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Posts Tagged ‘Running Club Moss’

I think it had been a year or more since I had climbed the High Blue trail in Walpole so last Saturday that’s where I went. It’s more of a walk than a climb but still, it’s enough to get someone with tired lungs huffing and puffing. It was another beautiful spring day and there is a lot to see there, so I was looking forward to it.

There are a lot of ruts in the old logging road that starts the climb and many of them still had rain water in them. Salamanders took advantage of the small ponds, swimming in them as these two did. New Hampshire has eight native salamanders including the red-spotted newt, and I think that’s what these were. The larva are aquatic and so are the adults, but the juveniles are called red efts and live on land.  They eat just about anything that is small enough, including earthworms and insects. As I walked on I heard the quacking of wood frogs and the trilling of spring peepers, so there is a lot of water in the area.

Coltsfoot plants (Tussilago farfara) were blooming by the dozens.

Striped maple buds (Acer pensylvanicum) are getting bigger each time I see them. They’ll be opening soon.

Hobblebush buds (Viburnum lantanoides) are going to bloom early this year, I think. Normally they wouldn’t open until May but these warm days are accelerating everything.

The early warmth has wreaked havoc on the maple syrup industry. The last article I read said one of the larger local producers was down more than 10,000 gallons below average. This shot shows how most of the big producers collect sap these days; with food grade plastic tubing.

It’s very simple really. The tapper drills a hole in the tree and the black piece seen above is inserted into the hole. The syrup flows through the blue tubing to the green tubing and from there to the collection tanks. Vacuum pumps are sometimes used to pull the sap through the tubing.

It’s nearly impossible to get lost up here with signs like these directing you.

It isn’t far to the summit but as slow as I walk, it takes a little while. I walk slow purposely as I’ve said many times before. Adopt a toddler’s pace and then you begin to see all the things in nature that you’ve been rushing past all these years.

Black knot grew on a young cherry tree. Infected stems swell up and produce hard black knots like those seen here. They will eventually become serious wounds and will eventually kill the tree, so infected limbs should be pruned off 2-4 inches below the knots and buried or burned before bud break the following spring.

Woodpeckers had been gouging out the wood of a dead birch.

This pile of shavings at the base of the tree showed that they had been working hard.

I saw that they were still growing corn here. When I first started hiking here this was a meadow full of wildflowers including orange hawkweed, which is hard to find.

I always wonder who gets the most corn, the farmer of the animals. I think that bears eat a lot of it. I’ve followed game trails away from the cornfield and have found whole stalks that have been dragged off. It takes strength to pull up a corn stalk and I doubt deer could do it.

Willows bloomed off in the distance across the cornfield.

Two or three red maples, all male flowered, bloomed along the trail side of the cornfield.

This is very stony ground up here with ledge outcrops like this one fairly common. I’ve always thought of features like these the bones of the forest.

This outcrop was mostly quartz and rock tripe lichen grew all over it. Rock tripe lichen (Umbilicaria mammulata) gets brownish and curls up when it is dry like these were. You can see the back of it , which is black and pebble textured in this photo. The Umbilicaria part of the scientific name comes from the Latin umbilicus, meaning navel, because of the way they attach themselves to stone with a single attachment point that looks like a navel. It sticks itself to stone by way of this single, navel like attachment point and the rest of the lichen hangs from this central point, much like a rag hanging from a peg. Rock tripe is edible and eating it has saved the lives of people who were lost and starving in the past. Though I imagine they must taste like old rubber, these lichens were a source of emergency food for Native Americans and saved the lives of many an early settler. Even George Washington’s troops are said to have eaten rock tripe to survive the brutal winter at Valley Forge in 1777.

Running club moss (Lycopodium clavatum) is also called stag’s horn clubmoss. 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. All of this happens under the leaves so it can be 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. For you people who have the app, Google lens identifies it as stag’s horn clubmoss.

The remains of an old foundation always make me wonder about the people who once lived up here. It’s easy to forget that just one hundred years ago most of these hills were cleared and used as pasture land. Once the industrial revolution happened people left the farms to work in the mills and ever since the land has been going back to forest.

These people worked hard, whoever they were. This stone wall runs off into the distance as far as the eye can see.

The pond that lives up here already had duckweed growing on it. And it was full of singing frogs.

I’ve seen these what I think are insect egg cases before but I’ve never been able to identify them. If you’ve ever seen a Tic-Tac candy mint, these are the same size and shape that they are. In other words, quite small. Google lens kept trying to identify the shrub instead of them. Apparently it couldn’t see the egg cases.

The sign at the overlook lets you know how high up you are…

…and the view is always blue, hence the name High Blue. The view was a little hazy but I could see the ski trails over on Stratton Mountain in Vermont, which is just across the Connecticut River Valley. I was surprised to see snow on them, because where I was sitting it was about 74 degrees. Far too warm for this early in spring but as anyone who spends much time in nature knows, you have to be at peace with what nature gives.

A beautiful life is not a place at which you arrive, but the experience you create moment by moment. ~Lebo Grand

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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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