Common liverwort

In almost all the flowerpots on our balcony you can find lots of common liverwort – also called umbrella liverwort.

First I thought it looked a bit ugly – mostly because it’s just not the plant that’s intended to grow there, I think. But after taking a closer look, it’s kind of cute…..

It has these umbrellas and little cups.

So I started looking some things up on the internet.

First I learned that the green “thing” that looks like a kind of leaf, is called thallus. And what you see at the bottom of the thallus and looks like roots, is called rhizoids.

On top of these thalli are these small little cups:

They are called gemmae cups, because the little green things inside of them are called gemmae.

Gemmae are haploid babies (maybe clones would be a better description) of the plant. If rain hits the cup, some of the gemmae are released and where they hit the soil, they can grow rhizoids and grow into a new liverwort. I think that’s the reason why I have loads of them…..

So that’s how the asexual reproduction of common liverworts works.

For the sexual reproduction you need the little umbrellas. There are female and male umbrellas. Last year I had only male liverwort on my balcony, but this year I was exited to find female ones as well (that’s when I decided to write this post 🙂 ).

On the left you can see the male and on the right the female plant.

The little umbrellas are called gametophores. You can see they differ in form. The male ones are more like a disk. Inside the disk there are antheridia and in these the sperm is produced, which comes out of small openings on top of the disk. I couldn’t really see these, so there’s no picture of them……

The female gametophores look like little stars. They have archegonia in which the ova are produced. They are on the bottom side of these stars. Here’s a close up……..

I also found one where I think fertilization might already have occured….. You can see the husk (I’m not sure if that’s the right word, maybe involucrum is better (or maybe that’s not even English 😦 )) and in the middle you see something yellow. I think this must be where the spores are or have been……

Interesting is, that the spores also are haploid. We humans are diploid creatures, but this liverwort only is diploid inside the female plant after fertilization, when the sporophyte is formed. The spores themselves are again haploid as is the liverwort I found in the flowerpots……..

Sooooooo…….. this was a bit complicated …… at least for me …. 😉 I hope, I got everything right. If you find some errors, please tell me!!

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Reciprocity

I’ve started reading the book “Braiding Sweetgrass” from Robin Wall Kimmerer. I haven’t finished it yet, but it already got me thinking….

She writes in one of her first chapters about the gifts we receive from nature. She writes for example about the little strawberries she found in the forest as a girl and how it felt like a gift. She also speaks about the importance of gifts for her Native American ancestors. About how gifts created relationships, because they knew that gifts would be reciprocated. Not in the way you do when you buy something, in that case you just exchange the good and the money and there’s no relationship required. Reciprocity means that you reward a gift with something you give back, not immediately but later and mostly with something else than the first gift. As far as I know, it’s because of the fact that you don’t respond immediately, that the relationship is formed.

So if you see strawberries as gifts from nature – or all the other things we use from our natural surroundings – if you see all these things as gifts, then it makes you think about the fact that nature isn’t something we can just use as we like, but that we’re part of a bigger whole and that we should do our part and give nature something back in return – somehow…..

And then I started to get kind of worried…..what am I giving back? I couldn’t think of anything. Well, I exhale….and plants need carbon dioxide, right? But we have too much of that already 😦

So, what else? I’m doing my best to not use too many resources, but that’s not the same as giving something back.

And then I stepped on my little balcony and saw that here I’m doing little things which could be interpreted as doing something back. Planting plants is good for the plants ( 🙂 ) and for the insects. Today I found this little fellow on my snow pea. And I think it’s a nice idea to share it with him 🙂

And you might have read my posts about the insect hotel. Lately I found that not only the holes in the wood are taken, but also in the one I made of reed.

I’ve read on another blog, that Hylaes (some kind of bees) close their breeding sites like this.

And then I’ve also seen this Gasteruptiidae . First I thought it was an Ichneumonidae (they are a parasitoid wasp family), but one of the commenters told me otherwise (thanks 🙂 ). They lay their own eggs in the cells with the eggs/larvae of the bees.

