeding stage to the production of fruiting bodies called sporangium, which are seen in this photo. Each tiny sphere sits atop a whitish stalk and there it will stay, possibly changing color as it ages and begins spore production. These examples grew on an old fallen hemlock.

18. Geese

I thought I’d have a nice shot of Canada geese flying south in a V formation for you but by the time I was done fumbling around with my camera they had turned and all I saw was a line.

19. Geese 2

These two didn’t seem to want any part of flying south, or anywhere else for that matter. After all it was 72 degrees and the colors were mesmerizing.

20. Dish

No, you didn’t accidentally flip over to the NASA website. This 260 ton, 82 foot diameter dish antenna lives here in the woods of New Hampshire. It is one of the antennas that make up the Very Long Baseline Array, which is made up of 10 antennas that stretch across the country from New Hampshire west to Hawaii and south to the Virgin Islands. All 10 antennas function as a single giant antenna some 5000 miles wide and produce high resolution images of galaxies and quasars billions of light years away. The array is so sensitive it can measure details equivalent to being able to see a football on the surface of the moon.

Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them. ~Marcus Aurelius

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1. The Group

Last Saturday afternoon the weather cooperated and after 2 or 3 false starts the Pathfinders finally made it to Keene for their tour of the old abandoned road that follows Beaver Brook. Their group was much smaller than what had been originally planned last winter, but I hope that the ones who couldn’t make it can come another day. When I took this photo of them walking up the old road I thought oops, I forgot to tell them to wear long pants. The road is covered with poison ivy along one side and it’ll be a miracle if none of them starts itching.

2. Poison Ivy

I was busy showing them the mosses, lichens and liverworts that they had come to see and didn’t take many photos so I went back the following day after it had rained to get more shots of the poison ivy and other things that we saw. That’s why it’s going to look dry in some of these photos and wet in others.

I pointed the poison ivy out to the Pathfinders right away but I didn’t need to because they all knew it well. I forgot that they are called “Pathfinders” for a reason and probably know the woods as well as I do.

3. Jewelweed

Many think that jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) gets its common name from its spotted orange or yellow flowers but the name actually comes from the way the waxy coating on its leaves makes rain water bead up and sparkle like jewels. The pathfinders noted that the plant always seems to grow near poison ivy, and how its sap has been used since before recorded time by Native Americans to alleviate the rash brought on by its toxins. It’s as if nature put the illness and the cure side by side.

4. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

Everyone was impressed by how the spore bearing apothecial disks of the smoky eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaerulescens) looked blue gray in certain light but more blue in a photo. They have a waxy coating that reflects light much like the whitish bloom on blueberries and that makes them appear blue in the right light. The black border on each disk makes them really stand out from the body of the lichen but they are still very small.

The Pathfinders needed to find 5 lichens, 5 mosses, and a liverwort (I think) to earn their badges in one of the nature categories, similar to what the Boy Scouts do, by the sounds of it. In the end they found all they needed and more.

5. Dryad's Saddle Fungus

I saw some dryad’s saddle (Polyporus squamosus) bracket fungi on a dead elm. I was surprised to see them since May had been such a dry month. These mushrooms get quite large and are fairly common on dead hardwood trees and stumps in the spring and fall. They are often funnel shaped rather than flat and saddle shaped like the example above.  The squamosus part of the scientific name means scaly and this mushroom almost always has brown scales on its cap. By the way, a dryad is a tree nymph or female tree spirit from Greek mythology. They were considered very shy creatures but I suppose even shy creatures need somewhere to sit down every now and then.

6. False Solomon's Seal

There were many false Solomon’s seal plants (Maianthemum racemosum) blooming along the roadsides. This common plant grows in every state except Hawaii and is also called treacle berry because its ripe red fruit tastes like molasses. Native Americans had many medicinal uses for the plant including as a cough suppressant and a treatment for sunburn. They say that the young spring shoots taste like asparagus but there are other poisonous plants with shoots the look much the same, so I think I’ll just let them grow.

