Friday, November 20, 2009

Let’s Take a Walk

With the beautiful fall days we’ve been having, it’s a great time to get out for a walk in the woods. Some may think of November as a dreary month, but all around us life endures. In full display this time of year are the Clubmosses, one of several species of plants that belong to the plant family Lycopodiaceae. Princess pine, ground cedar, tree clubmoss and running pine are all members of this same family, and are often referred to simply as Lycopodiums. Among our favorites is the princess pine or flat-branched tree club-moss (Dendrolycopodium obscurum) shown here.

If you brush your fingers against the plant, a small cloud of yellow spores fills the air. These little plants – and their tiny spores - actually have a big place in the history of early commerce. The mature spores are flammable, and give off a small flash explosion when ignited, leading to their extensive use in early flash photography and even in fireworks! The spores are so tiny that they were used at one point as a way to measure things on the microscopic level. And they have even been used in medicine!

So take a walk in the woods today. Explore your backyard, your favorite hiking trail, or better yet come to VINS and enjoy our scenic trails. You never know what you might find.

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