Summer 2010 Newsletter

Hill Country Slime

It is in the most arid and xeric corners of nature that the existence of life commands respect. Such formidable microclimates exist in the Hill Country and are so heavily eroded and arid that not even the toughest cactus can find enough soil and resources to sustain growth. It is in these areas that you find something so easily overlooked, something that comes to life after it rains. It is a blue-green algae, a cyanobacterium called Nostoc commune.

This simple bacteria, once labeled in 1732 as “phlegm” from the rain clouds because of its sudden appearance after a rain event, has acquired an unusual name (Johnson et al 2008). The name nostoc is said to have come from Paracelus (1493 to 1541 A.D.) who gave this jelly-like matter the name Nostoch. He was said to have gotten this name from combining the old English word and German word for nostril, nosthryl and nasenloch respectively, to come up with Nostoch (Potts 1997).

Nostocs are spread all over the globe ranging from extremely cold regions of the Arctic and Antarctic to arid, semi-arid, and temperate environments of Asia and the Americas (microbewiki; Scherer and Zhong 1991). It has the ability to lie dormant for an incredibly long period of time, appearing as indiscriminate black chip-like matter on the surface of the soil (microbewiki). Then, like magic, when the slightest bit of moisture returns, these indiscriminate black chips explode instantaneously into a green slime. Lipman (1941) conducted a study that illustrates the extreme drought hardiness of this species. He took three samples from a herbarium specimen and was able to revive all three samples after 87 years of desiccation.

Once this species is rehydrated, nostocs are able to resume their metabolic functions, like photosynthesis and nitrogen and carbon fixation, almost immediately. These traits make this an important organism for extreme habitats where it can prevent erosion, conserve soil moisture, add nitrogen to nutrient poor areas, and fix carbon. It can do all this in an area where the soil is too shallow and the microclimate is too harsh to sustain vascular plant life (Van Auken 2000).—by Wendy Leonard

Nature Discovery Series

Bill Lindemann will talk on Birds of the Texas Hill Country at the Friends of Friedrich Park Nature Discovery Series program on June 30, 2010, from 7-8 PM in the Friedrich Wilderness Park classroom. Lindemann, a retired geologist, has been an enthusiastic birder most of his adult life. His life list of birds puts him among the world-class birders. For many years Lindemann has written a popular column on birds for the Fredericksburg newspaper. Twice he has been president of the Native Plant Society of Texas. He is much sought after for his presentations on both birds and native plants.

FoFWP Newsletter to go Electronic in December
To conserve resources the Friends newsletter will be going to an electronic version starting with the winter issue. Those members who don’t have email will continue to receive a paper version. If you haven’t already provided us your email address, we request that you send it to us at [email protected] Thank you!

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FRIENDS OF FRIEDRICH WILDERNESS PARK
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