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Mike's Blog - Day 144

This is an ancient “clubmoss”, sometimes called the creeping cedar or ground pine. Lycopdium.

We have this specimen in the greenhouse but there are smaller, much hardier species in the UK. There is quite a bit of it on the western slope of the summit of Skiddaw in the Lake District.

Some plants, and animals, have evolved and changed over the eons but, as you can see from the old fossil, this club moss has changed very little.

A fragment came off when I handled it to reveal an unseen part of the fossil, unseen by humans anyway. I’m not sure of the age of this fossil, but I would think it is older than 200 million years at least.

From evolving very little to evolving out of recognition. I was talking to the horseman at Beamish the other day and he was commenting on some marks on his horse's leg. They are apparently remnants of a thumb and little toe. He was saying how, way back in time, horses had four bones in the foot but evolved to run on just one. the hoof is in effect the “finger” nail. It sounded a bit far-fetched to me but, looking on the internet, it seems that is the common understanding. It took five million years of evolution.

I remember meeting Lycopdium powder at school. I had no idea it was the fine spores of a plant. The teacher covered the surface of a large bowl with it. Then he put a tiny drop of detergent on it, and the spreading of the detergent moved the fine powder to reveal a perfect clear circle. The volume of the droplet was known (from estimating it from the volume of 100 drops and dividing by 100, or something like that), and of course we could easily measure the diameter of the circle. So, we had volume, and in effect on the water was a cylinder, ok not very tall, but its height would be the equivalent of the diameter of the detergent molecule. It was fascinating stuff.

The fine powder is highly explosive and commonly used for theatrical effect, and at one time for flash photography.