So that’s a bit sad for the bees, but it’s part of the natural world where everything has it’s place and lives from and with each other.

But still……I have the feeling I’m not really doing my part to reciprocate what I have been given from nature…… The good thing is, that as you don’t have to give something back immediately but later, it might be not to late to act.

How about you? And what could someone do, who doesn’t even have a little balcony? How can we give something back?

Explorations

You sometimes read about early botanists and entomologists who traveled the world or just walked around in surrounding fields and woods with nets and botanical boxes, who discovered all kinds of insects and plants. I don’t know about you, but I always found this idea fascinating 🙂

But I think I’m kind of doing something similar. But I use my camera instead of boxes and nets. And I don’t find anything new to the world, but sometimes I see things that look a bit weird – at least in my opinion.

It often feels like being on a kind of photo safari…..

Here are some insects I’ve found lately.

I knew this was a hover fly, but couldn’t find which one it was. So I posted a picture of this one on Flickr and someone suggested that it could be a female long hover fly (Sphaerophoria scripta) and I think he could be right! I hadn’t thought about the fact that male and female insects sometimes look different.

And this is known as a thick-legged flower beetle – I wonder how it got that name 😉

This one I like very much. It was sooooooo tiny, I almost missed it. It’s about one millimeter big. I think it must be a kind of lake fly. I really like its hair do!

And sometimes I see things like this:

I don’t know what happened, but its abdomen is missing 😦

And this spider also looks weird to me. It looks like it’s carrying something on its back, don’t you think? I know some spiders have their eggs on their back, but I’m not sure if that’s what we’re seeing here. Do you know? If so, please tell …..

And then I saw something shining on a green plant

It looked like tiny pearls. I don’t think it’s part of the plant – maybe some insect eggs?

And this one I only saw at home looking at my pictures. It looks a bit grumpy I think 🙂

Balcony experiments

Yesterday I have been reading some of the posts of naturaufdembalkon (which is a really nice blog btw 🙂 ) about what is happening on her balcony. And that reminded me to do some updates about the things that are going on on ours.

You might remember our insect hotel? Last time I wrote about it some of the bigger holes were used by mason bees. They tried to get into the smaller ones, but couldn’t. But lately I saw that some of the smaller holes are occupied now too. We didn’t see what kind of bees laid their eggs into them, but they are closed now!

Another thing I’ve tried, is to “plant” some leek. I had read somewhere that you could grow leek from the remains of the leek you use for cooking. The leek you buy in the supermarket has some roots on one end. So this time I didn’t use as much of the leek for cooking as I normally do and put the remains in a glass of water and later in a flowerpot with soil. I hoped I could harvest fresh leek after a couple of weeks.

And it did start to grow! But after a while it started to form a flower stalk……

And now this is almost 70 cm high – but still not blooming.

I tried the same thing with a carrot. I don’t think there will grow another carrot (but I’ve been proven wrong several times now 😉 ), but the green is growing. And I’ve read that you can eat the greens of carrots too – just like the leaves of radishes, kohlrabi and other vegetables (NOT from tomato’s!).

I also think I might have some news about my worms: I found this in the vermicomposter….

It could be a worm egg. At least this is how they look and I can’t remember putting any vegetable remains into it, that looked like this. I’ll keep you informed!

And the other thing new on our balcony is this bird feeder installation my husband build.

We hope it will attract some of the birds which live in the trees you can see in the background so we can take some nice pictures of them. Until now we have seen a great tit and a blue tit visiting it, but probably other birds have been there too as we can’t watch it all day long……

And he has also built a sort of cage to protect my strawberries so the birds don’t start eating them 🙂

How is your balcony looking? Maybe you want to share some of your stories?

Poop mimicry?

This morning my husband and me had a little walk. I saw lots of interesting insects, but as I am bit busy lately I thought I would just share a picture of this little moth we saw.

