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Wood Chunk Update
The "Y" shaped growths I described are indeed Riccia. Honestly, I'm a bit
disappointed because I found the idea of the fern taking a regressive form
to be very interesting. Perhaps I'll try to induce such growth in the
future. BTW, thanks for the info, Paul.
As for the runner-like growths, the nodal tufts which I originally thought
were leaves are actually fruit or seeds of some kind. The leaf-ish
appearance is due to filaments which grow at the nodes along with the
fruit. Filament structures often branch into a "Y" shape and there appears
to be no regularity in number found at any given node. The fruit grows on
the filaments and it's a pale green-yellow but turns dark over time. To
the naked eye, fruit appears smooth and slightly dimpled in the center.
It's about 1.5mm in diameter but slightly misshapen and not spherical.
Fruit which is released or dislodged from the runner floats readily on the
water's surface---a dispersal strategy I presume.
An individual runner is a delicate and even graceful structure with a
diameter of around 0.5mm, maybe less. It's extremely flexible and doesn't
have much tensile strength---a gentle tug snaps it off. There is a slight
bend at each node which alternates directions giving the length of the
runner a mild zig-zagging appearance. The growing tip of the runner curls
up into a coil. Runners stay up in the water column and make no effort to
reach a solid surface, though they do cling to other objects if broken off
and sent drifting. In my original post I simply said the runners grow
long. Maybe I could have been a bit more vague? ;-) The longest runner is
currently about 20 - 25cm long--that looks pretty long in a 2-foot
tank. Overall, the runners are kind of weed-ish in appearance and growth
The source of the runners is still unclear though I've ruled out the
fern. There are many runners now, perhaps a dozen, and they are either
something that was in with the Christmas moss or they are coming from the
Christmas moss itself. The former is most likely since all of the runners
seem to originate from one location on the wood/moss mass. If it were a
construct of the moss, I'd expect runners from other areas. Everytime I
tried to follow a runner to its source within the tufts of moss, the runner
would break or just slip out of the moss unattached. I gave up after a few
tries as I was tearing up the moss in the process.
So ends the mystery of the wood chunk (and the "woodchuck" too ;-) ).
Knoxville, Tennessee USA
mailto:grendel at usit_net