Sunday, March 16, 2008

Challenge #4: Focus - Plants Without Leaves

On Thursday, we had only about 25 minutes until Alexandra had to leave for a class, but it was a beautiful day and I just HAD to go outside and take some photos. So, we grabbed our shoes and my camera and headed out for a nature walk in our yard.

Barb's challenge #4 was to pick a focus for the next 6 to 8 weeks. We decided to study trees, but I couldn't resist looking at more mushrooms, lichens, etc. So, I think that will be our focus!

I haven't read HONS yet, but I did check out a few books from the library. Plants without leaves include: lichens, fungi, mosses, liverworts, algae, slime-molds, and horsetails. So, eventually, I plan on having photos of each of these leafless plants! But, to start, I thought we'd see what we could find in our own backyard (and our neighbor's front yard). And, I only had 15 minutes so some photos didn't turn out and I'll be going back this week.

I don't think I'll be able to identify actual species of these different plants, but I do hope that from this study my daugther and I will be able to identify a moss from a fungus or a liverwort from a horsetail. (All quotes are from a book I'm using, Plants Without Leaves, by Ross E. Hutchins.)

This is a type of moss. The things that are "standing up" are the stalked spore capsules. The caps will eventually have a lot of pressure build up in them and the cap will "pop off, throwing spores for some distance. These little 'explosions' sound like corn popping, though not as loud." Boy, would I like to hear that!!!
This one I'm not sure about. It's growing on my fence. I think it's a crustose lichen.

This is a type of fungus - a mushroom. I believe it is an earth star mushroom. They are a type of puffball and "puffballs release their spores through openings in their tops. If one is squeezed, a cloud of brown spores is ejected. Normally, these spores are carried away by winds to new locations where they germinate, producing new puffballs."

This is also an earth star. However, it was in a damper place. When an earth star is on damp ground, it "is lifted off damp ground by its spidery 'legs'." But, when it is on dryer ground like the one above, it doesn't "stand" up. "Earth stars are a type of puffball inwhich the outer wall peels downward in sections, exposing the spore sac. Clouds of brown spores escape through the small opening in the center." I plan on looking tomorrow and seeing if I can find the small opening.

This is a photo of my "moss rock" we bought years ago. As you can see, it isn't covered by moss at all, but by lichens!!! In fact, I believe it is a foliose lichen.

This is the other type of lichen growing on my "moss rock." A crustose lichen.

And, this is a photo of my neighbor's tree which they planted last year. It is very small in diameter - probably about 3 inches around. It is COVERED with lichen - I think both foliose (leaf-like, think foliage) and fruticose (wiry, bush like). I wonder if it'll survive, but it really looks neat.

Just a reminder that lichen are a fungus and an algae living together. I like the comment that Jennifer left. She said her professor taught her "fungi and algae - they are 'lichen' each other." Doesn't that make it easier to remember?

I'm already learning a lot about plants without leaves. Hope you'll join me for our adventure! Maybe you can join us as we do Barb's Green Hour Challenges. Just jump in and go outdoors for some fun! (Also, I published 2 long posts today, so don't miss the post about our monthly group nature walk!)


Barb-Harmony Art Mom said...

Hi Dana,

What an interesting topic you have picked. Last fall we unofficially started looking at fungus and mushrooms and mosses. I have yet to find a field guide that will help us identify a lot of what we saw. I am fascinated by them but I want to learn more. I think next fall we may just have to make it our focus. :)

Thanks for the great entry and sharing your link,
Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Anonymous said...

Fascinating pictures! I love looking for mushrooms around here. We spent an hour or more scrubbing lichens off headstones last fall and I'm not as thrilled about those! Thanks for visiting my blog.


Rhonda said...

Those mushrooms are so cool!

Laura said...

Wow... that is a wonderful, unique choice for your studies. I look forward to following your efforts.


Robin said...

Great post, Dana! You are an inspiration to me. Now, I'm all curious about those mosses, fungi, and lichens.
I think GB and I need to get out tomorrow. I'm not sure yet what our focus will be. But so far, we're enjoying the nature adventure.

Rapunzel's Mom said...

Dana -

What a wonderful blog! I'm always thrilled to find other homeschoolers of only children, too. I will be back often. Great pictures and wonderful information. By the way, I added the ability to put comments on my blog per your request. : )

Tina said...

Wow! That is some awesome fungus!

Can't wait to read more about your discoveries. :o)


Anonymous said...

Hi Dana,
I linked over to your site from Martinzoo a while ago. I just wanted to thank you because your lesson on lichen inspired me to teach my lil 4 Her's about it--and, it was my MOST well received lesson to date! Even now, EVERYWHERE we go they have to tell me which kind of lichen they see!! Thanks a bunch!

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