Friday, 20 February 2009

First Moth of 2009

My first moth of 2009 is a Dotted Border - Agriopis marginaria - right on season. It's amazing that any flying insect should choose to brave these frozen days and nights, but I suppose there are fewer parasites around.

Guess where it got its common name from.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Liverwort solved

On 5th February I showed Conocephalum conicum growing over the top of another, smaller, liverwort. After some microscopy I have now identifed the small liverwort as Pellia epiphylla. Here's a closer shot:

Sample shown is about 6 cm. across. (Note the female reproductive structure to the extreme right, just above centre:)

Here's one of the photomicrographs that I took as part of the identification process. It shows a darker area to the left which is actually a thickening along the midrib:

Magnification is x 40.

Monday, 16 February 2009


Mosses are good at the moment, with many showing spore capsules which can often aid identification. Mosses require close attention to detail, with microscopic analysis generally being required for a first identification. Once you have your eye in, though, many can be identified readily in the field.

First, I have Bryum capillare, which I find mostly on wall tops, although it can also be found on verges:
Next, the capsule of Tortula muralis which is another wall-top moss:

Hookeria lucens is very easily recognised, and always grows on the walls of ditches.

The individual leaf-cells are huge, and can almost be seen with the naked eye. The top shoot here is about 6 mm. across.

Fissidens cristatus has fascinating leaves arranged in an overlapping fan:

Notice the darker portion to one half of each leaf. This is a double layer of cells that form a pocket, presumably for water retention. Individual leaves about 3 mm. long:

Thiudium tamariscinum grows on the trunks of trees:

Plagiomnium undulatum grows on the rear of ditches:

Mosses can be very beautiful and will repay your attention and research. As a man once said to me: "You have to get down to their level". How true.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Through the ice

I took a little walk along the northern end of leg 1 today. It was about 1° in the sun and zero in the shade. This part of the walk is under Ash trees and has an excellent wet area in a rutted entrance to a field.

Given the long spell of cold weather I was quite surprised to find so many plants showing new growth.

First, Brooklime - one of the Speedwells:

Note the fallen piece of the lichen Ramalina fastigiata floating on the Ash seed.

Next, a few specimens of Ivy-leaved Water Crowfoot were actually encased in ice:

Watercress was also making an appearance:

The back of the stream was covered in plants of all kinds. This shot has Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage (centre), Lesser Celandine (top), Cow Parsley (left), and Hard Fern (left).

The back of the stream is also home to a wide range of liverworts. The central specimen is the thallose liverwort Conocephalum conicum on a background of a much smaller liverwort that I haven't had time to identify yet. Conocephalum group about 15 cm. across.

And here's a close-up of the thallus: