November 30, 2023

Speciation by conglomeration - a further notion.

Perhaps you have heard of the largest single flower in the world?
Let us be clear.
It is a single flower.
It is not a composite of flowers (the largest of these of which is produced by the famous Amorphophallus titanum ).

No, the largest single flower in the world,
up to about 20-inches (50 cm) across,
is produced by Rafflesia arnoldii.

And yet to see the plant that produces this enormous flower
you will need a microscope.
Yes, this is true!
For Rafflesia arnoldii is present only as a network of filaments in the plant of which it parasitizes,
a large vine in the tropics of Sumatra. [I implore you to come back to this story after departing, momentarily I hope, to view this rather stunning observation of Rafflesia arnodlii : ]

Oh good, you made it back.

Now the rather spectacularly example of plant parasitic on another plant
also occurs at much smaller dimensions,
with fungi that parasitize other fungi,
of which we will then take one step further.

A lichen is a combination of a fungus and an algae that act as one.
Lichens are thus excellent examples of species that are each a conglomeration.
Ramalina americana is one such lichen.
It looks like a minuscule, green, flat-stemmed shrub
that grows on the branches of trees,
and does so throughout much of North America.

The spore-bearing reproductive structures,
the "flowers" as it were,
of Ramalinae americana
are the button-like discs seen in this photo:
[These "flowers" are in lichenological parlance, apothecia.]
Please note how the buttons have a flat top.
This is their normal form.

Tremella ramalinae is a fungus that parasitizes the lichen Ramalina americana.
Just as with Rafflesia,
nothing is seen of Tremella
until its "flowers" erupt through the tissue of its host species.

The spore-bearing "flowers" of parasitic Tremella species
are brain-like in appearance.
This makes them rather distinct and easy to separate from the normal growth of whatever host they happen to parasitize,
as on this example of Tremella parmeliarum on its host, Parmotrema reticulatum :

And that is how it is supposed to be with Tremella ramalinae on its host Ramalina americana.
However, Tremella ramalinae has taken things one step further.
Instead of erupting its spore-bearing structures through the body of its host,
and separate from its host's own spore-bearing structures,
there are examples where some Tremella ramalinae have united the spore-bearing structure with that of the host,
so that the two act as one.

It appears that the parasite and the host have become one.

[There are at least 4 other observations of this specific occurrence on iNaturalist.]

Posted on November 30, 2023 01:27 PM by mjpapay mjpapay

November 21, 2023

Sticta carolinensis

Sticta carolinensis

  • has the smallest thallus lobes of the regional Sticta species, evident from 10 feet away
  • has a white lower surface (at least at the margins), also usually evident from 10 feet away in scatteringly upturned lobe tips;
  • usually has so many phyllidia as to obscure the upper surface of the lobes beneath a cloud of phyllidia (also evident from quite a distance)


The other regional (North Carolina and thereabouts):

Posted on November 21, 2023 03:52 PM by mjpapay mjpapay

September 28, 2023


don't put me on a highway.
Let me head out
on my own,
Down some lonely country byway,
that's where
I want to go,
Where the breeze is blowing,
Where the rivers flow at ease,
Where the clouds sail across the sky,
Where the seasons
let you breathe.

Don't put me on a highway.
Let me head out
on my own,
down some lonely country byway,
that's where I
go . . . .

Posted on September 28, 2023 05:44 PM by mjpapay mjpapay


In summertime,
with Crinum Lilies,
and Salvias.
me and my friends,
we like to grow

right through the fall,
with Autumn colors
tumbling down.
me and my friends,
we like to grow



Posted on September 28, 2023 11:39 AM by mjpapay mjpapay

September 27, 2023


Think of the frogs,
those curious beings.
With their big knowing eyes,
what do they see?
Furthermore good fellow,
what do they think?
Of the plants all around,
of ponds and of streams,
of tall branching trees,
and skies full of dreams.

the life of a frog
is a wonderful

Posted on September 27, 2023 06:55 PM by mjpapay mjpapay

Summer Breeze

Summer breeze
and memories
of good times.
Soft clouds
a blue sky . . .

I'm thinking of you,
lord how I love you.
Soft clouds
a blue sky . . .

through the pine trees.
Magnolia fragrance
on the breeze . . .

I'm dreaming of you.
lord how I love you.
through the pine trees . . .

