Friday, January 9, 2009

A Vacation from the Tracheophytes

Santa Claus, who turns out to be my wife (who knew?), after slyly achieving family-based funding, scored me a new macro lens for my DSLR. If that ain't love, then ride me to Texas. Then the Gods of birthday, via UPS, their incarnate vehicle of choice, delivered into my heathen hands a tripod worthy of an earth bound misfit such as I. This new setup has both changed and challenged my technique to such magnitude that I feel like I'm learning the camera all over again. Anyway, I was able to get out for a few photos yesterday and thought I would share.
This half decomposed acorn exoderm drew my attention from several meters away. There are some fascinating landscapes at our feet to which we are seldom privy. It goes to show that trips to the Grand Canyon and Uluru (aka Ayer's Rock) are very scale-centric.

I'm hoping my new setup will help me with mosses. I have made several attempts to learn to identify mosses over the past several winters. I have found them to be quite tedious and the few keys out there are not very well written; at least that is my excuse. I have heard Paul Redfern (Missouri bryologist of global esteem) quoted as saying "keys are written by people who don't NEED them, for people who can't USE them". While there is much wisdom in that, I manage to learn a few more each year before spring and the bigger, showier organisms pull me back to reason. Now armed with macro capabilities, I have vowed to photograph as many as possible this winter in order to put together a personal photographic guide that I can use to keep sharp during my summer hiatuses. Here are a couple of common species of mosses and a lichen from my resent excursion.
This is Leucobryum glaucum of the Leucobryaceae. I'm sure many of you may already kn0w it. It is the gray-green moss that is always growing in cute little tufts. It seems to prefer dry acid woodlands. It is interesting that the blades of the leaves in this genus are very reduced and what appear as leaves are only the remaining "midrib" (technically "costa" in moss-speak). Sporophytes are uncommonly encountered.
This is Atrichum angustatum of the Polytrichaceae. As with other Atrichum, it has several longitudinal gill-like ridges (called "lamellae") on the adaxial (upper) leaf surface. This is also a species of dry-acid woodlands.
This lichen was just too out of control not to photograph. It is certainly a species of Cladonia (same genus as British Soldiers), but seeing how there are 128 species in North America and that many look just like this, I don't dare veture a guess as to a species. The keys to idenification with this group, as with many lichens, are based on chemical tests that most of us don't have the equipment, will or brains to delve into.
That's it for now. I'll post more as I get photos and, more importantly, as I get them identified. Wish me luck.


Keith said...

Second picture: Isn't that the Chia Pet you got for Christmas???

Scott said...

Impossible. Santa Claus cannot be your wife. He (she?) came to my house this year too.

Good luck with the mosses. Looking forward to your photos.