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Identifying ferns with Prof Benito Tan

Nature Society members continue to frequent the marsh surveying the pond and the pathway from the barrier at the Kranji farm resort all the way to the pond. But this was no ordinary trip. Angie, Yap Von Bing, his wife Ann and Anuj (me) from the Plant Group were fortunate to have Dr. Benito Tan, a world renowned Bryologist (we call him the 'Moss Man') with us to investigate the ferns around the marsh on 3rd October.

Though it was 1:30pm in the afternoon, it was quite cool after the noon drizzle. There were plenty of plants to check on our way to the pond but we headed straight to the pond to identify the ferns first.

Last week, Gerard (a plant enthusiast and an active NSS member) had spotted an unidentified fern growing on the inaccessible side of the pond (it is lined with wild aquatic plants) so identifying this fern was the most exciting thing planned for this trip. Benito guessed the genus as Cyclosorus but it was hard to confirm the species as the details on the underside of the fronds were barely visible from such a distance (about 10 meters).

Surprisingly the fern seemed to grow only in a small patch on the inaccessible side of the pond. We wanted to see a close up of the fern but this proved difficult due to the muddy pond waters in between and the risk of crocodiles in them.

We thought off a few bright ideas to get close to this peculiar fern species but none of them worked. In the process, we noticed that few other ferns were quite abundant. Most common among them was Stenochlaena palustris (Akar Paku).

Apart from ferns, the pond and the surrounding area also has many other species of plants growing there. We took note of any new species that we had missed documenting earlier. During this survey work, we heard a few bird calls, an eagle calling and even spotted a Purple heron. 

We went to check the bund area before calling off for the day. Benito was here for the first time so he was pretty fascinated by the CAUTION sign (as you can make out from his photo).

The Moss Man had an idea where else to look for his unidentified fern. Following him along the bund, to our surprise, we found a few patches of the fern - this time growing quite close to the walking path. Indeed! This was quite exciting for all of us. This is Benito’s hand showing us the spores he needed for confirmation. He confirmed it as Cyclosorus gongylodes.

On the way back, we saw an Air Potato plant (Dioschoria Bulbifera) growing wild near the barrier. Seen are the female spikes 10-20cm long. We did not see the male panicles 2-3.5cm long though.

Next to the Air potato was the Pipturus argenteus plant. Angie helped me identify a leafhopper Bythoscopus ferrugineus crawling on its leaf. 

The purpose of the trip was fulfilled! There are always new encounters - adding to our increasing list of flora and fauna found at the marsh. This makes it so much fun to go there time and again!

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