Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lycopodium and Cyclops

On my last walk up to Shannondale Springs WMA I took a different direction and went just a little further than I normally do.

In doing so I found a couple of surprises. The first was lycopodium, I have not seen it in this section of the WMA before so it was a pleasant surprise.

It was just a small bit but I found it interesting because I had just been reading about lycopodium in Bernd Heindricks book The Trees in My Forest. He discusses the plants growth habit with their need for sun light. A few weeks ago a couple of us found lots of it further on up the mountain and what was interesting with those patches was that it was only on one side of the creek or on one side of the fire road.

Lycopodium is from the Greek “lukos”, wolf and “podion", diminutive of pous, foot. They are a genus of clubmosses, also known as ground pines or creeping cedar. They don’t have flowers but rather reproduce sexually by spores. They also are distributed through rhizomes.

The spores are famous for their flash burning properties and were used in early flash photography. I haven’t tried it yet but I have read that if you have a little pile of spores and put a match on it the match will just burn out but if you have a match and blow some of the spore into the flame they will flash. Oxygen is needed to make them burn.

The other surprise was a vernal pool full of Cyclops. They were orange and rather large for a microscopic animal. I could actually see then from a standing position. Here is one resting on a rock under the water.

At first I wasn’t sure what they were so I scooped up one and took this photo of it in the cap of the vial. They are freshwater crustaceans related to lobsters and shrimp. They are about 2-3 mm long with one eye in the middle of its head, thus the common name Cyclops. Here is a close up view where you can see the eye.


Denise said...

A great post, fun to learn and to look at these lovely photos.

Woodswalker said...

It's a good thing you have two good eyes, the better to see that tiny Cyclops. I've never seen such a thing -- and would probably fail to see them even if they were right before my eyes. Do you know if they live as far north as northern New York?