7. False Solomon's Seal

Each tiny false Solomon’s seal flower is slightly more than an eighth inch across and made up of 6 tepals, 6 stamens, and a central pistil with a short pudgy style. The word tepal is used when a flower’s petals and sepals look enough alike to be nearly indistinguishable, as they do in this case.

8. Forest Tent Caterpillar

The forest tent caterpillar (Malacosoma disstria Hübner) is found in hardwood forests across America and is especially abundant here in the east. Though their preferred foods are sugar maple, aspen, cherry, apple, oaks, birch, ash, alder, elm, and basswood this one had been munching on a flowering raspberry leaf (Rubus odoratus.) They hatch near the time of bud break and eat both flower and leaf buds along with mature foliage. If they happen to defoliate the same tree more than 2 years in a row they can kill it. I’m not crazy about it defoliating trees but I love the beautiful sky blue color of its stripe.

9. Rose Moss

I was able to show the pathfinders a few rare mosses including rose moss (Rhodobryum roseum). I think it was their favorite, judging by the amount of photos being taken. It’s a beautiful thing that isn’t often seen in this area. It isn’t normally so shiny; the shininess of it in this photo is because it had rained.

10. Polypody Fern Sporangia

We spent a little time talking about polypody ferns (Polypodium virginanum) and I showed them what the sporangia, where the spores are produced, looked like. They grew on the boulders all around us and explained very nicely why “rock cap fern” is one of their common names.

11. Polypody Fern

Polypody ferns are one of our few evergreen ferns. They love to grow on boulders and could be seen topping many of the larger stones. They have a very tough, leathery feel, not delicate at all.

12. Beaver Brook

Beaver brook was little more than a trickle in places; so low that I don’t think a beaver could have swam in it without first damming it up. In a normal spring with normal rainfall I would have been swept downstream if I had tried to stand where I was when I took this photo.

 13. Falls

All but one of us made the slide / climb down to the falls. The light was all wrong for a good photo but the bright sun brought out the pinks and tans in the microcline feldspar that is so prevalent here. The brook was low enough to walk across so some of the kids crossed over and had some fun splashing around in the small pool at the base of the falls (and almost losing shoes.)  I’ve never seen these falls with so little water flowing over them, even in July. It was really surprising and drove home the point that rainfall is down nearly 6 inches from March first. The Pathfinders wanted to know if you could swim here. I told them that people used to but nobody did.

14. The Road Dark

The Pathfinders are polite, well behaved, fun, happy, and all around good kids. I really enjoyed my time with them and I hope we can get together again sometime. Though this old road leads nowhere these days, I have a strong hope that the experiences they had on it will help lead them to a love of nature that will stay with them throughout their lives.

Teaching children about the natural world should be seen as one of the most important events in their lives. ~ Thomas Berry

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1. Trail

I agreed, back in February, to help a group of Pathfinders get some merit badges by helping them find mosses, lichens, and liverworts. Pathfinders range in age from 10 to 15 I think, and are kind of like scouts, at least when it comes to earning merit badges. Of course as soon as the plans were finalized it began to snow and it didn’t stop until nearly every living thing was buried under feet of it. We’ve had some warmth since though, so recently I decided to check out the old abandoned road near Beaver Brook in Keene to see if we could get in there without snow shoes.

2. Snow Melt

The snow had melted well on the hillsides along the sunny side of the road but the road itself still has as much as 6 inches of loose granular snow in places. Tough to walk in, but not impossible. Good, waterproof hiking boots will be best for this trip.

3. Snowy Hillside

The hillsides along the shady side of the brook still had quite a bit of snow on them.

4. Ledge

The last time I was here the wind had blown so much snow against the ledge faces, you wouldn’t have known they were there if you weren’t familiar with the place. Many of the mosses, lichens and liverworts that the Pathfinders want to find grow on these ledges so it would have been a waste of time.

