Field of Science

A New Moss Identification Guide

I recently reviewed this new moss field guide for the Botanical Society of America's Plant Science Bulletin. The link below will take you to the Fall 2013 volume. My review is on pages 131 and 132.

Budke JM. 2013. Book Review of Common Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians. Plant Science Bulletin 59(3): 131-132.

Overall I think that this is a really great text and would highly recommend it for anyone interested in identifying mosses in the northeastern United States and Canada from Wisconsin to Nova Scotia and south throughout the Appalachian Mountains. (Full disclosure: I did receive a free copy of the book when writing this review, but was in no other way compensated.) 

For another perspective, check out this review: Kimmerer, RW. 2013. Field Guide to Northeast Mosses. The Bryologist 116(3):321-322.

In the same volume of the Plant Science Bulletin (pg 137-138) there is a review of the latest book by Amy Stewart The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks. I have one of her earlier books Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities. I really enjoyed this earlier book and am looking forward to reading the new one! Exploring the plants that are deadly and atrocious is one way to get people interested in plants. Enlightening them about plants used in alcoholic beverages is sure to be another fun way to start thinking about plants. A fact of note: the review of Stewart's book is by Alexandra Boni an undergraduate student from Bucknell University. Kudos to her for writing a nice review of the book. It most certainly has me excited to check it out!

UPDATE - 22 Nov 2013 - Another positive review of this book. Hedenäs, L. 2013. Common Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians. 173(4): 790–791.

Have you heard of Bogology?

Have you heard of Bogology? Probably not, because I think it is a bit of a newly invented term. Bogology is the study and science of peatlands. I just heard about this new website and blog by researchers from the United Kingdom who are studying peatlands. If you are interested in peat bogs and Sphagnum mosses, the information and discussions they have will be right up your alley.

Thanks to Dr. Kaisa Kajala for making me aware of this site!

The Bryophytes on the Cover

The front cover oElizabeth Gilbert's new novel The Signature of All Things features some lovely bryophyte paintings. They are from the 1905 edition of the German encyclopedia Meyers Konversations-Lexikon. I have not had the pleasure of perusing this encyclopedia, but I do have fond memories of an English version of encyclopedia Britannica. My parents bought a set when I was in elementary school. Black and red cover, crisp glossy pages. Ah, memories. Can you tell I am a bit of a bibliophile? For those of you who have not enjoyed a hardbound encyclopedia set, they were the precursor to google and wikipedia. Want to know something about a fast animal, far-a-way country, historic event, or odd fruit? As my dad would always say, "Go check the encyclopedia." It provided tons of information to answer my pressing questions and constant need to know. Sometimes my sister and I would just sit down with a volume and flip through pages, reading about interesting topics for fun. Did I mention that I grew up in rural Indiana and there weren't a lot of entertainment options?  

Back to the bryophytes of the beautiful image on the cover of The Signature of All Things. In terms of bryophyte identification, there are some complex thalloid liverworts in front with tall antheridiophores and archegoniophores springing up from the ribbons below. Antheridiophores are the male reproductive structures that produce sperm; archegoniophores are the female reproductive structures that make eggs.  On either edge of the cover are mosses with sporophyte capsules elevated on tall stalks. They are most definitely members of the Splachnaceae, the dung moss family. I love saying that name (SP-laCK!-n-ace-a-ee). It has a very dung-y ring to the name! My best guess on a species level identification is Splachnum luteum.  The common names for members of this genus are really great. They include umbrella moss and petticoat moss, which describe the shape of the capsules. I think that petticoat moss is especially fitting for the cover of a book set in Victorian times, about a woman who most likely wore petticoats. 

A New Botanical Heroine

Rarely do female botanists appear as characters in pop culture. Exceptions that I can think of are Poison Ivy from the Batman comics and movies. She was a botanist before becoming a plant-loving super villain. Also there was the horrible movie Paycheck that featured a female botanist as the love interest. This movie sticks in my mind because the portrayal of her 'botany lab' was completely fantastical and laughable.

In comparison, I have much higher hopes for the botanical heroine in Elizabeth Gilbert's new novel The Signature of All Things. Not only is the heroine a botanist, but she is a bryologist! I have heard good things about the book both through reviews in the popular media and fellow bryologists. Fortunately for me I have great friends that indulge my passion for mosses and I was gifted this book for my upcoming birthday. I will keep you posted on my reading progress and any bryological gems that I find!

For more about the book, check out Barbara Kingsolver's review in the New York Times.

Mosses in the Garden

Thinking about integrating some mosses into your garden or landscaping? Have a shady spot that could use a bit of green? Gardening with mosses may be in your future...

Kathy Connolly has written an article on just this topic for The Day newspaper out of New London, CT. I am quoted throughout the article for some tips and moss biology info. Check out the full text for free on their website.

My favorite quote from the article. 
"If you put a philodendron through a blender," says Budke, "you have a dead philodendron. But with moss, each living cell is capable of growing a whole new plant. That's why the blender works." 
This the backyard of the house where I used to live in Connecticut.
Others might call it the 'frog pond' or 'herpetology pool'.
I always thought of it as the "moss pond".
That is just one amazing fun fact about mosses! Each live cell is totipotent. Meaning that each can regrow an entirely new plant and be any type of cell. Similar to stem cells in animals that can be used to grow many different types of organs.

Overall it was a fun interview to give and I think the article came out very well! Informative, interesting, and all about mosses!

October 2013 Desktop Calendar

Pictured here are a few mosses in yellow-green that are surrounded by some complex thalloid liverworts for your October desktop. These are from our hike to the Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve this past spring. The weather is finally starting to cool down here in the central valley and I am hoping that we will get out for a few more hikes while the weather is lovely and comfortable. Happy botanizing!

1 - Single click on the image to open it up in a new window. (If you use the image directly from the blog post you will lose a lot of resolution.)

2 - Right-click (or ctrl-click) on the image, and chose the option that says, "Set as Desktop Background" or "Use as Desktop Picture". The wording may vary.

3 - If the image does not fit your desktop neatly, you may have to adjust the image (Mac: System Preferences - Desktop and Screen Saver - Desktop; Windows: Control Panel - Display - Desktop) and choose "Fill screen" as the display mode of your background image.