Monday, August 19, 2013

Fern Field Trip at Botany

There is always a fern field trip at the annual Botany conference, and this year was no exception. These trips are a wonderful way to visit new places, see lots of ferns, and catch up with old friends. I look forward to them every summer. This year's trip took us west and a bit south of New Orleans, eventually to Avery Island, the home of Tabasco Sauce, among other things (gators, egrets... see below). We didn't see a huge number of fern species, but there were some exciting items on our "spotted" list, including Ceratopteris pteridoides, a close relative of the nearest thing we have in ferns to a model species - Ceratopteris richardii. I've never seen any Ceratopteris in the field before, so that was a fun siting. Here's the full list of species we saw, at least by my count:

  • Asplenium platyneuron
  • Azolla caroliniensis
  • Ceratopteris pteridoides
  • Equisetum hyemale
  • Lygodium japonicum
  • Pleopeltis polypodioides
  • Polystichum acrostichoides
  • Salvinia minima
  • Thelypteris palustris
  • Thelypteris dentata

And some photos of the ferns and folks that day:
Fay-Wei Li  and Mike Barker with Ceratopteris pteridoides
Ceratopteris pteridoides
Azolla caroliniensis

Pleopeltis polypodioides
Asplenium platyneuron
The following photos are of Lygodium japonicum... a terribly invasive fern in parts of the southeastern U.S., but I have to admit that I have always found it awesome looking. There are relatively few true vining ferns, and the Lygodium species are among them. They have dimorphic leaves, with the fertile and sterile pinnae looking decidedly different (lower photo). There is also a native species, Lygodium palmatum, which I've seen in South Carolina.


 And always a great find - a gametophyte and baby sporophyte! ID unknown, even by the experts with us.
Tiny sporophyte emerging from remains of a gametophyte
Finally, no field trip in the southeast is complete without alligators, apparently. There is a beautiful egret rookery on Avery Island that we stumbled upon as we rounded a corner - the trees in this swamp were filled with hundreds of snowy white birds (not sure, actually, if they were Snowy Egrets or another species). After admiring them for a few minutes we noticed that several log-like objects were moving through the water towards our party - never a good sign down in these parts. These were smallish gators, and were satisfied with watching us closely (as they usually are), though they swam alongside us at our walking pace as we turned to leave, like a reptilian escort away from (undoubtedly) their nesting grounds. Creepy. I wouldn't be an egret in that swamp if you paid me.

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