We'll I'm driving
the misty morning,
down this
country road.

I'm thinking of you.
lord how I love you.
Summer breeze,
and memories
of good times.
Summer breeze,
and memories
of good times.

Posted on September 27, 2023 06:50 PM by mjpapay mjpapay

September 13, 2023

Getting Around

and inanimate,
get around around.

As far as inanimate goes,
there are diamonds.

Back in the day, folks panning for gold across North America, folks with no geological training whatsoever, found diamonds where no diamonds should be. That is to say that the local geology could not have produced the diamonds, for it was all sedimentary rock with no kimberlite pipes for hundreds of miles distant.* The existence of the diamonds was a fact, however, and the conundrum of their presence (on average one diamond for every square mile of surface area) was only resolved with imaginative thinking. The diamonds had come from the sedimentary rocks. They just happened to be deposited in the formative material accumulating that eventually would become the sedimentary rock. The diamonds also came with the material carried atop and in the glaciers that once covered substantial portions of North America. From the kimberlite pipes in Canada, diamonds were scattered across the plains.

As for distant dispersal of life forms,
the distance is overcome by the eventualities provided by time and circumstance.

Even molten islands pushed up in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, that began their existence as sterile rock,
by and by,
were inhabited by all sorts of life forms.

At present,
a rather larger lichen than any Cladonia, namely Lobaria pulmonaria, has a circum-global distribution.

And at a larger scale, the fern Pteridium has a global distribution, only recently being (with some adherent controversy) separated from Pteridium aquilinum in to somewhat more local species.

on the same scale as Cladonia,
a tiny moss has been studied,
and against the long-held belief of local distribution only,
was found to exist in North America as well as Europe. [Authors: Flagmeier, Maren, Draper, Isabel, Vigalondo, Beatriz, Garilleti, Ricardo, and Lara, Francisco, Source: The Bryologist, 124(3) : 403-413. (This was originally brought to my attention by Taro letaka, t_tallhouse. )]

I keep an open mind when the traits of identification appear correct, but the occurrence would be an outlier of sorts.

  • Excepting Murfreesboro, Arkansas famous for its Crater of Diamonds State Park.
Posted on September 13, 2023 01:54 PM by mjpapay mjpapay

August 26, 2023


Press on,
press on.
Your feet pound the trail,
the dust clings to your clothes,
like the pain in your heart,
and the weight on your soul.

Head down,
head down.
You brave the windy road,
face against the odds,
just a glimmer of hope.

Pound out your prayers,
on that long

Posted on August 26, 2023 07:28 PM by mjpapay mjpapay

August 14, 2023

Of Kelp & Cacti, A Taxonomic Saga

This historical narrative is based on the following references, cited in chronological order

  1. Simone Wartono, 1689, Schola Botanica sive Catalogus Plantarum
  2. Johannes Commelin, 1697, Horti medici Amstelodamensis rariorum tam Orientalis
  3. Samuel Goodenough & Thomas Jenkinson Woodward, 1797, Observations of the British Fuci, Transactions of the Linnaean Society of London. 3: 84-235
  4. Stackhouse, 1809, Mémoires de la Society Imperiale des Naturalistes de Moscou, 2: 50-97
  5. Adrian Hardy Hayworth, 1812, Plantarum Succulentarum
  6. R.K. Greville, 1830, Algae Brittanicae
  7. Friedrich Traugott Kutzing, 1843, Phycologicia Generalis oder Anatomie, Physiologie, und Systemkunde der Tange
  8. Nathaniel Lord Britton & Joseph Nelson Rose, 1920, The Cactaceae
  9. M. Parke & P.S. Dixon, 1976, Check-list of British Marine Algae - third revision, Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, 56: 527-594
  10. Elizabeth Den Hartog & Carla Teune, 2003, Gaspar Fagel (1633-88): His Garden and Plant Collection at Leeuwenhorst, Garden History, 30(2): 191

[Phycology is the scientific study of Kelp; a Phycologist is a practitioner of Phycology]


Brace yourself.
The first Mammillaria was a kelp!

And, it had the very cactus-like name of Mammillaria echinata,
which translates to English as the Hedgehog Mammillaria.

It was given the name Mammillaria echinata in 1809, by a phycologist named Stackhouse. The kelp genus Mammillaria thereby had what in taxonomic parlance is called "Priority of Publication."

Yes. That's a fact.

