Field of Science

Pioneer plant or climax community

When thinking about plant succession from the colonization of new space to a dominant species in a climax community, the same plant is seldom found in both positions.  Last Friday's Fabulous Flower is one such plant; a pioneer species on lava fields and a tree that hangs around to be a dominant component of the climax forest community.  You learn something every day, and this lesson was via some very good National Park trail signage. 
So the picture last Friday was a pioneer plant on a lava field in Kilauea Iki crater, which was a giant bowl of molten lava 58 years ago, and now it is slowly being re-vegetated even though a lot of heat remains beneath as the lava slowly cools. Lots of plants including ferns get foot holds in cracks and rubble of the solidified lava surface. 

From a distance the crater floor looks pretty smooth and barren, but this is quite deceiving. As you walked the trail though the crater (center), you had to watch your step because of the rough and uneven surface. Even still TPP kept looking around to see what could be seen. This was one of the surprising plants TPP spotted grabbing a foothold in the crater. This one doesn't seem like a pioneer type plant either, but there it was, peeking through the rubble. This plant is a good disperser because it makes lots of spores, but then it lives below ground/subterranean as a haploid generation in association with fungi for years sometimes.  See if anyone recognizes this plant. Yes, it is indigenous to Hawaii.


The Phytophactor said...

Oh, come on this isn't that hard of a plant to ID. It's just shorter, denser, and yellower than the cultivated specimens. Where are the plant ID tough guys. Another couple days and then all will be revealed.

Anonymous said...

Psilotum nudum.... I am hoping to see this growing wild in Spain next month.

...fingers crossed

thanks for the fantastic holiday snaps !


The Phytophactor said...

Thanks to BrianO for the very correct ID. Wondering why it's always so yellow? Limited nitrogen, so very limited chlorophyll to mask the carotenoids? Couldn't pull up a piece to check for fungus even in the name of science (Nat'l Park rules rule).