Posts Tagged ‘Trentepohlia aurea’

Keen observers of the flowers that bloom in spring probably noticed that there weren’t any coltsfoot flowers in my last post. That’s because I hadn’t seen any yet, even though I had been to every place I knew of where they bloom. Except one, I remembered; the deep cut rail trail in Westmoreland that the ice climbers call the “Icebox” has a lot of coltsfoot plants along the trail. So, though I wasn’t sure what I’d find, last Sunday off I went. What I found was where winter has been hiding. As the above photo shows there was still plenty of ice clinging to the man-made canyon walls.

But the ice was rotten and melting quickly. Ice this big can be very dangerous when it falls, so I don’t get near it. I thought it had been warm enough to melt all the ice and snow here but obviously I was wrong.

The opaque gray color is a sure sign of rotten ice. Ice is rotten when the bonds between ice crystals begin to break down because of air and dirt coming between them.

Water was literally pouring from the walls. The groundwater always seeps and drips here but on this day it was running with more force than I’ve ever seen so I think it was meltwater.

And then I saw this fallen ice column. It looked like a boat and was as big as one that would fit 5 people. If this ever fell on a person it would crush them, so I decided to turn back and get out of here.

The view further down the trail didn’t look safe at all with all the ice columns melting in the sunshine, and there was what looked like a pile of ice down there.

That’s what it was; a pile of huge ice chunks all across the trail. I know it’s hard to judge the scale of things in a photo but these ice columns are as big as trees. Actually there is a fallen tree over on the left.

Here’s a shot of some ice climbers taken in February to give new readers an idea of the size of this ice. Some of it is huge.

I think that part of the reason the ice columns fall like they do is because the water in the drainage ditches along the side of the trail erode their bases away, as can be seen in this photo.

Ice isn’t the only thing that falls here. Stones fall from the ledges regularly and I saw at least three fallen trees on this day. I’m reminded each time I come here how dangerous the place can be, but it is also a place where I can see things that I can’t see anywhere else.

One of the things I can’t see anywhere else is the great scented liverwort (Conocephalum conicum.) They grow here by the thousands and I’ve learned to expect them to look a little tattered and worn in spring, because most are covered by ice all winter. By June though they’ll all be a beautiful pea green. Another name for the plant is snakeskin liverwort, for obvious reasons. Its pores and air chambers our outlined on its surface, and that gives it a very reptilian look. In my opinion it is one of the most beautiful of its kind.

I decided to look a little closer at areas with no ice or leaning trees nearby and I’m glad I did because I saw many interesting things, like what I believe is yew leaved pocket moss (Fissidens taxifolius.) This little moss grows in very wet places on the ledges where water drips on it almost constantly. Pocket mosses get their common name from the way the lower lobe of each leaf curls around its stem to form a pocket. This example was a little beat up because it has also most likely been under ice all winter.

Grasses were just coming up in the drainage ditches that follow along each side of the trail. The beech leaf in the foreground will give you an idea of their size.

I saw a large patch of moss on part of a ledge.

It turned out to be Hedwigia ciliata, which is a very common but an uncommonly beautiful moss. It’s also called white tipped moss because its branch tips are often bright white. I usually see it on stones in full sun.

Seedlings were coming up among the mosses. I’m not sure what they are because they had no true leaves yet but I do know that Jack in the pulpit plants grow all along this section of ledge. Many different species of aster also grow on the stone. It reminds me of a radish seedling.

I found that green algae (Trentepohlia aurea) darkens when wet. This hairy alga is orange because of the pigment beta carotene hiding the green chlorophyll. It grows out of direct sunlight on the damp rock walls.

I thought I’d practice my photography skills by trying to get a shot of a stone filled with mica. It isn’t as easy as it sounds because each piece of mica is like a tiny mirror that amplifies the sunlight.

If I could have gotten closer to the ice columns I would have shown you that the ice comes in many colors here. One of the colors is a reddish orange and I believe that it comes from iron leaching from the soil and stone. The above photo is of a spot in the woods where a pool of water was. When the water evaporated it left behind the minerals it carried, in this case probably iron.

