Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Identity of mint impersonator in California
May 20, 2012 - Is there such a thing as a mint "impersonator"? There are random 'sprigs' of purple-stemmed, bright green leaf plants in my front yard. We just moved in to the house and I don't want to assume ...
view the full question and answer

Vine with 5 pointed deep lobed leaves and small white flowers
June 21, 2015 - I recently happened upon a very peculiar vine. It has 5 pointed very deep lobed leaves, that are semi hairy on both the top and bottom with small white flowers that emerge from the same part of the st...
view the full question and answer

Texas wildflower guide with every flower listed
November 09, 2012 - Is there a Texas wildflower guide that contains every single flower that grows in the state? I have a few flowers on my land I haven't been able to identify because they aren't in the guide I have. ...
view the full question and answer

Identity of Dalea plant
April 03, 2013 - While in Austin recently (I live in Dallas), I visited Jardinero on Cesar Chavez and purchased a shrub identified only as "Dalea". It is 3-4 feet tall, upright habit, typical tiny pea family foliag...
view the full question and answer

ID for Caribbean mystery plants.
January 13, 2016 - I AM TRYING TO FIND THE COMMON NAME FOR TWO FLOWERS I TOOK PICTURES OF ON A CARIBBEAN CRUISE. I TOOK ONE IN HONDURAS AND ONE IN GRAND CAYMAN. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHERE I CAN GO TO TO GET HELP IN ID...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.