Monday, December 10, 2012

Bazzania trilobata - a BIG leafy, liverwort

where Conocephalum is one of our largest thalloid liverworts, Bazzania is one of our largest leafy liverworts. this means that it has a stem and leaves and is much more 'moss-like' than the thalloid liverworts which are just thick or thin flattened plants without any differentiation into stems or leaves.  Bazzania is very common in moist forests especially cedar swamps. it loves old stumps, humic soil, but can also be found on rocks and tree bases. when it's happy, it can form large, loose repeatedly forked cushions.

the way the leaves curl down somewhat over the stem have always reminded me of a centipede-like creature. Each leaf ends in 3 triangular teeth.

Bazzania, like many liverworts has small underleaves...much smaller than the top leaves, and they generally have 4-5 teeth.

 It also produces long rootlike branches which arise from the base of the underleaves, which you can see in this wonderful photo by Michael Luth:

Some say that it has the smell of sandalwood, but i haven't noticed that myself...perhaps i'll check next time i'm hiking around the park trails.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A BIG Liverwort

i haven't talked too much about liverworts, but they're no less deserving than mosses...Many of them are tiny and difficult to identify like the cephalozias..or somewhat bigger and harder to identify (i'm thinking Lophozias here). But there are a few that are very recognizable in the field....and Conocephalum conicum is one of our largest thalloid liverworts. It loves wet soil along streams, under ledges and over rocks next to waterfalls. It grows in overlapping, flat mats. It rather looks like green snake skin.

A close up of the thallus shows that it has little polygonal markings on the surface (which give it it's distinctive snakeskin-like appearance...and that in the center of each polygon is a dot. These dots are pores which lead into air chambers. Conocephalum is part of a group of liverworts that have a multi-layered, or complex,  thallus - small epidermal (surface) cells and larger interior cells. It is quite aromatic and emits a spicy-fragrant scent when the fresh plant is crushed.
   This liverwort is dioecious, which is a fancy word meaning that it has separate male and female plants. the plant above is can tell by the small, brown circular patches at the end of the branches.
The next time you're in a wet area, look for this conspicuous liverwort.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Leucobryum glaucum - the pincushion moss

   The other little moss that was peeking out of the birch bark, which i didn't notice right away, was a little piece of Leucobryum glaucum. this distinctive moss was one of the first mosses i learned as it's easily identifiable.
One of the few mosses with a common goes by 'Pincushion Moss' or even better...'Mother-in-Law's cushion'.  It can grow into quite large rounded cushions, large enough to sit on...and it looks ever so cushy and, if you don't actually like your mother-in-law, you invite her to rest her feet and have a seat....what you don't tell her, is that this moss, like many of the sphagnums is really good at soaking up water like a sponge, so when you sit down on it, you will end up with a wet bottom.
  the thing that makes Leucobryum so distinctive, is also the reason why it soaks up's leaf contains a great number of empty cells...The leaf has a midrib that is so broad that it doesn't look like a midrib at all just looks like the leaf is thick and fleshy. When the plant dries out, it's color changes from green to a pale whitish green or light blue-green that is very distinctive.

a small clump of moist Leucobryum

Notice the color when it's dry

The cushions of Leucobryum are actually many separate plants all crowded together. the plants in the center of the clump continue to elongate which can make it form a nice hemispherical cushion.

this is a scan of a piece of Leucobryum taken from a large cushion

a Leucobryum leaf - the whole center is made up of a thick midrib
Leucobryum loves moist or even swampy woods and grows on humusy soil, often where stumps have completely rotted to the ground. Even though it prefers these moist areas, it can also be found in much drier areas as well. But almost always in acid areas.

Here is a nice patch of Leucobryum growing up next to McLeod pond in Colrain, MA.
Now, doesn't it look comfy to sit on??
Next time you're out in the woods, keep your eyes open for this lovely, common moss.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Hypnum imponens - the Brocade Moss

As i was hiking around the park trails the other day, i picked up this piece of birch bark...

i loved the little moss poking through the crack in the i looked closer at it, i noticed that there were actually two species, Hypnum imponens and Leucobryum glaucum, both of which are very common on the ground. It got me to thinking about how they came to be in that little piece of bark, and i came to the conclusion that the bark was growing close to the ground and as the tree was dying (or dead) the mosses grew up from the ground and through the bark.
   i've been noticing Hypnum imponens a lot over the past seems to glow at the trail edges, maybe that's because there's so little green in the woods these days and one is less distracted. Commonly called 'Brocade moss' i think due to its usually neat, embroidered look. it can form extensive mats on old logs and humusy ground and likes it a little damp. This is what it commonly looks like:

it often has a very characteristic orange-brown color and a very neat arrangement of branches along the stem called pinnate (like a feather).

