Sunday, July 23, 2017

Moss pop-guns


It's not very often that I find bog moss (Sphagnum) bearing spore capsules. They are easy to overlook because they are not raised on a long stalk (seta) like the capsules of many other British mosses.
















I found these on cushions of Sphagnum growing in a little hillside mire near Wolsingham in Weardale. I'm wondering whether it may have been the very dry spring followed by wet mild weather that triggered rapid growth and their formation.

The capsules remind me of small, round ginger jars.

They are unusual because, unlike most moss capsules that shake spores out through pores or peristome teeth, these literally explode.














As the capsules mature they lose water and the air inside them becomes pressurised. As the walls contract the capsules change shape, from spherical to cylindrical like the rearmost in this photograph. Eventually the lid blows off, sending a mushroom cloud of thousands of microscopic spores, in a vortex like a smoke ring, about ten centimetres into the airstream.

You can watch a high-speed film of the whole process by clicking here and here  


4 comments:

  1. I want to see it happen! But as I doubt I'd see a bullet fly I supposed I'll need to abandon that ambition the very moment I've formed it. (They look more like miniature snails to me._

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    1. You never know, Lucy - if you find some and bring them indoors to watch you might be lucky!

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  2. I got so carried away with exploding spores I don't think I said . . . I've moved from Coastal Dorset to very urban Halifax in West Yorkshire and have created a new blog to reflect this new environment. The original Loose and Leafy will stay put for reference but new posts will go to the new blog - Loose and Leafy in Halifax.

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    1. Hope you find lots to interest you in your new habitat Lucy

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