In Search of Tinytim

The WGNSS Nature Photography Group headed west early on a lovely day in early April with hopes of finding one of Missouri’s rarest plants – Geocarpon minimum, commonly referred to as tinytim, or earth-fruit. Geocarpon minimum (C=10) is a plant in a monotypic genus known for its diminutive size and rare status. It is listed as federally threatened and as endangered by the state of Missouri. The primary reason for its relative scarcity is its habitat needs; G. minimum requires sandstone glade habitats in Missouri as well as saline “slick spots” where it typically occurs in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. A fine balance must be the goal for managers of these areas. Competition and shading by native or exotic competitors is the primary limiting factor of this species and therefore, continuous disturbance is necessary for its continued success.

Geocarpon minimum “tinytim”

This plant’s life cycle is short, lasting only 3-6 weeks. Our objective was finding these plants in flower, but there were no guarantees we would find them flowering, or find them at all. Our first and primary hope for finding these plants was at Bona (pronounced Bonnie) Glade Natural Area. Here, our botany leaders, Casey Galvin, John Oliver, and Steve Turner showed us the microhabitat in which to find the plants and were able to point at the first few plants we found. With search images in mind, the group spread out and found the plants throughout the area. Better yet, we found the population in the early stages of flowering! As you can see in the accompanying photos, these are perfect subjects for the macro/micro lens.

In case you wondered how this species earned its name

After grabbing a late lunch together, a few of us decided to return to Bona Glade. Ted MacRae and I were unsatisfied with earlier images we had taken with our Laowa 15 mm macro lens and we were eager to improve the photos using this specialty lens that, when used successfully, can showcase the plant within its specific habitat.

Geocarpon minimum growing from rock/sand substrate

We photographed the plant on the couple of substrates that we found it on and in the various stages of its development.

Geocarpon minimum growing from moss substrate
Ozark Bill getting low to meet Geocarpon at “eye level”. Photo by Ted MacRae

Finding and photographing this plant was a long-held goal of mine. It was a very special day spent with friends and newfound acquaintances. I am thankful for those who helped us find this plant and spent time with us. Hopefully future WGNSS members will continue to find tinytim in its Missouri homes for decades to come.

Tinytim hunters. From back row starting on left: John Oliver, David Seidensticker, Deb Tyler, Adam Rembert, James Faupel, Steve Turner, Front row starting on left: Bill Duncan, Evelyn Luecke, Casey Galvin, Anh do Galvin, Ted MacRae.


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