I saw this bubbly mass in one of the drainage ditches. I’m not sure but I think it’s some type of algae. It reminds me of the spyrogyra algae I saw a few years ago. That example was on a very wet stone outcrop and this one was in water. I’ve read that it is most abundant in early spring and that the bubbles come from trapped gasses. It isn’t something I see regularly.

I never did find any coltsfoot flowers to show you but there were plenty of other interesting things to see. I also never made it all the way to the old lineman’s shack because of all the fallen ice, but I did see a piece of it; this plank from it was being used as a bridge to cross the drainage ditch. I wish people wouldn’t keep pulling the old shed apart but I don’t suppose anything can be done about it.

Nature is never static. It is always changing. Everything is in a constant state of flux. Nothing endures. Everything is in the process of either coming into being or expiring.
~Kilroy J. Oldster

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Regular readers might be getting tired of seeing this part of the New Hampshire rail trail system north of Keene but I never get tired of exploring here because I never know what I’m going to find. There are mosses, lichens, and liverworts here that I don’t see anywhere else so last week, after a nuisance snowstorm of 2 or 3 inches, I decided to see what I could find. The ice formations alone make this a worthwhile trip.

 1. Rail Trail

I think the reason all of the unusual plants grow so well here is because of the all of the groundwater that constantly seeps from the stone cliff faces. Mosses, lichens and liverworts don’t have roots so they depend on rain, snowmelt, and groundwater for their nutrients. In the winter the groundwater that helps them survive also freezes into huge, interesting ice formations and there are many people who come here to climb them.

 2. Ice Climber

I happened to meet up with a solitary ice climber here this day, and I took his picture so you could get an idea of the scale of this man made canyon that was blasted out of the bedrock. He looked to be 6 feet tall or so-maybe a little taller.

3. Green Ice

The ice climber had gotten there before me and I followed his footprints in the fresh snow, noting that he went from ice column to ice column, finally settling on a large column of green ice much like the one in the above photo. He was climbing alone so there was no safety rope and I didn’t want to take a photo of him climbing because I didn’t want to do anything to break his concentration. I was wishing that I could have talked to him about the ice and why he climbed it.

I haven’t been able to answer the question of why the ice is green so I don’t know if it is being stained by minerals or vegetation.  My gut feeling says it’s probably a little of both.

4. Fan Pocket Moss aka Fissidens dubius

Ice wasn’t the only reason I came here. These old walls are covered in mosses, lichens and liverworts. I think the moss shown here growing out of a crack in the stone is fan pocket moss (Fissidens dubius.)  It was very small-no bigger than a quarter. Fissidens mosses always appear flat and have two leaves directly across from one another along the stem.

5. Green Algae

I also came here to see something I was only recently able to identify. Though it is bright orange, this is called green algae (Trentepohlia aurea.) The orange color comes from the carotenoid pigment in the alga cells called hematochrome or beta- carotene, which is the same pigment that gives carrots their orange color. One of the reasons I wanted to visit this place again was to try to get better photos of it.

6. Green Algae 2

I found that getting a better photo was easier said than done, but at least you can see the hairiness of what is described as “filamentous green chlorophyte algae.” The pigment masks the green chlorophyll and can also be yellow or red.  In 2001 airborne spores from these algae were in high enough concentrations in India to cause a “red rain” that actually stained clothes pink. Yellow, green, and black rain was also reported. You can read more about that by clicking here.

7. Fallen Tree

I know from previous visits that this fallen tree means I should start watching for liverworts growing on the walls. With all the fresh snow, I wasn’t sure that I’d see any.

 8. Fountain Smoothcap Moss aka Atrichum crispum

It would probably take a lifetime to identify all the different mosses growing here. I think this one might be fountain smoothcap moss (Atrichum crispum), but to be honest I can’t be certain. There are many mosses that look very much like this one and often only a microscope will reveal their true identity. The fact that it was growing in such a wet environment and the way the dry lower leaves had a crisp look is what leads me to believe it is Atrichum crispum. In any case, I thought it was a very pretty moss. Since most moss leaves are only one cell thick they look translucent in certain kinds of light.

