Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Testing My Bryophyte Lessons

What with holiday preparations and readying my house for weekend guests, I haven't had much time to get outdoors this week.  But I was eager to test the lessons I learned from bryologist Nancy Slack last Friday, so I did manage to slip out for an hour on Monday to visit the Bog Meadow Nature Trail just east of Saratoga Springs, a wooded wetland trail that's full of fascination in every season.

 The hundreds of decomposing logs lying about in the woods offer many opportunities to study lots of different species of mosses and other bryophytes -- plants that reproduce by spores, rather than by flowers and seeds.

This beautiful Tree Moss (Climacium americanum), though, was growing not on a rotting log, but directly on the ground, probably where a log had completely decomposed in the past. It does look quite a bit like a little tree.

This next moss (Ulota crispa) always grows ON trees, usually birches, marching up and down the trunk like a group of tiny hedgehogs.

I'm not completely sure, but this mat of lacy-leaved moss growing on a downed log could be Thuidium delicatum, or Fern Moss.  It certainly resembles little ferns.  And those tiny mushrooms resemble little brown ears, so perhaps they are the fungus called Tree Ear.  On second thought, they also resemble in color and size copper pennies, so I think they might be Pachyella clypeata, or Copper Penny.

I was pondering what this "moss" might be, when I remembered being stumped by it before up at Pyramid Lake, when botanist Ruth Schottman informed me that it wasn't a moss at all, but rather a leafy liverwort called Lophocolea bidentata.

A closer look reveals the two-toothed leaves that suggest this liverwort's specific name of bidentata, meaning two-toothed.

 Not all my finds were botanical.  I found this very hairy pod lying on a moss mat, and I wondered if it could be the cocoon of one of our very hairy moths, like a Tussock Moth, which is known to use its hairs to create its cocoon.

When I turned it over, I found that some predator had torn the cocoon open and devoured the contents of that shiny dark carapace.  It was hollow inside.  I suppose a bird could do that.  Bog Meadow Trail is very rich in bird life.

Before I saw this tiny spider on the surface of a cut stump, I saw the bright yellow dots of Lemon Drop Fungus, the largest hardly bigger than the head of a pin.  If the spider had not moved, I probably never would have seen it.  Really cute!

Trail steward Geoff Bornemann was hard at work rebuilding a section of washed-out trail.  Geoff is very diligent about maintaining this wetland trail, which is always threatened with flooding.  In some places the flooding is due to beaver dams, but in this section of the trail, the flooding is caused by the uphill homeowner's removal of too many trees from the edge of his property, causing sand and silt to wash down the banks and fill the drainage ditches that Geoff has so carefully dug along the trail.   Geoff, I hope you know that lots of happy hikers are very grateful to you for all the work you do to make this trail walkable in every season.

 I'll bet that tomorrow some happy eaters will be grateful for all my hard work making pies today.  Two cherry, one cherry-apricot, one apple, one pumpkin, and a blueberry coffeecake to have for company over the weekend.  The pies I will take to a Thanksgiving feast at in-laws' place in the mountains of Vermont.  I surely have many blessings to be thankful for.  I wish a very happy holiday feast to all my readers.


Anonymous said...

You always inspire me to look for more wonders as I hike.

Happy thanksgiving to you and all your readers, too! The pies look lucious!

catharus said...

Fascinating plants of the forest floor.
I'm craving those pies!

Ellen Rathbone said...

Nice mosses. I love the names - Thuidium has always been a favorite, although Ceratodon ranks right up there - sounds like it should be a dinosaur!

And beautiful pies!

Tristram Brelstaff said...

The purple fungus might be an Ascocoryne sp.