Thursday, 8 January 2015

More moss musings

It was another grey, chilly day as I set out for a stroll around Byfield Pocket Park. Pleasant though the park is, I wasn't there in the expectation of stunning and unexpected discoveries - nor, as it happened, did I make any.

Xylaria hypoxylon, the Candle-snuff Fungus. Byfield
Pocket Park. 7 January, 2015
The tiny (12 mm tall) and easily overlooked Candle-snuff Fungus, Xylaria hypoxylon, was there, looking rather like a lichen. It was growing on a piece of decaying wood, as it always is. In fact both it generic and specific names are, of course, based on the Greek xylon: wood.

Not a spectacular start, and it was to be the only fungus seen on my walk.

Trees were dripping as a light rain fell; not ideal for a morning walk but doubtless appreciated by mosses, whose male cells, must swim to the female organs through film of moisture. (Ferns also have these 'motile' cells.)

Ancient woodlands, especially these in the west of Britain, carry a great range and variety of mosses but here we must be accepting of a very limited moss flora.

Plagiomnium undulatum in Byfield Pocket Park.
7 January, 2015

As I have said before, I make no claim to expertise in the field of bryology but even I couldn't fail to recognise the pretty Hart's-tongue Thyme Moss, Plagiomnium undulatum. It is not only abundant on damp woodland floors but is quite tall, often reaching 70-80 mm. 

Fissidens taxifolius in Byfield Pocket Park
7 January, 2015

Less obvious, but equally attractive in its diminutive way, was Common Pocket-moss, Fissidens taxifolius. It is easily found on patches of damp earth and is happy even on the clay soils of Northamptonshire. Despite having seen this moss in many places over many years, I have yet to find it bearing spore-producing capsules.

Dicranoweisia cirrata in Byfield Pocket Park.
7 January, 2015

The Common Pincushion, Dicranoweisia cirrata, (sometimes called Curly Thatch-moss in older books) was prominent on gateposts, where it formed rounded cushions. 
Dicranoweisia cirrata. A closer view showing
the capsules. 

The capsule (peristome) gradually turns from green, through yellow, to a glossy brown as it ripens. Altogether it is a most attractive moss, worth examining through a lens.

But to be honest, although an expert would have found far more species, that for me was about it.

Polytrichum juniperinum in Byfield churchyard.
7 January, 2015

I strolled back to the car in rather heavier rain but I took a quick glance at the churchyard, where the pretty Juniper Haircap, Polytrichum juniperinum, was flourishing on a rotting tree trunk - but again there seemed little more on offer.

A churchyard - God's little acre - can be an excellent refuge for beleaguered wildlife, but in the case of Byfield's church, the Holy Cross, there is far too much shade.  Two or three fine trees there are worth holding on to but several could be lost with no great detriment in aesthetic terms but with significant gains for wildlife. 

Oh dear! Not an exciting blog. Fond though I am of mosses and fungi it certainly doesn't get the pulse racing for most people. Roll on more insect activity. Spring flowers - hurry up! Lettsby Avenue - as we used to say as kids.

No comments:

Post a Comment