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News from the Pillwort Bowl

Saturday, March 12th 2016

Pillwort is a water fern but it is not like the land ferns.  A frond of Hart's Tongue fern from a garden, was taken and laid on soil and has been kept moist for about five months.  The back of the frond was covered in sori that were filled with spores.  Over the last month these spores have developed into prothalli.  These will eventually produce new ferns.

Prothalli of Hart's Tongue Fern

Pillwort produced sporocarps from which the spores were released.  These spores have now developed into tiny ferns, looking like pieces of grass. 

New Pillwort ferns

Meanwhile the adult fern is still growing and as the days lengthen and there is more heat in the sun coming through the window, so it is growing more quickly.  In the right hand corner, out of focus, the root of the Pillwort can be seen.

Adult Pillwort

Checking the plastic bowl on a regular basis and topping it up with water, 'things' have started to appear.  Daphnia and Cyclops species are moving around, presumably having spent the winter dormant either as adults or eggs.  Then there was a green 'thing'.  Glasses off to look closer, excitement growing, large magnifying glass out and yes the green 'thing' was a Green Hydra.

A Green Hydra

They are basically a tube, an outer layer and an inner layer which digests the food.  The tentacles around the opening of the tube catch the prey by stinging it.  In this species, because they contain chlorophyll they are not as voracious as other species.  If conditions are right then they reproduce asexually by producing a bud, which is a new hydra which will fall off and start life on its own.  Within a few days of discovery, one hydra has a bud.

Budding hydra

This is a new species for the reserve but it is unable to be entered into the species list at this time, as there is some confusion over its correct name.  The species programme is saying that it is a marine invertebrate!

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