Sunday, 7 February 2010

Rocky ledge

On one part of the hedgerow there's a rocky outcrop about 2m wide. It's absolutely covered in mosses and liverworts which are atypical for this area. This is the only place I know that has the beautiful moss Fissidens cristatus (image shown is about 3 cm. wide):

Notice the puckered leaves, which are a fairly common feature on larger-leaved mosses and are probably used to increase surface area.

The spore capsules are very prolific:

Fissidens species have very interesting 'pockets' in their leaves, which retain moisture (the pocket is the darker patch in the centre of the image, where you can see some air bubbles; image is x40):

This is a shot of individual leaf cells at x400:

Lichens have developed a number of interesting methods of reproduction. Some throw pure fungal spores into the air in the hope that they will land on an unsuspecting alga, thereby establishing a new lichen specimen. Others drop little packages of fungus and alga: a 'ready to go' version of the adult. And some just break off pieces of their body, again as 'ready to go' specimens.

Lepraria incana is typical of the latter type, and it is often found on crumbly banks of soil. What better place to grow if you want to lose bits of yourself?

Just round the corner from the rock I found some Snowdrops. The severe winter has put these back by at least 3 weeks this year:


The Weaver of Grass said...

I have to say Stuart that the moss is so very pretty - I have not seen it before and it really lends itself to embroidery.
As for the snowdrops - they cheer the heart, don't they/ ours are also late and there is not a single on actually opened up yet - I love them when they show their green bits.
We have winter aconites out too - on the rare occasion that the sun shines they open their little yellow faces to the sun.
Lovely photographs.

Anonymous said...

What could be more refreshing, Stuart, than finding a clump of snowdrops in the wintertime? I like the way you have used micro shots. Although I use plenty of macro shots, I have never thought of using microscopic views of plants. I will have to investigate this more fully and see what I can accomplish. At present my back garden is full of moss. I must try to determine what kind. Great visiting with you, Stuart.

Stuart said...

Confusingly enough, the close-up lenses or camera settings are called 'macro'. My Canon camera has the Canon 60mm macro lens attached all the time: I very rarely use any other lens. My head is also inclined in a downward-looking angle at all times. Sometimes I tell myself I need to look upwards, but it rarely happens, because so much of the interesting stuff is so low down.

This is a good time of year to look at mosses and lichens. They're around all year, but at the moment the other vegetation has died back, making them more visible. They certainly repay close study.

Stuart said...

Following up from my previous comment, the microscope shots were used to confirm the identification of the moss. Unfortunately, lots of mosses need microscopic analysis to make an identification: cell shape, structure and distribution can be very important, along with vein length and width. Fortunately, once the initial identification has been made, many mosses can readily be identified by sight.