Friday, June 16, 2006

Stalking the Wild Moonwort

Herp Pal wanted to see moonworts, so off we went this morning to try to find a locality someone showed me, oh probably 8 or 10 years ago. No problem, right. We know it’s along a roadside on Squaw Pass, surely we can find them.

Oh—you are probably wondering what a Moonwort is! Well, it’s a special kind of fern, in its own family (the Adder’s Tongue, or Ophioglossaceae), of which all of the members in Colorado are considered rare, if not endangered. So, very special indeed!

And we found them! Here are the results of the search. Two species, we think, or at least two kinds that looked quite different. There may have been more had we been more attuned to diagnostic characters. Our goal was to photograph ANY, and our time was short, so we were happy with the results reported here.

First up was this little darling. Probably Reflected Moonwort (Botrychium echo), appropriate as we were not too far from Echo Lake (though I suspect that has nothing to do with the name.) That’s pretty much a wild guess I’m afraid. This is a huge plant, as you can tell from the size of the penny!

And then there was this variety, which we are tentatively pegging as Botrychium lunaria. Somewhat smaller, or the penny has grown substantially. Also note the bluish color and different configuration of the pinnae (or leaflets). Moonworts have a sterile vegetative leaflet (behind) and a fertile spore-bearing leaflet, in the foreground here.

How hard is it to find them? Now that you know what they look like, give it a try! Remember, look for the penny, it’s still there in this photo. (Click to enlarge.)

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