9. Running Water

Speaking of wet environments, this is not the place to come if you want silence, because the sound of dripping water is constant. Winter, summer, spring and fall it, and the sounds of birds chirping, are all that you hear in this place. Sometimes the drip turns to a gush, as can be seen in this photo. Luckily the railroad engineers designed drainage ditches along each side of the road bed that still keep it nice and dry close to 200 years after they were dug.

10. Sun on Ice-2 

The canyon walls are high enough and the sun low enough in the sky so very little sunlight is seen here in winter.  A few shafts fall here and there, but they do little to warm things up. Also, the ice seems to create its own micro climate so you need to dress warmly if you plan to explore this area. On this day the temperature must have been a good 10 degrees colder in the canyon than on the more open parts of the trail that get sunshine.

11. Winter Crane Fly aka Trichocera

On the more open parts of the trail winter crane flies (Trichocera) could be seen soaking up the sun.

12. Liverwort in Snow

I finally saw some liverworts that had been protected from the snow but the drainage ditch full of water kept me from getting close. I’ve decided that I’m going to get some knee high wading boots to overcome the drainage ditch problem. That way I’ll be able to get closer to all of the unusual plants growing here. A ladder would also be useful but I hate to think of carrying one all the way out here.

 13. Preissia quadrata Liverwort

Every time I come here I see something I’ve never seen before. Today’s find was this liverwort that reminded me a little of cooked bacon. Or maybe I was just hungry.  Anyhow, I think this one is called narrow mushroom-headed liverwort (Preissia quadrata,) but since it can sometimes take a team of botanists to identify a liverwort, don’t bet the farm on my identification. Fresh plants are said to have a disagreeable odor, but I was able to get quite close to this one thanks to the frozen over drainage ditch, and I don’t remember smelling much of anything. Plants are also said to have a very hot taste when nibbled, but I think I’ll leave the nibbling to the botanists. I’m anxious to come back in June to see the mushroom shaped fruiting bodies.

 14. Conocephalum conicum Liverwort

Sometimes we see things so beautiful that we just want to sit and gaze at them, and when we do we find that when we’ve finished we have no idea how much time has passed, because the thing has taken us outside of ourselves. It can happen with a view from a mountain top, or a sunset, or a liverwort. This one is called the great scented liverwort (Conocephalum conicum) and it is another reason I come here.

The woods were made for the hunters of dreams. ~ S.W. Foss

Thanks for stopping in. Happy New Year!

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1. Wrinkled Crust Lichen Phlebia radiata

A couple of posts ago I showed what I suspected was a lichen that I found growing on a pine log. Though it felt fleshy like a fungus I had the idea in my mind that it “should be” a lichen, and so when I got home I looked through hundreds (literally) of lichen photos with no luck identifying it. Luckily Rick from the Between Blinks Blog had seen examples before and knew it to be a crust fungus called Phlebia radiata, or wrinkled crust fungus. These curious fungi lay flat on whatever they grow on much like crustose lichens would, and radiate out from a central point.  They have no stem or gills or pores. Most interesting about them to me are the various bright shades of pink and orange they display. This is a fungus that doesn’t mind cool weather, so it is often seen at this time of year. Thanks again for the ID Rick!

 2. Green Algae Trentepohlia aurea

So let’s see, this one I showed in a post from about a month ago is orange like a fungus, grows on stone like a lichen, and is hairy like a moss. I guessed that it might be some kind of strange orange moss, but I’d never seen anything like it. If I hadn’t stumbled across it online while searching for something else I never would have guessed that it was actually a green algae called Trentepohlia aurea. I know, I said the same thing-“it isn’t green, it’s orange.” These algae get their bright orange color from a pigment known as hematochrome, which forms in nitrogen starved algae and protects and hides the algae’s green chlorophyll. It can be orange, yellow or red and it also colors some lichens, making their identification even more difficult.