5. Dog Lichen

Dog lichen (Peltigera membranacea) is just one of many things that grow here that I rarely see anywhere else. Dog lichens aren’t fussy and will grow on soil, stone or bark but they do seem to like moist, sunny spots. They also always seem to grow near moss, probably because moss soaks up water like a sponge.

6. Stairstep Moss

Chances are the Pathfinders won’t realize how special what they’re seeing actually is, but I plan to tell them that this is the only place that I’ve ever seen this stair step moss (Hylocomium splendens.) It is also called glittering wood moss and grows on the side of a large boulder here. It could be that I rarely see it because it usually grows in the boreal forests of Canada, Europe and Russia. I’m not sure why this particular example is growing so far south. This moss was once used to plug gaps between the logs in log cabins. It has anti-bacterial qualities.

7. Rose Moss

Rose moss (Rhodobryum roseum) is one of the most beautiful mosses in my opinion and like the stair step moss, this is the only place I’ve ever seen it. This moss gets its common name from the way the small rosettes of leaves resembled rose blossoms to the person who named it. The example that grows here is large and I think must be quite old. It grows on the flat top of a boulder. As the photo shows, the rosettes grow so dense that you can’t even see the stone.

8. Yellow Feather Moss

Yellow feather moss (Homalothecium lutescens) is another moss that’s rare in this area, at least in my experience. This small clump is the only one I know of. It’s looking a little bedraggled because of being covered by snow all winter, but at least the Pathfinders will be able to see it.

9. Stone

I don’t know too much about geology but I do know that there are some interesting things to see here among the ledges, including garnets, milky quartz crystals, and veins of feldspar. I also know that I could build a nice looking wall with the stones in this section.

10. Ice Free Brook

In places the ice that covered the brook all winter has completely melted and the silence of winter has been replaced by the chuckles and giggles of spring water moving over and around the stones. Be more like the brook, I remind myself. Laugh your way through life and just flow around any obstacles that might appear.

11. Icicles

Not all of the brook is ice free. There were still some impressive icicles to be seen.

12. Falls

The lower section of Beaver Brook Falls had shaken off its think coating of ice and was announcing spring with a roar. It’s amazing to come here in the dead of winter when even they are silent. Ice makes a very good sound insulation.

13. Greater Whipwort

Greater whipwort (Bazzania trilobata) will fulfil the Pathfinder’s one liverwort requirement. Their need for 5 each of lichens and mosses will easily be met here as well. This liverwort doesn’t grow everywhere but it isn’t really rare either. I always find it growing on stones near a brook or a stream. At a glance it might fool you into thinking it was a moss but a closer look reveals the three tiny lobes at the base of each leaf that give it the trilobata part of its scientific name. This liverwort is the host plant for the larva of a moth known as the gold cap moss eater (Epimartyria auricrinella.)

14. Blue Fibers on Tree Skirt Moss

A while ago I did a post about all of things that I found growing on a single tree, and in it I mentioned how I had been seeing a lot of long white fibers hung up on lichens especially. Well, now they’re getting hung up on moss too, and they’re blue. I found this little bundle on some dry tree skirt moss (Anomodon attenuates.) I wonder if a bird was collecting it for its nest and dropped it. I don’t see many humans where this particular moss grows.

 15. Line on Road

The snow had melted enough in one spot to see a little piece of the yellow line that still runs up the middle of this old road. Since the temperature reached into the 60s F yesterday I’m hoping to see a lot more of it next week when the Pathfinders are here.

If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in. ~Rachel Carson

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1. Rose Moss

I haven’t said much about mosses lately but since now is the time they are most easily seen I thought I’d get out there and see what I could find. Rose moss (Rhodobryum roseum) is one of the most beautiful mosses in my opinion, and gets its common name from the way that each plant looks like a tiny rose blossom. Rose moss is also a good indicator of your surroundings because it prefers growing in lime rich soil or on limestone boulders.

