Lycophytes and Monilophytes hike

In the small hours after midnight on Tuesday 11 January 2011 a good friend, a mentor, and a professor who had practiced and taught the value of outdoor science education for over fifty years passed away. That same Tuesday I had scheduled my ethnobotany class for a hike into the forest to learn about lycopodium and ferns.

Although I felt a numbing sense of loss, I already knew what Harvey expected of me. Leaving behind our books, forsaking attendance, the class headed out under the bright tropical sun empty-handed in nature's learning laboratory.

We first stopped to look at moss on a tree in the center semi-quad. Moss fits better in this hike, but moving moss to the previous Thursday and covering moss with Nostoc provides more time in valley on the following Tuesday.

On the way to the trailhead the class had previously stopped to examine Psilotum nudum located just to the south of the agriculture building in a hidden valley. This was a new addition to the hike spring 2009. Because psilotum was "dumped" back in with the ferns in the new monilophyta classification, something I only learned fall 2009, I opted to skip the psilotum spring 2010 and subsequent terms including this term. Only one small plant without cones was seen fall 2009 and the effort was not worth the gain in knowledge. If the area is left undisturbed for a long enough period of time, the Psilotum may recover naturally.

The trail head is once again moved, this time displaced slightly eastward, running on what was a driveway access to a now long gone building.

On top of the ridgeline

The class stopped on the ridgeline to view the lycopodiu Lycopodiella cernua and the sun-loving fern Dicranopteris linearis. Lycopodium is a member of the division Lycopodiophyta, the ferns are members of division Pteridophyta.
The class then paused at the top of the steep slope where Nephrolepis spp. and Thelypteris maemonensis were observed and discussed. A tree at the top of the trail now has a healthy growth of the lycopodium Huperzia phlegmaria on the trunk, no strobili had yet developed.

Local uses and meanings of these plants was also discussed, along with names in the local languages. The local names for Microsorum scolopendria, its use as a mwarmwar, and the function the plant had as a mwarmwar in protecting the dancer from soumwahuen eni were covered. A plant known locally as marekenleng was located on a tree, this plant is currently listed in the virtual herbarium as Asplenium polyodon. Also found atop the steep slope was Davallia solida (ulung en kieil). The term devolution was introduced as meaning a loss of language and of culture. Asplenium nidus was encountered as we descended the slope.
Now that I no longer cover Vittaria, the fern is re-establishing on the trees at the top of the slope. This omission has been necessary due to over harvesting of the plants.

Last fall term the class ended at the top of the slope to accommodate a veteran for whom the descent would have been difficult if not potentially painful. This term the class plunged on into the late afternoon forest.

On the slope

The descent into the valley was particularly wet and slippery this term due to rain earlier in the day and on preceding days. I lost footing once myself.


Down in the forest time constraints prevented locating Humata banksii . This term I also did not locate the Psilotum complanatum nor did I see Huperzia phlegmaria in the valley. The Asplenium Polyodon was still present both on top of the slope and in the valley.

Elvira enjoying the moment

In the valley

Father along the trail the class observed Cyathea nigricans. One student pointed at the tree fern and said, "What is that‽" The exclamatory question suggested the student had never seen a tree fern before. If one can rekindle wonder, then learning is easy.
Elvira with a mossy tree

I then took the class down to the river and up to the Antrophyum plantagineum. We reached the A. plantagineum around 16:40. The later arrival was due in part to covering moss at the start of the hike. Had we not skipped Psilotum we might not have made it to the Antrophyum. No one said that they knew its name, no one indicated that they had seen this fern before. I then took role and at 16:44 noted that if the students could get back to the admissions office by 5:00 they could still drop the class without record.

Dana and Mae

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