Like many in the Hypnum genus, it has very curly leaves which you would see if you turned the branch looks smooth on top and somewhat bristly underneath (which are all the leaf tips curling under)

under side of branch tip

curved leaves - often called 'falcate-secund'
you can also see that it has no midrib or 'costa' to the leaf and something interesting is happening at the leaf base where it attaches to the stem. most of the cells in the main part of the leaf are quite long and linear...but the cells at the base are much shorter, even a little inflated. Those cells are called 'alar' cells and are often differentiated in many species of moss and are used as an aid in identification of closely related species.

so..closer up, these cells look like this:

in Hypnum imponens they are often distinctly colored orange-brown as well.
Look for this common species the next time you are out hiking!

next post, i'll take a closer look at the other species found in bark - Leucobryum glaucum

Monday, October 8, 2012

My own little foray

The Andrews Foray  was conducted on September 9... i was unable to attend and so decided to have my own little foray right here in town. i decided to go to two places that i hadn't been to in maybe 10-15 years.
the first was a powerline cut:

i had found Helodium paludosum here and wanted to see if i could find it again. (i didn't).
 Powerlines are great places to find disturbed soil bryophytes. Often, as in this one, they have wet areas too, where fun mosses can be found. The most abundant mosses were Polytrichum commune and Aulacomnium palustre. these two were very abundant on the banks.
Polytrichum commune

Aulacomnium palustre
Other bryos i found included: Ditrichum lineare (on muddy dirt), Trematodon ambiguus, Atrichum angustatum, Pohlia annotina & P. bulbifera, Leucobryum glaucum, Polytrichum pilliferum (hanging around rock edges), Thuidium delicatulum, Hedwigia ciliata, Plagiomnium cuspidatum, Callicladium haldanianum, Fissidens bushii, Atrichum cf altecristatum, Atrichum crispum, Hypnum pallescens, Hypnum imponens & H. lindbergii.
Trematodon ambiguus - note the LONG neck to the capsule.

  there was a little brook that ran across the access road and in this i found Scapania nemorosa, Fontinalis antipyretica, Sphagnum sp., Hygrohypnum sp., Racomitrium aciculare (covering the rocks).

But the most exciting species i found looked like this:
See that green fuzz on the left side of the mud crack? yup...that's it!

With my handlens i could see the tiniest of capsules, meaning i had found a nice fall ephemeral....but which one??? i was thinking ephemerum....but when i looked at it under the scopes it turned out to be Micromitriuim megalosporum - one of the tiniest's capsules are round and inserted within the leaves.  It could easily be mistaken for algal growth. it often will be found on muddy soil when a pond recedes in the fall. I had only seen this species once - shown to me by Bill Buck, and now a new record for Franklin Co, Mass!

the second spot i went to was where an old beaver dam used to be, but was now mostly a sedge meadow.
The sedge growth was so dense that there was hardly any mosses at all. i had found Pohlia bulbifera here and was looking for it (even though i just saw it up on the powerline cut.)

i was lucky to find both Pohlia annotina and P. bulbifera:
Pohlia annotina

Pohlia bulbifera
Other bryos i saw included Bryum argenteum, Atrichum crispum, Dicranella heteromalla, and  Philonotis fontana. I also found some of the hornwort, Anthoceros punctatum, and also another small ephemeral which was puzzling to me. It looked sort of like Physcomitrium pyriforme except the capsule wasn't really very exserted, and that fruits in the spring anyway....and it didn't look like Pottia truncata either.
When i got it under the scope, it turned out to be a Physcomitrium - not pyriforme, but P. immersum - another new species for me and possibly new for mass as well....
So, all in all, a great mini foray for me!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mosses on Tree Trunks

    What better place to start looking at mosses than on tree trunks. They’re right at eye level - no bending over for these! Mosses included here are those found higher than 2 1/2 to 3 feet above the ground, any further down and you’re getting into the nebulous tree base region! Both mosses and liverworts are found on trees and the nice thing is that, in our area, the bryoflora is limited and predictable.
How many bryophytes will you find? Perhaps 16 or so mosses with 10 common ones and about 5 liverworts, 4 of which will be fairly common.

