Wednesday, August 24, 2016

On the Hunt for a Rare Liverwort

I think I have said several times before that I would follow my friend Evelyn Greene anywhere. Well, that was certainly the case today, when Evelyn, a noted Adirondack naturalist, led our friend Lucy and me straight to a spot on the upper Hudson River where probably the rarest liverwort in all the state can be found.  And yes, it was a straight path right to it, following a railroad line until we came to the site that Evelyn remembered from previous visits.  (No worries about train traffic on Wednesdays, we were told.)

And what a beautiful site it was, along a swiftly flowing stretch of the Hudson north of Warrensburg. And we sure couldn't complain about the weather, either!

Here, where a tiny stream trickled into the river, the rocks were covered with a variety of bryophytes of various colors.

And here it was, the only population of Jungermannia exsertifolia ssp. cordifolia recorded in all the state!  I'm referring to the very dark, almost black, liverwort that is nestled among bright-green mounds of the moss Philonotis fontana and slimy patches of some kind of green algae.

This is the blackest liverwort I have ever seen!

Held close to my eye and with light passing through the translucent leaves,  I could see that the liverwort was really not black, but rather a very dark green.  (Ooh, are those tiny pale-green spheres the Jungermannia's fruiting bodies?  I really don't know!)

In places where the stream's water covered the liverwort, we could see that its leaves were exuding tiny bubbles.  Evelyn told us the leaves were respiring oxygen, the byproduct of photosynthesis.  This liverwort may be very rare, but it definitely was alive!

Decorating several rocks in the stream were a few plants of Round-leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia).

Nearly hidden among the tall grasses near the shore were a number of the little orchid called Nodding Ladies' Tresses (Spiranthes cernua), their bright-white florets hard to miss against the dark green of the grass.

Contented to find the Jungermannia exsertifolia ssp. cordifolia thriving at its known location, we next moved downstream to a remarkable site on the Hudson Banks called the Ice Meadows.  Here, massive heaps of a special ice called frazil pile up on the shore during winter, keeping the trees from encroaching and creating a habitat for many rare species of plants.  I was not looking for rare species today, just some specimens of the Yellow-eyed Grass (Xyris sp.) we usually find blooming around these spring-fed pools this time of year.

Well, no luck finding that Yellow-eyed Grass.  Maybe it hasn't yet come into bloom at this site and thus is invisible among all the other grassy plants.  One thing I did find were the bright-red fruits of Dwarf Sand Cherry (Prunus pumila var. depressa), a truly rare plant that thrives along these shores despite its listing as a threatened species in the state.

We also found lots of Cranberries (Vaccinium sp.) just beginning to color up in various shades of pink.

In this section of the Hudson, the water is quite turbulent, producing lots of white foam.  There are places among the boulders that line the shore of the Ice Meadows where this foam swirls in the most entrancing patterns.  Although I was somewhat disappointed not to find the Xyris species I was looking for, I could still stand on the rocks and enjoy not only these mesmerizing swirls, but also the thought that I'd had a close look at the rarest liverwort in all the state. Not a bad way for a plant nerd like me to spend a beautiful late-summer morning together with the best of companions!

1 comment:

The Furry Gnome said...

That liverwort is a fascinating plant. I've never seen bubbles from a plant 'breathing' before.