Ptyxis Ecology - Our Botany Blog

Saturday, 18 April 2009

The colours of spring - mosses and flowers

Seems like we've been waiting a long time for spring in Northumberland. It sort of seems to be happening now. If I didn't know any better I could even have been tempted to say it was warm today. Here are a few random pictures from recent botany trips.

Ceratodon purpureus is a very common species but a colourful sight when it is in fruit. Many mosses fruit in spring before the vascular plant growing season gets going.

If you zoom in and look closely you should be able to see the 'struma' just below the capsules on at least some stalks. A struma is a bump on one side of the top of the seta (stalk) just below the capsule, that looks a bit like an Adam's apple.

Here is a colouful patch of mosses on a sandy edge of the River South Tyne, near where we live. The red one is Bryum pallens which is often frequent in places like this, which are contaminated with heavy metals from past mining activity. To the right of the top of the big red patch is a patch of yellow-green Philonotis fontana. The leaves of this species look opaque or matt compared to the green species to the right, which has shiny leaves. This 'matt' appearance usually means that the leaf surface has lots of tiny bumps on it so the light does not get reflected back off the surface. It took me about 5 years to be able to see the difference between matt and glossy leaves in the field, but now it seems straightforward, and I wonder why I couldn't see it before. It is a really useful character for field identification if you can spot the difference. The third species with the shinier green leaves and a hint of red underneath is Bryum pseudotriquetrum or Bryum bimum.

Always nice to see elm flowers for various reasons. One of the first flowers of spring. Nice to see elms surviving, even if we don't have many large trees any more. And as it flowers at a time of year when I'm mainly looking for bryophytes, I like to see it as it is one of the best tree species for epiphytes.

These mountain pansies are from a heavy metal contaminated (Calaminarian) grassland by the river South Tyne. This is one of the special habitats of our area and a UK BAP habitat.

Alpine penny-cress is one of the specialities of this habitat and was also in full flower today (sorry for the rubbish photo). The two other special vascular plants you find here, spring sandwort and thrift, look like they are about to come into flower in the next few days. Apart from woodland ground flora, this habitat must be the most flowery habitat around this part of the world so early in the season. It should start to be at its best in about 2 weeks time.


Labels: , , , ,