Friday, November 7, 2008

What is That?

I love third graders!!! They are full of curiosity and so eager to examine everything! What's this? What's this? Old decaying leaves...fungi of all shapes and sizes...pieces of bark...bits of was all fair game! We surrounded the glacial erratic, and spread the spores of puffballs and lycopodia alike. This was a group that needed very little encouragement to get out and explore!

This item though, threw me for a loop:

I had no idea what it was, so I brought in inside, all soggy and crumbly, and commenced my search for an answer. (For reference, it is over a foot long, maybe 15 inches). Answers come from some unexpected places. I showed it to our handyman and he knew right away what it is: part of a fern, from the root end. Armed with this information, I grabbed my Fern Guide (Edgar T. Wherry) and started to flip pages. Sure enough, it is the rootstock of a fern (or, perhaps, the rhizome, according to Fern Finder by Anne & Barbara Hallowell).

According to Wherry, the wood ferns (Dryopteris spp.) have a "stout, scaly rootstock, holding old stipe-bases." This seems to fit what we found.

On my next trip out towards Pickerel Pass I will have to keep my eyes open for ferns and see if I can find any attached to similar rootstocks and thus obtain a definite ID.

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