Tales from the Cryptogams

By Tristen J. Pasternak, Salem S. Hunter, Amanda M. Chandler

Oct 28 2022

Need an idea for a Halloween costume? Why not venture out as your favorite decomposer? A slime mold, maybe? This holiday is about all things fascinating, out of this world (or are they?), untraditionally beautiful, frightening, and a multitude of other-worldly dimensions in between. While cryptogamic organisms are included under the general umbrella of botany, you will not find any flowers or seeds among them. This confused Linnaeus, who considered these organisms to be “lesser plants” and grouped them all together based on their use of spores in reproduction. This grouping is meant to be descriptive of this “cryptic” method of reproduction and served more as a catch-all group of perceived oddities and outliers than a group of closely related organisms. As a group, they bend and broaden our conception of the natural world and include algae, fungi, slime molds, lichens, ferns, lycophytes, and bryophytes, with the last three listed here being the only true members of the plant kingdom. In this Hand Lens collection, we’ve put together some cryptogams that are reminiscent of All Hallows’ Eve. You’ll see collections from ghost towns and cemeteries (lichens love cemeteries!), witch’s hair, and even fungi that take over the minds of insects to turn them into spore-producing zombies.