2. Rocky Hillside

Can you tell which of these boulders have limestone in them? I can’t either but rose moss can, and it grows on just two of them.

3. Stairstep Moss

Stair-step moss (Hylocomium splendens) is another very pretty moss that looks quite fragile, but I’ve seen it with icicles hanging from it and I can say with certainty that it’s a lot tougher than it looks. That is most likely why it grows as far north as the arctic tundra. When dry this moss has a slight satiny sheen to it, and that’s probably how it came by its other common name of glittering wood-moss.

4. Stairstep Moss

Stair step moss gets its name from the way the new growth “steps up” off the midrib of the previous year’s branch.  Each year a new branch grows from the old and this growth habit allows stair step moss to grow up and over other mosses. You can tell the age of the moss by counting these steps.

 5. Yellow Feather Moss aka Homalothecium lutescens

What I think is yellow feather moss (Homalothecium lutescens) always looks pale and kind of sickly, but if you look closely at its growing tips and new spore capsules you’ll find that it quite healthy. If you see it at all, that is; I know of only one small colony that grows on the very end of a log with a diameter of an average doughnut, and I’ve never found it anywhere else.

6. White Tipped Moss aka Hedwigia ciliata

It’s easy to see how white tipped moss (Hedwigia ciliata) got its common name. This is a fairly common moss that seems to like to hang from the sides of boulders and ledges. Another name for it is Medusa moss, because when dry its leaves press close to the stem and it takes on a very wiry, string like appearance. Its ball shaped orange spore capsules (sporophytes) are hidden among the leaves on very short stalks, so they’re hard to see. This moss will even grow on asphalt roofs, so it is a perfect choice for green roof projects.

7. Delicate Fern Moss aka Thuidium delicatulum

Delicate fern moss (Thuidium delicatulum) is another pretty moss but I’m not sure how it comes by its common name because it is far from delicate. I have a few patches of it growing in my back lawn that get mowed and walked on regularly and they thrive in spite of the abuse. The leaves of this moss grow more horizontally than vertically and it often forms very low, dense mats on logs or the forest floor in damp, shaded places.

8. Greater Whipwort

Some “mosses” might have to be looked at a little closer.The growth on this stone isn’t a moss at all, though from a distance it looks just like one. It’s actually a liverwort called greater whipwort (Bazzania trilobata) and it grows right alongside mosses.

9. Greater Whipwort

Up close greater whipwort looks as almost if it has been braided. Each leaf on this leafy liverwort is only about an eighth of an inch wide and has three triangular notches at its base. This is where the trilobata part of the scientific name comes from. It means “having three lobes.”

10. Rock Foam Lichen

Something else often found growing on boulders right beside mosses is rockfoam lichen (Stereocaulon saxatile.) Mosses soak up moisture like a sponge when it rains and then release it slowly and lichens often take advantage of this. The best time to search for both lichens and mosses is after a rain because both are at their best when wet.

11. Haircap Moss aka Polytrichum commune

Haircap moss (Polytrichum commune) gets its name from the hairy covering (calyptra) on its spore capsules (sporophytes). It is a very common moss that grows in dense colonies of 2-4 inches tall, often mounded in the center. The sheaths on its leaves can be golden yellow and shiny and give this moss another common name of goldilocks. I see it almost everywhere I go.

12. Haircap Moss Capsule

Haircap moss spore capsules start life round bat as they age become almost square and winged. The example in this photo still has its end cap or lid, called an Operculum, in place. This means that it hasn’t released its spores yet. I’m not sure what caused the blue color but this is the only blue spore capsule that I’ve seen.