   The BIG 3 bryophytes of tree trunks in our area are:
Ulota crispa, Platygyrium repens and Frullania eboracensis. These three are so common, that if you learn them, you will know what grows on tree trunks 75% of the time!
   There are several different growth forms that you will notice:
Cushion formers -these are many small upright plants crowded together to form either dense or loose cushions. Examples of these include Ulota crispa, Dicranum montanum and D. viride and the Orthotrichums.  
Mat formers - these are those that form low, dense mats tight to the trunk and include such bryophytes as Platygyrium repens, Hypnum pallescens, Frullania and Radula. In moister areas or on large, old trees (often maple) you get a looser, deeper cushion such as Anomodon attenuatus (although this moss is more often found at the base of the tree, sometimes it can creep up quite high). 
Finally you have the Shelf-like form, seen in such bryophytes as Neckera pennata, Leucodon andrewsianus and the liverwort Porella platyphylla, where the plant grows in overlapping shelves and sticks out away from the trunk of the tree.
    There is also a difference between which species you might find on a tree depending on the type of forest you are in and what kind of tree you’re looking at. Species on apple trees in an orchard will be different from those found in rich beech/maple woods or drier oak/hickory woods or an old willow next to a stream.  Trees found in old growth woods will also have a different community of bryophytes compared to those in second growth. 

Moved, fairly settled & Workshop Notice's been a crazy couple of months - have moved back up to Rowe,
cleaned and mowed and cleaned some it's time to think about those mosses.

WORKSHOP! Beginners and Refresher workshop July 23-27 here in Rowe, MA.  Forgotten everything you once knew?
Or don't know a thing but are interested?
Email me for details.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Fresh mosses!

After three months of looking at dried specimens, it was refreshing to take a hike and look at some FRESH mosses. It's been rainy the past week and everything was lush. Many of the Plagiomniums and Atrichums had new leaves which were a nice light green compared to last years leaves. The first stop on my hike was near a limy boulder. The side was covered with Mnium marginatum and below that was Anomodon rostratus looking like a pile rug:

On the top of the boulder was a nice patch of Rhodobryum ontariense, very nicely opened with the wet weather. Its older name of Rhodobryum roseum seems much more appropriate with its nice rose-like growth form.

 All over the ground, tops of boulders, covering logs was the fern-like moss, Thuidium delicatulum: 

The next stop was on a powerline cut and the Polytrichums were wonderful! If you want to look at several kinds of Polytrichums, a powerline is the place to be. 

Polytrichum juniperinum is shown here next to Polytrichum pallidisetum. Note the nice silvery bluegreen of P. juniperinum on the left:

Here's a lovely picture of the male splash cups of P. juniperinum amongst some lichens on the top of a dry boulder:

Here's a close-up of the splash cups

Polytrichum piliferum has long, white hairpoints

A deep cushion of Polytrichum commune

And i couldn't help but notice all the other nice things happening in the woods:
All the ferns were unfurling

Saw several nice patches of the downy rattlesnake plantain.
Goodyera pubescens

Who doesn't love Jack-in-the-pulpit?

Lots of sweet white violets, Viola blanda

And, unfortunately lots of other, not so nice things are out this spring:
an adult female deer tick....yuck.
came back with 2 deer ticks and 2 dog ticks.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bryophytes in Second and Old Growth Forests

I'm interested in bryophyte communities...which bryos like to hang out together...not only, say on a log, but in an ecological community as a rich fen, or in  an oak-hickory woods for example. The following two illustrations show a generalized 'map' of the commonly found bryophytes in a second growth woods and an old growth woods.

Common Bryophytes of Second Growth Hardwood Forests

Common Bryophytes of Old Growth/Rich Woods
One of the things you'll notice is that the diversity is greater in the old growth compared to second growth woods. Also, due to high amounts of leaf litter, there are virtually no bryophytes on the ground.  Of course there are many more species found than illustrated here, but these are the species you are likely to run into in  these areas.

