Rock Snot 

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Catching up with all the blogs I missed in the last month, I descended upon the Invasive Species Weblog tonight.

Always good for a botanical chuckle or two, I nearly spat out my cherry-flavoured honey toast* when I read that rock snot (Didymosphenia geminate) is now on the Oregon Department of Agriculture's top 100 dangerous invasive species.

How delightfully obscene - a plant called rock snot! The grade two boy in me wanted to know more.

Rock snot, also called didymo, is a diatom. Millions of these single-celled organisms turn fresh-water streams into vats of brown slime by latching on to rocks. Hailing from northern Europe, rock snot starts out as bubble-shaped warts on rocks that feel "like wet cotton wool." In later stages, "streamers turn white at their ends and fragments float downstream similar to clumps of tissue paper". Rock snot is highly invasive; to stop its spread, fishermen must sterilize their clothing and wet pets must be thoroughly dried off for 48 hours before plunging them into new waters.

Also on the list for those of us who like the bizarre are the following:

  • Hazelnut bacteria canker (Pseudomonas avellanae): responsible for the decline of Nutella ingredients in Europe.

  • Potato wart (Synchytrium endobioticum): with a lifespan of about 40 years, spuds become "unmarketable" for the "disease is comparative to a condition resembling elephantiasis, the human deformity suffered by John Merrick and chronicled in the movie The Elephant Man."

  • Dead man's fingers (Codium fragile tomentosoides): also known as green fleece, green sea fingers, oyster thief and Sputnik weed, this algae smothers oysters, mussels and scallops, and makes waterfronts stinky.

  • Yellow floating heart (Nymphoides peltata): a rather pretty type of east Asian waterlily sold in plant stores, this aggressive species chokes out other plants and sometimes stagnates water.

  • Mile-a-minute weed (Polygonum perfoliatum): also known as Devil's tail, tearthumb, tearthumb weed, Asiatic tearthumb, Devil shield, mile-a-minute vine and Chinese tearthumb, this plant grows around six inches a day.

And bonus point to the Inavasive Species Weblog's Dr. Jennifer Forman Orth for more new vocabulary: myrmecologist (a person who studies the life cycles, behavior, ecology, or diversity of ants - which led me to hymenopterist, or a person who studies the life cycles, behavior, ecology, or diversity of wasps and bees) and piscicide (a chemical substance for destroying fish pests).

*I prefer my toast rare. If you should ever need to win favour with me by offering me toast, keep this in mind.

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