13. Possible Narrow Leaved Beard Moss aka Helodium paludosum

One reason I don’t do more posts on mosses even though they fascinate me is because they can be difficult to identify without a microscope and many of them look very similar. A good example of that is what I think is this narrow leaved beard moss (Helodium paludosum.) It looks a lot like the Hedwigia ciliata we looked at earlier, but without the white tips.

The reason I wanted to show this moss is because of the immature spore capsules (sporophytes). When young the sporophyte is completely surrounded by a tough protective covering called the calyptra. The calyptra is what gives the spore capsules in the above photo their whitish color. As the sporophytes grow their skin-like calyptras will be shed, revealing their reddish brown color. So, if you find a moss with white spore capsules you know that you are actually seeing its immature capsules.

14. Brocade Moss aka Hypnum imponens

Brocade Moss (Hypnum imponens) is very shiny and sometimes has an orange brown color. Its common name comes from the way it looks as if it has been embroidered on whatever it happens to be growing on.  It is easily confused with knight’s plume moss (Ptilium crista-castrensis,) but the spore capsules on knights plume moss are elbow macaroni shaped and horizontal, while those of brocade moss are cylindrical and stand vertically, as seen in the above photo.

15. Lime Green Moss

Mosses often change color when it gets colder and this delicate fern moss surprised me with what I thought was its bright orange color. My color finding software told me it was just my color blindness again, because it is really lime green. It is a very bright lime green though, and was shining like a beacon.

I hope I didn’t bore all of you to tears talking about mosses. Soon there will be very little besides moss that is still green, and for me there are few things more pleasurable than walking through the snowy winter woods with a bright blue sky overhead and the sunshine falling on some of the only green things to be seen. Mosses, lichens, liverworts, and a few evergreen ferns are part of what make nature study fun even in winter.

Nature conceals her secrets because she is sublime, not because she is a trickster. ~Albert Einstein

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1. Ashuelot Wave

The Ashuelot River is roaring from snow melt and has some great waves right now. I like trying to see if I can get a shot of the waves just as they crest. It isn’t easy, but it can be done. Rivers have their own rhythm, and the trick is in trying to tune in to that rhythm by just sitting and watching for a while.

 2. Ashuelot Wave 2

 This one was big enough for a beaver to surf on.

3. Rose Moss

There is only one spot that I know of where rose moss (Rhodobryum roseum) grows and I’ve trudged through the snow several times over the last couple of months hoping to see it. Each time though, it and the rock it grows on were covered by deep snow. Finally, just the other day I tried again and found that all the snow had melted. This moss, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful. It’s easy to see how it got its common name.

4. Lone Tree

I paid a visit to my favorite lone tree a while ago. I’d love to be able to sit under it and listen to the stream that flows along beside it but it’s in the middle of a pasture. It’s as if someone has put it in a museum so it can be seen but not touched. I’ve decided that I’m going to look at its leaves through some binoculars later on, so at least then I’ll know what kind of tree it is.

5. Hair on Barbed Wire

The pasture that the lone tree in the previous photo stands in is surrounded by barbed wire fencing put there to keep the cows from wandering. It looked like one of the cows caught her tail on the fence.

6. Foamflower Leaf

Many plants, though “evergreen,” have leaves that turn purple when it gets cold. Native foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) does the same, so I was surprised to find nothing but green leaves when I visited the hillside where it grows.  Last fall just before it snowed these leaves were a deep maroon color.

7. Young Foamflower Leaf

I’ve never noticed just how hairy young foamflower leaves are.  I think they must be the hairiest leaves I’ve seen.

8. Turkey Tail

On my way to see the foamflowers I saw some beautiful turkey tail fungi (Trametes versicolor). They can also be very hairy.

9. Nanny Berry Bud

I stumbled onto a nannyberry shrub (Viburnum lentago) recently. It’s long, beaked buds reminded me of a great blue heron. This native shrub is also called sweet viburnum. I can’t say that they are rare but I don’t see them very often here. I think this is the first one I’ve seen in at least 3 years.

