Sunday, December 7, 2008

100 Species Challenge -- Species #33

Specimen #33 British Soldiers

AKA Matchstick moss

Cladonia cristatella

Photo by me, June 2008, Northwoods country

Reading a nature blog (Charlotte Mason-style) often inspires me to get outdoors. Sometimes I get comfy in my warm house in front of a computer and forget that there are things outside to see! The current Outdoor Hour Challenge at Handbook of Nature Study (based on the Comstock book, buy it for me if you don't know what to get me for Christmas!) is Non-flowering Plants. We were able to find a lot of new-to-us plants over the summer in WI. Here is a non-flowering plant that we had never seen before.

British Soldiers are easy to ID with their red hats. Here is a place that explains what type of plant it really is -- a lichen, a relationship between a fungus and an alga. This site also says that lichen are indicators of good air quality. According to another website, "lichen" perhaps comes from the Greek word for "lick," referring to the tongue shape of many lichens.

Quoting from a WI website that I really like (and fitting that this photo was taken in WI), "...the structure of the British soldier lichen can be called a podetium, where the entire structure is a fruticose lichen, because of the upright branches. The red structure at the top is an apothecium, an open ascocarp (fruiting body) that bears the ascospores in asci." Seeing these terms is cool because my older kids went through science at the public school and learned to name parts of organisms like a fungus and an amoeba. Things that I want to know. We teach other.

As I mentioned last post, I never noticed so many non-flowering plants until I began geocaching. Identifying these plant has been a focus of mine for the last two years. I am slowly getting to the point where I can say names from the top of my head. Of course, the really spectacular species, the very recognizable, without a doubt, couldn't look like something else plants are the ones I am talking about. Then I think of walking with Dr. Tiffany when the kids were very young. "It's a polypore" seemed like a standard answer to most finds. No specifics, just a general name. So I am OK with not knowing every single thing we spot. We can keep learning as time goes by.

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