Field of Science

2009 Andrew's Foray Continued

One of the sites we visited on the foray was a Cat Den Swamp. There really weren't any areas of open water and the area was dominated by Sphagnum (peat moss). Thus I would have characterized it as a bog rather than a swamp. Bogs are really great habitats to visit. Boots are definitely a necessity or you could go for a pair of bare feet during the summer. I have been to some bogs that are like walking on a water-bed. This one was not that type. It was on full of slurpy sounds that almost pulled my boots off at times.

Above it can be seen that there are many shrubs in this area.

In addition to a lot of peat moss. They ranged in color from light green (above) to a burnt red (below). I didn't collect any Sphagnum mosses, nor did I try to identify them to species. I appreciate and enjoy peat moss much more on an larger ecological scale. They are cool to walk among but I'd rather not key them out to species under the microscope.

Mosses on The Colbert Report

I saw an episode of the Colbert Report last night and moss landscaping/gardening was featured in one of the jokes. You know that things are becoming more popular when they reach the late night comedy shows.

In part of the sketch he mentions turning a backyard koi pond into a peat bog. This statement is actually not impossible. Sphagnum sp. (peat moss) has the ability to change the acidity (pH) of the water in which it lives. It makes the water more acidic, which is better for the moss and usually worse for many of the other plants. Colbert did forget to mention that turning a koi pond into a bog will probably also kill all the koi.

If you are interested in cutting directly to the mossy reference it starts around 3:50min.

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2009 Andrews Foray

I had a great time at the foray this past weekend! There were approximately 20 amateurs and professionals who came to study the lichens and mosses of northeastern Connecticut. I ran into an old friend who I hadn’t seen in years and I met some new folks who I hope to see in the future.

Over the course of the weekend we explored three different sites: Boston Hollow in the Yale Meyer’s Forest near Westford, Cat Den Swamp in the Natchaug State Forest near Eastford, and an area of the Windham Bog. (I didn’t make it to the last site due to a previous commitment, but that is where they said they were going.) The weekend weather was perfect! A little cool with the snap of the coming fall in the air and crisp blue skies overhead.

The first site was identified by the lichenologists as a talus slope with a wet seepy area near the road. I had to ask for the definition of talus and was told that it is a fancy word for a pile of rocks at the base of a cliff or slope. They were pretty big rocks and I probably would have called them boulders, but tallus works well too. Being out in the field with bryologists who can identify more plants than I can was a little intimidating, but it also resulted in my learning to recognize a number of new species in the field.

I spent most of my time acting as a sponge absorbing information and only took a few photos. Unfortunately when I went back to pick some to put up with this post I was disappointed to find some really fuzzy photos and only a couple that are even close to in focus. Despite that I will post a few up here for a splash of green and give you some description of them below.

Above center is some Mniaceae. (the 'M' is silent in the pronunciation) The leaves are whirled into a splash cup that is filled with male sex organs (antheridia). To the above-right is a very small moss whose spore filled capsules are not elevated on a stalk. Thus they appear to be sitting directly on the soil. This is a member of the genus Diphyscium. The above-left is a common genus that I often see in Connecticut forests, but a new species for me. It is Thuidium minutulum. I love the name. It means the miniature Thuidium and that is just what it looks like. A very small slender version of the robust Thuidium that I often see covering rocks or soil in Connecticut.

A special thanks goes out to Juan Sanchez who organized the trip and lodging.

I will have another story about the foray later this week or next. Stay tuned for more mosses...

Moss Poetry

I have recently corresponded with Ruth Hill the author of the poem "The Tundra Terrarium" that I posted about back on April 30th of this year. We had a really great exchange and she had this to share about the poem,
"The subtitle, "May Day," of course refers to Spring; but the second "May Day" is a distress call from the environment. The unusual format, with the words thrown off to the side, is supposed to be reminiscent of the surprising way some Bryophytes "throw" their spores far and wide for reproduction, as if they are "Spring-loaded!" (Pun intended.) The words of the poem are "thrown off" like spores. I like to invite people to get off their duff and get out into the duff, so to speak." - Ruth Hill;
I think that insights into a poem or other literature directly from the author is great! It can really alter how you see and feel the written word. If you know of anyone who is writing bryo-poetry feel free to pass their name along. I would be happy to help share their work with a wider audience via this blog.