Nature scavenger hunts are definitely more fun when you’re in a group, and when you remember to bring bug spray. Despite the itchy circumstances, I still made some pretty cool discoveries. Even though I came up short while searching for ferns, I learned a ton about mosses in my short time getting to know them. I have a newfound appreciation for these tiny fellas, and actually think they’re easier to identify than most grasses. Sorry, grass. Not a fan. Without further ado:

1. grass / sedge example

the first photo is a grass, which I determined from the round, smooth stem. The second one is a wedge, I think. To me, the stem felt triangular and edged, but the camera doesn’t really do as much justice as feeling for it yourself. Hopefully I was accurate!

2. Invasive species

The first one, which was far away to get a detailed photo of, is narrow-leaved cattail, Typha angustifolia. This species is introduced from Europe, and can hybridize with the native common cattail, T. latifolia.

The second invasive species, mentioned in lecture videos, is garlic mustard, Allaria petiolata. Even thought it’s considered a class A noxious weed, I hear it makes a nice pesto. 🙂


3. monocot – Virginia iris, Iris virginica 

Irises are former members of Liliaceae, evident by their single, parallel-veined leaves and flower parts in groups of 3.

eudicot – royal catchfly, Silene regia 

eudicots are easily characterized by flower parts in groups of 4-5.

4. animal dispersal

When plants bear fruit, it’s often advantageous to have the fruit in clusters or aggregates, so that multiple seeds can be consumed at once by dispersing animals. Here I have a bunch of willow fruits, which appear to be capsules, and poison ivy fruits, which are aggregates of drupes that animals such as white tailed deer can browse upon safely.

5. Two mosses; One acrocarpous, one pleurocarpous

The first moss pictures appears to be acrocarpous, and is one of the few mosses that I saw exhibiting such a growth form. The gametophyte plants grow upright and side-to-side, making a soft, cushy formation. I know it’s hard to tell from my photo, but up close, the leaves look like small rosettes, almost like tiny artichokes, which is why I think it is an acrocarp with ovate leaves. I think it looks most similar to Aulacomnium heterotichum. It matches the description pretty well too: short leaves, reddish brown rhizoids holding the plants together, and a reddish seta that is almost erect. I found this growth on a rotting log partially exposed to the sunlight.

Here is a pleurocarpous moss that I found. This particular species seems to be really common, especially on rotting logs. Up close, the growth formation is more chaotic and branching out. Also, the gametophytes look like little tiny adorable ferns. After watching the ID videos, I think it looks exactly like Anomodon rostratus, yellow yarn moss. I found this patch growing in the little pebbles that make up the wooded path (presumably made of limestone).

6 . Two Ferns (not ferns, conifers)

Since I failed to find any fern species at my study site (seriously, I think I combed every square foot of woods that Glacier Ridge has to offer), I’m showing two conifers I observed instead.

The first conifer I found is a Picea glauca, white spruce. The needles are singly attached, pointy (ouch) and a blue-green color. At first I thought it was a black spruce, but the twigs were not hairy upon closer inspection.

The second conifer was one of the mystery species on today’s homework: Pinus strobus, white pine. I know it’s a pine because the needles are grouped together in clusters. I know it’s a white pine because this is the only species with clusters of 5.


7. Two threats to trees – predation and disease

Here we can see the formation of an oak apple, the common name for the round galls that form on many oak species. Many insect species will lay their eggs on or in oaks, and once the larvae hatch, they feed on the foliage of the tree, damaging the cells. As a result, a gall is formed around the irritated region. Ultimately it is a response that defends the tree from harm.  

This dogwood leaf contains a type of fungus in the Puccinia genus, commonly referred to as “rust”. All fungi in this genus are plant pathogens, and can cause the leaves of a tree to die off, affecting the overall quality of health.

8. Two shrubs

Pictured here is Zanthoxylum americanum, northern prickly-ash. As mentioned in class materials, these shrubs are easily distinguished from actual ash trees by their alternate leaf arrangement. Also, the twigs have thorns, hence the “prickly” part.

The second shrub I found is Cornus drummondii, roughleaf dogwood. I think this is plant is technically considered a small tree, but to be fair, this one is really young and pretty shrub-like. The leaves are rough on top, hairy underneath, with 3-5 pairs of veins.