When you hike through an "old growth" forest, you expect to see lots of trees, but the smaller plants are easier to see since they are closer to eye-level. If you gaze up at the large trees, you are guaranteed to trip on the roots, causing great damage to your hands and knees, let alone your camera when it hits the ground! So this post will focus on the ferns and fungi we found in the forest.
The Kingdom Fungi includes some of the most important organisms, both in terms of their ecological and economic roles. By breaking down dead organic material, they continue the cycle of nutrients through ecosystems. In addition, most vascular plants could not grow without the symbiotic fungi, or mycorrhizae, that inhabit their roots and supply essential nutrients. Other fungi provide numerous drugs (such as penicillin and other antibiotics), foods like mushrooms, truffles and morels, and the bubbles in bread, champagne, and beer.
|Varnish Shelf Fungus and Pleasing Fungus Beetle|
|Magnolia Cone Fungus|
|Coral Stemmed Fungus|
In spots, we saw ferns growing waist-high along the trail....
|Spleenwort in Rockface|
Once we found a boggy spot with spaghnum moss and netted chain fern so thick you left a footprint if you stepped in it, so we didn't.
Ferns reproduce by spores found on the bottom of the fronds, and they can be used to help identify the species. Little bugs will curl up in a frond to lay their eggs. It's wonderful to see the inter-relationships in the forest.
Biodiversity is the key word to scientists and ecologists studying the Eastern Kentucky forests. The biodiversity of this region is greater than that of most of the other temperate areas in the world! If mountaintop removal continues, many of these species will be lost forever when their habitats are destroyed. They survived the ice ages, but may not survive the age of man.