In The Middle Of Winter, If You Were To Sift Through The Debris On The Forest Floor With The Tiniest Of Tweezers And A Powerful Microscope, You Might Eventually Find A Dark, Spiky, Club-Shaped Thing Smaller Than A Grain Of Sand. In Very Early Spring, Just Exactly When The Tiny, Green Mayapple Shoots Start Pushing Through The Soil, The Dark Object Germinates And Produces Even Tinier Spores. These Spores Might Be Carried By Wind Or Water Onto A Mayapple Shoot. If A Fortunate Spore Lands On A Mayapple, It Will Produce A Microscopic, Threadlike Filament Called A Hypha.
2019 Ohio Tourism Guide Photo Gallery
The Hypha Can Tunnel Between The Mayapple Cells And Draw Out Enough Nutrition To Live, But Its Other Mission Searching For Another Hypha Thread, Produced By Another Spore Is Even More Important. If These Two Threads Find Each Other, Their Cells Will Merge And Form A Different Type Of Hypha, With Two Nuclei In Every Cell Instead Of Just One.
Only A Few Days Have Passed Since The Plants Broke Dormancy, And The Mayapple Shoots Are Only A Few Inches Tall, Their Leaves Not Even Opened, But The Hyphae That Have Found Each Other Begin Their Next Phase Of Reproduction. They Produce More Of The Dark, Club-Shaped Spores, Inside Of Which The Nuclei From The Two Hyphae Have Merged. If This Were A Plant Or An Animal, We’D Call The Event Fertilization, But Biologists Who Study Fungi Use Different Terms.
It Is Still Early Spring, The Mayapple Leaves Have Just Unfurled, And Already The Second Generation Of Dark, Club-Shaped Spores Has Germinated, Producing A Second Generation Of Tiny Spores. Many Of These Will Eventually Be Carried, Again By Wind Or Water, Onto The Stems And Leaves Of Mayapples Perhaps The Same Plant Their Ancestors Started From. Once Again The Spores Germinate On Their One And Only Host, And The Hyphae Set Out In Search Of Nutrition And Each Other. At This Point, Mother Nature Adds A Twist. What Happens Next Depends On Which Part Of The Plant The Spore Lands Upon. If The Hyphae Cells Fuse On The Stem Or A Vein, Where Nutrition Is Abundant, They Will Once Again Form The Club-Shaped Structures That Will Live On Dead Leaves Over The Winter, But If The Hyphae Fuse On The Leaf Blades, They Will Form Pockets Filled With Rust-Colored Spores. This Type Of Spore Cannot Live Through The Long Winter, But It Can Reinfect The Plant, Germinate, And Eventually Form The Dark Overwintering Clubs. The Yellow Spots I See On The Leaves Result From The Fungus Using Up The Sugars And Nutrients In The Leaf Cells. Viewed One Way, These Leaves Are Infected, A Term With Negative Associations, But Viewed Another Way, The Leaves With Rust Are The Most Beautiful And Interesting: Mother Nature’S Yellow And Green Abstract Artwork.
These Things I Write About The Fungi, The Small Plants, The Insects, The Birds, The Soil, And The Water May Seem Like Digressions, But They Are The Forest, Too, And Deserve Our Attention. They Are Equal In Importance To The Tallest Of Trees. And In Ways We Do Not Yet Fully Understand, These Small Things May Determine The Lives And Deaths Of The Trees.
One Cannot Be In Ohio, Interested In Trees, And Not Think Of Lucy Braun. In Her Blog The Woody Plants Of Ohio, She Quotes P. B. Sears: “The State Of Ohio, Containing 40,000 Square Miles, Was Once A Magnificent Hardwood Forest…. But Somehow It Never Occurred To Anyone To Set Aside A Square Mile, Much Less A Township Six Miles Square, Of Primeval Vegetation For Future Generations To See And Enjoy.”
Braun Made It Her Life’S Work To Describe The Woody Species And Forest Types Of Ohio, Piecing Together Hints From What Was Left Before All Traces Of The Original Forest Were Gone. She Never Married And Lived Her Entire Life With Her Unwed Sister, Annette Braun, The First Woman To Earn A Ph.D. From The University Of Cincinnati. Annette’S Degree, Received In 1911, Was In Zoology. In 1914, Lucy Earned Her Ph.D. In Botany From The Same University. Together The Sisters Created A Laboratory In Their Home And Traveled Widely Studying The Natural World And Collecting Specimens. Lucy Braun Died In 1971 At Age 81, After Devoting Her Life To Teaching And Writing About Plant Ecology.
In Ohio, I Feel Braun’S Presence, And I Think She Would Approve Of My Journeys. She Wrote: “As A Result Of Man’S Continuing Destruction Of His Natural Environment By The Plow, Lumbering, Urban Sprawl, And Ever Enlarging Highways, Few Natural Habitats Will Remain Shortly In Ohio.” Unfortunately, Those Words Are Even Truer Today Than When She Wrote Them, But In Johnson Woods I Had A Chance To See A Bit Of What Ohio Used To Be, And To Think Of Death And Its Counterbalance, Life, And To Hope That Perhaps Our Society’S Attitude Toward The Natural Environment Has A Cycle Of Its Own That Will Swing Back Around In Time.
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