Three years later, in 1812, a botanist named Adrian Hardy Hayworth described a cactus derived from Curacoa, calling it Mammillaria simplex. It was the first cactus to be called a Mammillaria, but as we now know, the first Mammillaria was a Kelp, not a cactus. Oh, what to do?

Before we chase down that answer, let us consider how odd it seems that a kelp, a group of plants notorious for being flimsy, un-rigid, and non-spiny of form, could be considered in need of being named after a Hedgehog, an animal renowned for its rigid spiny armor. Stackhouse may have been inspired to do so by Samuel Goodenough and Thomas Jenkinson Woodward. For in 1797, these two gentleman named a kelp Fucus mammillosus, and "raised the roof" when they did so. There can be little doubt that their little publication received a clamor of attention in botanical circles around the globe.

You must understand that Goodenough & Woodward were publishing their article in the Transactions of the Linnaean Society of London, yet in their article they boldly highlighted an error by Linnaeus, the man for whom the society was named. Yikes!

In their publication of the kelp, Fucus mammillosus, Goodenough and Woodward provided the following commentary. "The errors which have attended the investigation of this plant, are owing in great measure to Linnaeus himself, who inadvertently under his ceranoides quoted the figure of Morison above mentioned. The figure altogether militates against the description which he gives of ceranoides; for he describes it as having apices vesiculosus, which mammillosus never has; besides, the specimen preserved in his herbarium has no affinity to it; for that is never found with these excrescences which we mention as the characteristic of this plant. Linnaeus's quoting this figure of Morison to his ceranoides led subsequent authors, who naturally trusted more to such an expressive figure than to his verbal description, to mistake the plant which he named ceranoides. Thus Gmelin supposed crispus to be ceranoides, and mammillosus, in as much as it was so cited by Linnaeus himself, a variety of it."


Knowing their illumination of Linnaeus's error would ignite a firestorm in the Linnaean Society, Goodenough & Woodward cautioned, "When the learned of science so differ, we must deprecate all censure upon our vanity, if we presume to hold out a truer investigation." No wiser words were ever written.

This all relates back to our Phycologist, Stackhouse, who knew the genus Fucus well, and in particular a species he described as Fucus echinatus in 1797. Do you see where this is going? Goodenough & Woodward had brought to the attention of the botanical world a kelp they named Fucus mammillosus, which Stackhouse knew as Fucus echinatus. Stackhouse took things one step further in 1809, and renamed this kelp Mammillaria echinata. And that is how a marine kelp became the first Mammillaria.

That, however, is not the rest of the story.

This is.

The reign of Mammillaria as a genus of kelp lasted for 34 years (1809 - 1843). For it was in 1843 that Friedrich Traugott Kutzing renamed Mammillaria echinata as Mastocarpus mammilosus. Afterwards, it seemed that all the cacti that had, during the interim, been named to the genus Mammillaria were at last safe. Or were they?

In 1920, Nathaniel Lord Britton & Joseph Nelson Rose were taking no chances, and so renamed the cactus genus Mammillaria as Neomammillaria just to be on the safe side as regards taxonomic rules of priority of publication. But not everyone was happy with this measure, but not for the reasons you might imagine.

A few people, Latin Scholars in particular, were unhappy with the spelling, Mammillaria, for the proper diminutive form of the Latin word for nipple, mamma, meant that Hayworth should have spelt his cactus genus with one less m in it, as Mamillaria, not Mammillaria. Thus, Britton & Rose might also have spelt their Neomammillaria as Neomamillaria, but they didn't. It would seem that the Latin Scholars are correct, but that everyone else was happy with the double M's and double L's in Mammillaria and Neomammillaria.

And what of Hayworth's Mammillaria simplex ? It was first described and illustrated by Commelin in 1697. He did not use binomial nomenclature as is now customary, but in the manner of botanical names of the time, gave it a description, "Ficoides vel ficus americana sphaerica", Figure 55 of his text. Commelin's illustrations are very realistic, and the viewer immediately recognizes the plants depicted, including the cactus we now call Mammillaria simplex. Latin Scholars will recognize, however, that Commelin's written description relates to a fig, not a cactus. I conjecture that he was led to do so by the fact that Mammillaria simplex produces a milky sap when its surface is cut, in the same way that the common fig produces a milky sap when its stem is cut.

