Walks on the Wild Side, Fall-Winter, 2008-9

February 4, 2009
West Fork in Winter
3. Fern Friends

These next two plants are called fern allies. They grow in similar places, turn green only in wet winters and go dormant (or appear invisible to us) when dry, and reproduce in alternate generations from spores, not seeds.

Speaking of invisibility, "The early herbalists, for example, claimed that the fern seed had to be invisible because no one had ever seen it. Furthermore, they asserted that it conferred invisibility to the bearer; if you held the fern seed, you walked invisible." More about how to become invisible.

Liverwort. The ribbon-like structures indicate that this is a liverwort, not a new fern which is heart-shaped.

Bigelow's spikemoss, Selaginella bigelovii. Spikemoss seems to fill every crevice in the rocks during a wet year. As it dries, it curls up into a tight ball and disappears. It is also known as "resurrection plant" because it comes back to life and turns green once again when the rains come.

White flowers seem always to be the first to bloom in late winter. Why is this?

Milkmaids, Cardamine californica. Alternate names are California toothwort, rain bells, milkmaids. I can see a petal shaped like a tooth, but rain bells? Do they foretell rain or grow after rain? And milkmaids from the color maybe?

Here is one answer: "It was thought that if anyone picked it, a thunderstorm would break out. It was also thought to generate lightning and for this reason was never taken into a house". More here. So, thanks to whoever picked the milkmaids and started all this rain!

Bigberry manzanita, Arctostaphylos glauca. The white or glaucous leaf surface is very evident in this photo. The "test" for this species is whether or not the leaf will take a thumbprint which removes the powdery covering.

What we saw:

Section 1. The Road In

Section 2. Ferns and Rocks

Section 3. Fern Friends

original pages created February 6, 2009
text on this page is Copyright © 2008-2021 Jane Strong
images on this page are Copyright © 2008-2021 Graham Bothwell

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