In my next post, i'll show some maps from specific places.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

damn you

Atrichum crispum.......fooling me again into thinking you're some type of Mnium!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Atrichum crispulum, Atrichum altecristatum

Atrichum undulatum is what i had always called this plant. This is what is was in Crum's Mosses of Eastern North America. He had split it into several varieties: var altecristatum, var undulatum, var attenuatum, and var oerstedianum. i never bothered with these and just called the plant Atrichum undulatum. When i got my new copy of Flora of North America, i looked further into this species. It said: "No Atrichum species occurring in North America has been as widely misunderstood as A. undulatum....Its occurrence in North America has not been demonstrated. As used by American authors, it probably refers to A. altecristatum."  Atrichum crispulum had also been recently called Atrichum oerstedianum, but comparisons to the type specimen indicate that the two are separate with A. oerstedianum being found in Mexico and Central America.
So, ok, we don't have A. undulatum, what we DO have is A. crispulum and A. altecristatum from that complex. In working on my wooded wetlands project, i've come across several specimens and this is how to tell the two species apart...since i didn't have the exact substrate for the specimen (Apparently A. altecristatum prefers soil banks, along roads & trails, on hummocks - more like A. angustatum and A. crispulum prefers soil in mostly shaded habitats, often wet banks along streams or at the margins of fens or swamps), i had to make leaf cross sections to look at the height of the lamellae (which are the long ridges that are lined up along the costa). Almost all the specimens i looked at were A has 4-6 lamellae that are very short, usually they were 3 cells high. In A. altecristatum, the lamellae are 4-6 cells high. If you're lucky enough to collect a fruiting plant, A. crispulum has a capsule that is curved and inclined (see the photos and drawings below), whereas A. altecristatum capsule is usually more straight and erect.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Trying to get back!

there is a reason i've been missing these last few months......

i have literally thousands of specimens to identify...this is one box of four, with each bunch having from 15-25 packets! This project concerns wooded wetlands, so there's a lot of repetition in the samples....
Lots of Thuidium delicatulum, Aulacomnium palustre, Hypnum imponens, Dicranum flagellare, Dicranum scoparium,Tetraphis pellucida, Leucobryum glaucum, Pallavicinia lyellii, Bazzania trilobata, Climacium, Atrichums, Rhizommium appalachianum, Calliergon cordifolium, Polytrichums and of course Sphagnums....over and over and over...lots and lots of Sphagnum palustre, S. fimbriatum, S. capillifolium, S. magellanicum, S. girgensohnii, S. subsecundum, S. fallax & flexuosum....a few times i've gotten the super nice S. wulfianum.
So, between work and identifying all these and trying to get a run or bike ride in has left little time for my book and blog! Luckily the specimens are good and not too scrappy. Plus it gets me thinking about the community of wooded wetland bryophytes. In my next post i'll talk some about the Atrichum undulatum complex.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Our Common toothy leaved Polytrichums

Working on Polytrichum drawings today (including Polytrichastrum).
The following four species are our most common that have toothy leaves.
P. commune is the largest and if fruiting is easily told from all the others by it's shorter capsule with a large 'knob' at the base (see diagram). Polytrichastrum alpinum has a dark brown cylindrical capsule (separating it from  the other Polytrichums which have angled capsules. If P. alpinum is not fruiting, then you have to section the leaf and look at the lamellae. In this species the terminal or top-most cell is papillose, meaning it has little bumps all over it. The other Polytrichums in this group have smooth terminal cells. The other two species  are more difficult to tell apart. P. pallidisetum seems to prefer a moister woodland, whereas P. ohioense tolerates drier ground. P. pallidisetum is often quite large and is the typical woodland Polytrichum found in the hardwood forests. P. ohioense tends to be smaller and darker and replaces P. pallidisetum as you head toward the coast and get into oak-pine woods. Although they can often be found growing together. They have a similar long, angled capsule. P. pallidisetum does have a paler seta, especially towards the top, although young P. ohioense also has a pale seta. The only reliable way to tell the two apart is by doing sections of the leaf.  I cut off the leaf base and tips (so they lie nice and flat on the slide) and cut a lot of cross sections about mid leaf. Then i scrape the lamellae off so they lie flat on the slide - this is the best way to tell these two apart.

Lamellae x-section of Polytrichum pallidisetum

Lamellae x-section of Polytrichastrum alpinum - note papillose (bumpy) topmost cell

Polytrichastrum alpinum - dark brown, cylindrical capsule

Polytrichum commune
(J. Jenkins photo)

Polytrichum pallidisetum

Polytrichum ohioense