Nature Notes from Skye
(and occasionally other places)
Sat 19 Mar 2005
Skye. Hot sun!
Found these two intriguing items on a dead basal trunk/branch of a live Grey Willow. The black sticks look like a Xylaria species, and in the books they look very much like X polymorpha or X longipes, and nothing at all like the common X hypoxylon which I showed on 20 Oct, with its branched white-tipped stems. Does X hypoxylon turn all-black in late winter? - the books never quite say so but they hint that it might. The lack of branches is a bigger problem. Do they fall off? Despite these issues, I'm forced to conclude that it is X hypoxylon. You can see the basal hairs in the bottom right corner. The stem surfaces are cracked and ridged, and when cut open the sticks are solid white inside with large round black spheres all round the sides, about 0.8 mm diameter, which form bulges in the outer surface.
The brown lichen just behind it is Sticta sylvatica, more distinctive on its underside, shown on the right, where it has striking white cyphellae or breathing holes, to allow air to get to the interior.
I don't include many mosses because I haven't got the hang of identifying them yet, but this one was very beautiful despite being nameless. Liverworts I can usually do; the one on the right is Pellia epiphylla. It was growing in a shady humid ravine just above the level of the burn. Some of the stalks were over 6 cm tall. These stalks, with their round capsules at the top, are sporophytes, which grow in Spring from the fertilised female "flower" on the surface of the green liverwort gametophyte which is present all year round. This arrangement is different from the other long-stalked liverworts I've shown here, such as Conocephalum conicum and Marchantia polymorpha, where the long stalks are outgrowths from the gametophyte thallus and bear shapes like umbrellas or cones on the end, from the underside of which the short-stalked sporophytes develop.
In the upper left corner one of the Pellia capsules has opened to show the tangle of brown hairs which are caused to jerk by atmospheric moisture and so release the spores at intervals and send them some distance from the parent plant. We've now had two of the British Pellia species on the site; one to go.
A white lichen with a black fungus growing on it. The lichen is Pertusaria corallina and the fungus, which is made up of tiny grains and very thin hairs, is Sclerococcum sphaerale. Thanks to Howard Fox for these id's.
And now one lichen growing on another. The host is the dark grey Peltigera collina and the epiphyte is the greenish Normandina pulchella. They are growing on a willow in woodland.
Usnea subfloridana is the very abundant "beard lichen" that hangs from the trees, but its fruit-bodies (apothecia) are rare and this was the first time I'd seen them. They are very spidery looking, as no sooner has the lichen formed a fruit-body than it starts to produce new branches from around its edges. There were several tufts of the Usnea close together, each with a few fruit-bodies. There was nothing odd about their habitat or microclimate that I could see, so I would guess that the feature of producing fruit-bodies is genetic, and that this group of plants were all clones, formed by the breaking off of the branchlets which is this Usnea's usual means of reproduction, and their lodging in nearby crevices of the tree bark.
On the right is another tree lichen, or to be more accurate a lichen growing on moss on a tree. Cladonia macilenta, with tiny circles of bright red fruit-bodies, quite invisible to the naked eye, at the top of each stalk. The stalks are covered with granules and so are the edges of the basal squamules, the flattish green bits in the picture.
The first frogspawn seen this year. Also saw the first Dor Beetle of the year, and several other insects, including at least half a dozen Drinker Moth caterpillars spread out over an area about 2 metres square, but none anywhere else. I guess they must hibernate communally. Finally a Chaffinch which sang to me from the top of a Birch tree as I lay back in the heather to soak up the last of the sun before it dipped behind the hill. In Skye you never know in what month it will reappear.
All photos and other content copyright © Carl Farmer