Sunday 2 March 2014

Week 6, Part 3: Short but Pretty

I confess, Wednesday’s early morning has taken its toll. Week 6, Part 3 will appear here at some point in the not too distant future (I hope).
[Edit: post now complete, follows below]

By way of explanation, I have various limiting health issues, which mean I need to manage my resources rather carefully. Sometimes my enthusiasm leads me to exceed my capacities and I have to put things on hold until I've recovered. I have no doubt that my blog output will be characterised by peaks and troughs, much to my frustration. For now, though, I’ll leave you with the sunny view across Bulbourne Meadow, towards the KD Tower. I'm looking forward to being able to repeat this shot when the trees are all dressed up in their lovely leaves.

The Real “Short but Pretty” Post

Hopefully this is a case of better late than never.

After spending far too long transfixed by rascally little lambs, I headed over to Bulbourne Meadow. I had a particular shot in mind, involving the fallen branches in the River Bulbourne (featured in this post). More specifically, I was after the “short but [ever so] pretty” moss which covered the branch in the bottom left hand corner of that photograph. This was the result...

The closer I looked at the moss, the more beautiful it became, glistening in the morning sunshine.

And finally, the closest view I could capture without a macro lens

Although very familiar with the sight of this moss - it is “common and widespread” - I didn’t know its name or, indeed, anything about mosses per se. I guess you could say this was my first formal introduction to Capillary Thread-moss (Bryum capillare).

For fellow initiates, two key facts about Mosses

1. They are bryophytes or non-vascular plants i.e. they don’t have a water bearing system which takes moisture from the soil up through the plant. Instead, water and nutrients are primarily absorbed through their photosynthesising leaves.

2. They reproduce via spores not seeds and they don’t flower. They can also reproduce from broken off parts of the parent plant (ouch!).

Hearing facts is one thing. Seeing them is another, so, thankfully the second of the above is easily anchored in reality. Taking a look at the close up of the Bryum capillare above, the vibrant green, pear-shaped pendulous structures, suspended from the relatively long, red stems or setae, are the spore-filled capsules. At this time of year they are nice and easy to spot. Over the coming weeks, they will ripen, turning a chestnut brown, before the end caps break away and the spores are released.

Although not possible to see (without a microscope) the first of the facts is the reason why peat mosses (Sphagnum species) were applied to wounds during World War I. Their wonderfully absorbent leaves and antibacterial properties made for an effective (at that time!) first aid dressing.

So, only another 10,000 or so species of moss to discover...!

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