To be honest I didn’t see it at first and it even took me some time to find it after my husband told me where to look. I thought it was just a little bird poop…….

Okay, this IS some bird poop 😉

Here is the moth:

As far as I found out it’s called Notocelia cynosbatella or Yellow-faced Bell. If you look closely you really can see the yellow face.

And it seems to me, that this little moth is practicing a kind of mimicry. Its resemblance with bird poop can’t be a coincidence…….. 🙂

Worms

I have the vermicomposter for some weeks now. It seems like the worms are getting accustomed to their new home – I think (it’s a bit hard to connect, because each time I open the composter everybody is diving away :-/ ).

I have been feeding them small quantities of vegetable. But: how do worms eat? How small should the pieces I feed them be? Can I just give them chunks of carrot? I’m getting a little bit worried, because the leftovers from the carrots and other vegetable pieces are still clearly not eaten…… I even removed some of it after I read the worst thing you could do is to overfeed them.

Okay, I know, this isn’t the nicest picture I’ve made….. 😉

I have been thinking a lot about Darwin lately. In his last book “The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, with Observations on their Habits” he has written about his observations and experiments with worms. I haven’t finished the book, but I was really impressed by all his observations – and even more about his curiosity.

But – partly because the worms are so afraid of the light (and maybe me) – I have decided to not do any observations of their behaviour myself. So I had to search the internet…….

I found that the digestive system of worms consists of the mouth, pharynx, oesophagus, gizzard, intestine and the anus. Most of that sounds familiar as we also have them – even if they may look a bit different. The gizzard is a kind of stomach which contains some sand and grit. It has strong muscular walls and in there the food is ground as the worms have no teeth to chew their food.

So with no teeth they can’t take a bite of the carrot 🙂 Instead they have to wait until the food is a bit decomposed by bacteria or springtails or other small animals so they can suck it in.

Maybe I should just have some more patience. Maybe they are still eating the coconut core I put inside the vermicomposter as I started it. And next time I feed them, I’ll cut the vegetables in really tiny pieces.

So, you might have noticed that I’m a bit unsure about how to treat my new pets. If you have any experience with a vermicomposter I would be happy if you could give me some advice!!

Common daisy

Have you ever had a really close look at a common daisy? I hadn’t – until now.

Some time ago I wrote a post about the dandelion on my former (dutch) blog and found it such a fascinating flower (I think most things are fascinating if you have a closer look 🙂 ). So now I thought it would be time to investigate another Asteraceae.

Of course everybody can see that there are the white petals and the yellow center. And after reading and writing about the dandelion I already suspected that the yellow part would also be lots of flowers – and so it is. But I was a bit surprised that all the white petals were also little female flowers…..

So I think – but am not sure – that this little thing must be the carpel……

And on another petal I saw this…..

And again I’m not sure what I’m seeing. I have tried to find if the ray flowers of the daisy are fertile, but I found sources saying that they are and others saying that they aren’t. But at least I think this could be the ovary.

The petals of the little yellow flowers in the center – the disc flowers – are fused into a corolla tube. In the middle of the center they are still closed, but at the edge they are open. You can see it here…..

The little flower has 5 petals which are grown together, but you can see the tips of them on the picture above.

It has both male and female parts.

And then my next problem began: I saw what looks like two different stages in the flowering process.

And now I can’t decide which comes first. I have looked at different flowers and my guess from what I have seen is, that first the little petal tips open a bit and that is what you see on the bigger picture above, then it opens wider – that’s what you see on the left picture and then it kind of closes again – and that’s on the right picture.

I have also put the little flowers under the microscope…..

So my guess is, that you see the carpel on the right. But where are the stamens? I think here…..

At least that is what I’ve read: that they are grown together.

Who would have thought that a little daisy could be so complex? I think I have more questions now, then I had before writing this post…..

So if you know more about them and see that I made mistakes, please write me!!