 3. Beard Lichen

Bristly beard lichen (Usnea hirta) is often found on the ground but it doesn’t grow there; the wind blows them out of the trees. Many lichens like sunlight and grow in the tops of trees where there is less shade from the leaves. Native Americans used lichens medicinally for thousands of years and lichens in the Usnea group were described in the first Chinese herbal, written about 500 AD. Today scientists estimate that about 50% of all lichen species have antibiotic properties.

 4. Fringed Wrinkle Lichen

Last year I found fringed wrinkle lichens (Tuckermannopsis Americana) growing in a birch tree near a pond and they are still there this year. The color of this lichen varies greatly from when it is wet or dry, but its wrinkled surface and the way that its fruiting bodies (Apothecia) appear on the lobe margins help identify it. The purple dye used to color the togas of the rich and famous in ancient Rome came from lichens, and many other dye colors can also be extracted from them.  Some of the rich colors used in Scottish “Harris Tweed” also come from lichens.

5. Indian Pipe.

The seed capsule of this Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora) split open to release its seeds. The seeds are so small as to be nearly microscopic, and are wind borne.  Each plant will release thousands of seeds, but if they don’t fall in exactly the right conditions, they won’t grow. Indian pipes need both the right fungi and the right tree roots to grow because they don’t photosynthesize and make their own food. Instead they parasitize both the fungi and the trees they grow on.

6. Cattails.

Cattail (Typha latifolia) seeds are also borne on the wind, but there will be plenty left when the female red wing blackbirds come back in the spring. They and many other birds use the seeds to line their nests. Native Americans had uses for every part of this plant and one of their names for cattail meant “fruit for papoose’s bed.” Even the pollen was harvested and used in bread.

Some of the information on Native American uses for cattails used here comes from the folks at The International Secret Society of People Who Sleep with Cattail Pillows. No, I’m not kidding. Their motto is “You’ll Do Good Deeds, If You Sleep on Seeds!”

7. Bolete Mushroom

This tiny mushroom was all dried out but its dime sized cap had plenty of pores on its underside that were worth taking a look at. These pores are tubes where the mushroom’s spores are produced. Mushrooms with pores instead of gills are called boletes. If a shelf or bracket fungus has pores it is called a polypore.

 8. Broom Moss aka Dicranum scoparium

Broom Moss (Dicranum scoparium) is a North American native that grows on soil, stones or logs, but I usually find it on the ground in semi shaded places that don’t get strong sunlight. The scoparium part of the scientific name comes from the Latin scopae, which means “broom” and the common name broom moss comes from the way that all of the curved leaf tips point in the same direction, looking as if someone swept them with a broom. Scopae also describes the brush like hairs used to collect pollen that are found on the abdomens and legs of some bees.

 9. Woodpecker Tree

When you come upon a tree that looks like this in the forest you might think that a bear had gone after it, but this damage was caused by a woodpecker-a Pileated woodpecker, to be exact. I see trees that look like this all of the time, and have even seen trees cut in half with their top on the ground. I wish I had gotten the large pile of woodchips at the base of the tree in this photo, but I wasn’t thinking.

10. Juniper Berrires

The fruit of an Eastern juniper (Juniperus virginiana) looks like a berry but it is actually a soft, fleshy cone. They are a deep, bluish purple color but are covered with a white wax coating that makes them appear lighter blue. The most common uses for the “berries” are as flavoring for cooked game or to flavor gin. Native Americans used them medicinally and in food.

11. Snow on Monadnock

Mount Monadnock has had its first snowfall, though the bright sunshine almost hides that fact in this photo. Once the snow really starts to fly bare granite won’t be seen up there again until late spring. I decided to climb to the summit one warm April day years ago and had to wade / crawl through waist deep snow. By the time I made it back down several hours later I looked like I had been swimming with my clothes on and even had to pour water out of my wallet and shoes. Climbing with no snowshoes was a foolish and dangerous thing to do, but at 18 I wasn’t always the sharpest knife in the drawer.

About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow
~A.E. Housman

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