Monday, January 2, 2012

The Love of Moss - Part 1

I took a stroll in the woods last week on a rainy day in December. I didn't expect to see many birds or bees. I certainly wasn't expecting any flowers, and it was midday, so I expected the beavers would all be sleeping. I'm happy to report that my expectations were met - I saw nothing. At least that's what I fear many people would say had they taken the same walk. I'm a bit atypical, so I ended up staying out far longer than I expected. I was moss-watching.

Moss is some of the easiest wildlife to observe. This patch didn't even try to get away from me.

I've always loved moss. Perhaps it's because its physiology is so primitive, being based on a design about half a billion years old. Maybe it's because its texture and colors are a study in greens beyond the works of any human artist. Or, most likely, it's because you can find a hundred dramatic examples of moss in a few acres of woods on a rainy December day in northern Michigan when not much else is going on.

This stump appears to be being consumed by moss.

A fallen log enshrouded with moss, as is its stump. How many times was this scene repeated  in just a few acres?


This moss (Hypnum sp. ?) is exploding out of a hole in the log.

Here's some lichens joining the moss. Probably Cladonia sp.

Cladonia macilenta. A lichen called "Lipstick Powderhorn" by some.

Cladonia macilenta again.

You'll notice I don't even attempt to identify the moss and lichens in many of these pictures, while in others I make only a guess. Does this mean I don't know what I'm talking about? Yes. Yes, it does. I'll talk a little about moss identification in the next installment. It's a horror story.

All photos here were taken by me near Big Bear Lake in Otsego County, Michigan.

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