The First Opuntia was also a Kelp

Is there no end to this Kelp-Cactus connection?

Be at ease.

It is not as bad as you might think.

The first described Opuntia was a Kelp in Tenby, south Wales.

It was described as Fucus opuntia in 1797 by our old friends, Goodenough & Woodward. They gave the kelp that name for its appearance as a string of flat elongate beads. Thirtythree years later it was renamed Catanella opuntia by Greville, 1830. And it wasn't until 1976 that Tenby Wales finally lost the distinction of having a kelp called Opuntia, for the kelp was renamed Fucus caespitosa by Park & Dixon.

And that, dear reader, ends our Kelp-Cactus connection.

[Someone has since renamed Fucus caespitosa as Catanella caespitosa. So, not even a pretty little kelp is immune to a string of name-changes].

[Someone has renamed Haworth's Mammillaria simplex as Mammillaria nivosa. Oh well. There you have it.]

Posted on August 14, 2023 09:11 PM by mjpapay mjpapay

July 06, 2023

Pteridium species

NOTE: This page is under long-term development. It may be some time before it is useful to the viewer.

According to current taxonomy, Pteridum aquilinum is retained as a species of Europe, and does not occur in the Americas. The American varieties have been raised to species rank:
Pteridium aquilinum feei ==> Pteridium feei
Pteridium aquilinum latiusculum ==> Pteridium latiusculum
Pteridium aquilinum pseudocaudatum ==> Pteridium pseudocaudatum
Pteridium aquilinum pubescens ==> Pteridium pubescens

It seems likely at some point in time that iNat will implement the new taxonomy of Pteridium.
If you have an observation of Pteridium in the Americas, and it does not as yet have a varietal or subspecies rank, it would perhaps be wise to pursue its identification further.

GOALS of this journal page/project:

  • For each species of Pteridium listed by Plants Of the World Online (POWO) [], provide at least one link to an iNat observation that is "iconic" (in some way) for that species.
  • Review details of said observations, and deduce diagnostic morphological traits for the identification of each species. No doubt, knowing where the fern was observed will greatly assist in its identification.
    - - -

Pteridium aquilinum

Pteridium arachnoideum

Pteridium brownseyi

  • no iNat observations yet (06 July 2023)
    - - -

Pteridium capense [South Africa]

Pteridium caudatum [Southeastern USA]

Pteridium central-africanum

Pteridium decompositum [Hawaii]

Pteridium esculentum [Tropical & Subtropical: Asia -> Australia -> South America]

Pteridium falcatum

Pteridium feei [Mexico]

Pteridium latiusculum [Eastern North America and Eastern Asia; replaced along the American Gulf Coast and Southeast Atlantic by Pteridium pseudocaudatum]

ASIDE: iNat has recently coined the common name of "Western Brackenfern" for this species. Well, "Western Brackenfern" occurs in Eastern North America and in Eastern Asia. So this common name is bound to cause a lot of confusion. [EDIT: 21 November 2023: gcwarbler reported that, after reading this "Aside", he took action and removed the iNat Common Name for Pteridium latiusculum. Now, at least, there will be less confusion regrading this species. Thank you gcwarbler. EDIT 16 November 2023: With incessant insouciant inanity, curators of iNat have resurrected the abominably confusing common name of Western Bracken Fern. Weary am I, indeed.]

Pteridium lineare

Pteridium pinetorum

Pteridium pseudocaudatum [primarily Coastal Plains and near-shore of Southeastern North America]

Pteridium pubescens [Western North America]

Pteridium revolutum Subtropical & Tropical Asia & India to NE Australia

Pteridium rostratum

Pteridium yunnanense

A recent, worldwide study of Pteridium:

My perception of life forms
is that what we think of as separate species
are in fact connected to one another
in a fluid way,
in the same way that there is really only one ocean on the planet,
and that what we for convenience call the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean et cetera,
to suit our needs for navigation and orientation,
are in fact one connected mass of water.

In the same way that we divide up the ocean for our convenience of understanding place,
taxonomy draws artificial lines across continuums of interconnectedness between genetically interchanging populations, and creates categories meant to guide human understanding of the diversity of life forms.

Nature has no concern
nor regard
for the artificial taxonomic devices of human kind.
Nature gets on with what it does,
and is,
in all of its myriad forms of life.

Posted on July 06, 2023 02:31 PM by mjpapay mjpapay