10. Nanny Berry Fruit

Another name for nannyberry is wild raisin but to me this example of last year’s fruit looked more like a grape than a raisin. It even had a face. Nannyberry fruits, which have a single large seed and botanically speaking are drupes, are edible and were a favorite of Native Americans. They are low in fat so they are often passed over by birds looking for food with higher fat content.

11. Red Maple Flowers

Trees are the first to whisper the rumors of spring’s arrival but, as the red maple flowers (Acer rubrum) in the above photo show, the whisper is becoming a shout.

Listen to nature’s voice—it contains treasures for you. ~Huron Tribe proverb

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After over a year of using my moss identification guides to identify various mosses, I think I’m ready to do at least one post on them. I’m fairly confident that the following plants are what I think they are, but I don’t have access to a microscope so none of this information should be taken as absolute gospel. Information about the guides I’ve used can be found under the “Books I Use” tab at the top of the page.

1. Rocky Hillside

My thoughts usually turn to mosses and other forest floor dwellers at this time of year because they’re so easy to see with no leaves in the way. Instead of roots mosses have small, thread like rhizoids. Since they can’t take up water like vascular plants they absorb it like a sponge over their entire surface, and when they’re seen in abundance as in the above photo, it’s a fair bet that the soil is either quite moist or the area is shaded enough to keep  them from drying out between rains. Though some mosses can go for quite a while with no water, most need regular replenishment. Like lichens, mosses can look very different when they are dry, so serious moss hunters like to do their hunting after a rain.

 2. Rose Moss aka Rhodobryum roseum

Since I’ve never paid very close attention to mosses I never realized that some of them, like rose moss, had leaves that are quite big-easily big enough to be seen with the naked eye-and can be quite beautiful. Rose moss (Rhodobryum roseum) gets its common name from the way its rosettes of leaves look like tiny flowers. When rose moss dries out its leaves contort and fold upward like petals of flowers that close at night. I found a large colony of this moss growing on a boulder.

 3. Maidenhair Pocket Moss aka Fissidens adianthoides

Pocket moss gets its common name from the way the lower lobe of its leaf curls around its stem to form a pocket. That feature can’t be seen in the photo and neither can the way the central nerve, or vein of each leaf stops before it reaches the leaf tip, but those two features plus the fact that the example in the photo was constantly dripped on by ground water tell me that this is maidenhair pocket moss (Fissidens adianthoides).

4. Maidenhair Pocket Moss Sporophytes aka Fissidens adianthoides

The capsules where some mosses produce spores are called sporophytes. In the case of maiden hair pocket moss the capsules are like a tiny barrel that is covered on one end by a calyptra, which is a piece of tissue that looks like a stocking cap. When the spores mature the calyptra dries out and falls off, but before it does the fruiting bodies of this moss remind me of cranes. Or herons.  Under the tiny stocking cap is a lid (operculum) that also comes off so the spores can be released. This happens at different times of year for different mosses.

 5. Medusa Moss aka Hedwigia ciliata

The name medusa moss (Hedwigia ciliata) comes from the way this moss looks like a bunch of tangled worms when it dries out. This moss is fairly common but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it grow quite as long as it was here. It was obviously in a good location for optimum growth.

 6. Medusa Moss aka Hedwigia ciliata 2

This is a closer look at the Hedwigia ciliata in the previous photo. It is also called white tipped moss and is almost always found growing on large boulders in the woods.

 7. Membranous Dog Lichen aka Peltigera membranacea 3

The last time I saw a dog lichen it was growing on a rotting stump but this one, Peltigera membranacea, was growing on a mossy boulder. Dog lichens are associated with mossy area because the mosses provide the moisture that they need. This is known as a membranous lichen, which simply means that it is thin and pliable. It is also a foliose lichen, meaning that it is lobed, or leaf like. The upper part of the body (Thallus) is undulating or veined as seen in the photo. This lichen was large and easy to see. It was also probably quite old.

