If We Only Knew…

Moss capsules don't simply split open: they explode!

… the divers ways Nature has concocted to get her work done.

Only recently, complete with video documentation, the problem of dispersing moss spores beyond the stagnant air of the forest floor has come to light.

And it turns out, the common sphagnum mosses SHOOT their spores under great pressure into the “turbulent boundary layer” where the probability of long-distance transport goes up considerably.

On sunny days as the spore-loaded “capsule” dries, pressures build up to create an “air gun” effect that shoots a vortex cloud of spores several inches up into the moving air.

This is the kind of “plants are really alive” support I would have loved to have back when my students thought of plants as second-class citizens of the living world.

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About

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

2 Comments on “If We Only Knew…

  1. Thanks for that information. I have come to believe and experience that we really do “learn new things everyday.” Today I learned this fascinating fact about moss capsules. Thanks!

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