Friday, May 13, 2016

Nostoc


On moist areas of our glade after a rain we come across these piles in the trails.  It looks nasty, a cross between rock snot and rotting moss.  It is actually a cyanobacteria called Nostoc.  They grow in chains or filaments covered with a gelatinous sheath.  They have photosynthetic pigments which accounts for the green color.



Since it is invisible until rain causes it to blossom, it had a rich folk lore history.  It was assumed to fall from the sky with the rain, getting it named Star Jelly or Witches' Jelly.
Some species are grown and consumed as food in China, Japan and Peru where it is said to contain protein and Vitamin C.  Other sources deny any nutritional value and point to a toxic amino acid BAMA that can affect nerve cells.  Either way, I would not expect to see this in your grocery store any time soon.

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