En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
2 ratings

Friday - January 08, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Identification of fleshy green lobes on the ground
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I have been hiking in the Austin area and it is January: Noticing dark green, rubbery, lobe shaped sheets on the ground. Less then 2". Usually near low growing fuzzy moss clumps. There are many of them in one patch on the ground, but seem to be singular wrinkled green lobes. -Are these "Liverworts" or some form of the moss reproduction? I can find a lot of Liverwort photos- but none that look close to what we are seeing in Central Texas.

ANSWER:

What you are seeing is a type of Cyanobacteria called Nostoc commune.  Actually, it is a colony of single-celled cyanobacteria.  They have often been called blue-green algae because of their color and the fact that they are photosynthetic like the true algae.  However, the cyanobacteria are prokaryotes—meaning that their DNA is not held within a membrane-bound nucleus; whereas, true algae are eukaryotes with a membrane-bound nucleus. In fact, it is thought that the chloroplasts in green plants that carry out photosynthesis were derived during early evolution by the inclusion of cyanobacteria into their cells.  Here is a little more information about the cyanobacteria. Nostoc is an amazing organism because of its ability to withstand desiccation and extreme temperatures.  It occurs worldwide—from the Tropics to the Arctic and Antarctic.  As long as there is sufficient moisture you'll find Nostoc as the rubbery, green structures on the ground; but as soon as the weather gets dry, it will be there as rather unspectacular dried black mats.   Here are photos and more photos of Nostoc commune.

 

More Plant Identification Questions

Key for Verbesina virginica
June 16, 2014 - Are the stems of Verbesina virginica hairy? My in-laws have what I believe is Verbesina virginica (blooms in September here in VA) and another wild flower that blooms before it and is yellow. I'd l...
view the full question and answer

Plant Identification
June 30, 2005 - I have a plant that someone gave me and I don't have a clue what it is. I have a picture of it on my computer. If you can send me a email address where I can send the picture to you, that would be gre...
view the full question and answer

Identity of grass-like plant with white or cream flowers in The Woodlands, TX?
May 16, 2015 - What is the name of the tall grass-like plant with small white or cream flowers that is planted in most esplanades in The Woodlands, TX.?
view the full question and answer

Mystery plant in private garden in Hutchinson MN
July 16, 2009 - I recently toured an amazing private garden. While touring the owner called her potted plant with purple clustered flowers something that sounds like 'pinsta'. Do you have any idea what it might ha...
view the full question and answer

Identity of small "Pitcher" plants growing in backyard
July 25, 2013 - I have small pitcher plants growing in the grass in my backyard. Looks like very dark cobra. Come every summer when very hot. They are about 4 or 5 inches from base to tip of hood. I have a pic. le...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center