 8. Membranous Dog Lichen aka Peltigera membranacea

The white “roots” on the underside of the lichen body are called rhizines. On some lichens these can be quite bushy but on Peltigera membranacea they are narrow, thin and “fang like”. They are one of the identifying characteristics of this lichen along with its thin, flexible, undulating thallus.

I’ve heard another theory behind the name “dog lichen.”  It says that the name refers to the large, lobed body of the lichen looking like dog ears. It sounds plausible, but so do the other three theories I’ve heard. One says the fang like rhizines look like dog’s teeth, another says the entire lichen body looks like a dog, and yet another says that the apothecia, or fruiting bodies, look like dog ears.

 9. Fan Shaped Club Moss

Fern allies are “seedless vascular plants that are not true ferns, but like ferns, disperse by shedding spores.” Mosses don’t fit this description because, though they produce spores, they are not vascular. Club mosses fit the description perfectly and are called “club” mosses because their fruiting structures (strobili) are club shaped. These club shaped, cone-like structures are where the spores are produced. The club moss in the photo, known as fan shaped club moss (Diphasiastrum digitatum), doesn’t have any strobili showing. In fact, as I was choosing the photos for this post I realized that I have never seen this club moss in its fruiting stage.

 10. Running Club Moss

Another club moss that I have never seen fruiting is running club moss (Lycopodium clavatum). This plant gets its name from the way it sends out long, horizontal stems. All along the horizontal stem erect stems form at intervals and roots form where it touches the ground. I had to brush the leaves away from the horizontal stem so we could see it, because when it’s buried it’s difficult to tell this club moss from others. I can’t say that these plants are rare here, but I don’t see them too often.

 11. Baby Tooth Moss aka Plagiomnium cuspidatum

Baby tooth moss (Plagiomnium cuspidatum) doesn’t look like a moss at all to me, with its long, vining habit and (relatively) large leaves, but it is one. Though far too small to be seen in the photo, this moss gets its common name from the way the upper margins of the leaves are toothed. The cuspidatum part of the scientific name comes from cuspid, which comes from the Latin cuspis and which means a tooth with a single point, like a canine tooth. It is said that this moss is very common in eastern North America, but I can’t remember ever seeing it before I took this photo. It grows in moist hardwood forests on stones, logs, or soil.

12. Brocade Moss aka Hypnum imponens

Brocade is a “heavy fabric interwoven with a rich, raised design” and that description really fits brocade moss (Hypnum imponens), which always looks to me like it was embroidered by elves or some other forest dwellers. This moss, with its orange, yellow, and brown highlights and fern or feather like shape is one of the easiest to identify. It forms dense mats on moist ground. This moss was once used as stuffing for mattresses and pillows and the Hypnum part of the scientific name comes from the word Hypnos, name of the Greek god of sleep.

 13. Plaited Shaggy Moss aka Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus

A good example of why botanists use scientific names instead of common names is this moss, Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus. Its common names are shaggy moss, plaited shaggy moss, big shaggy moss, rough goose neck moss, rough neck moss, and even electrified cat’s tail moss. I kid you not. Apparently someone thought that if you somehow plugged in a cat its tail would look just like this moss.

 14. Yellow Feather Moss aka Homalothecium lutescens

When I saw how pale this yellow feather moss (Homalothecium lutescens) was I thought it was sick, but this is the way it is supposed to look. It has kind of a loose, airy look that I like. It’s also called ragged yellow moss and fossil evidence has been found that dates it as far back as the Pleistocene epoch, from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago.

Our minds, as well as our bodies, have need of the out-of-doors. Our spirits, too, need simple things, elemental things, the sun and the wind and the rain, moonlight and starlight, sunrise and mist and mossy forest trails, the perfumes of dawn and the smell of fresh-turned earth and the ancient music of wind among the trees.~ Edwin Way Teale

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