Friday, January 2, 2009
Ancient Plants of Pandapas Pond
On a recent trip to Pandapas Pond, I strayed off the beaten path and found a little colony of this plant, what I have amateurishly identified as Lycopodium digitatum in the family of Lycopodiaceae, one of the three families occuring within the group, the Lycophytes (The other two are Selaginellaceae and Isoetaceae).
What is so interesting about these little, easy-to-miss plants, you may be asking yourselves... Well, I think of these little plants as time-travel plants. More specifically, whenever I encounter a plant like this, I feel like I just traveled WAY, WAY back in time. The Lycophytes emerged approximately 400 MILLION years ago, although it is thought that most of the extant species within Lycopodiaceae emerged about 80-90 million years ago...still pretty old to me! These ancient plants impart the same profound feeling as when I see an old, beautiful tree; its history and spirit are impossible to ignore!
Other interesting facts about the Lycopodiaceae family per Plant Systematics: A Phylogenetic Approach:
[The] oily, highly flammable compounds in the spore wall ignite rapidly into a flash of light and were used by magicians and sorcerers in the Middle Ages, as a flash in early photography, and in the first (experimental) photocopying machines. The spores have been used as industrial lubricants and formerly were used to prevent rubber cohesion in condoms and surgical gloves.
P.S. I wasn't sure whether my old Plant Systematics textbook would ever come in handy, but it sure enough did! Interesting stuff!