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