Posts Tagged ‘Delicate Fern Moss’

1. Rose Moss

I haven’t said much about mosses lately but since now is the time they are most easily seen I thought I’d get out there and see what I could find. Rose moss (Rhodobryum roseum) is one of the most beautiful mosses in my opinion, and gets its common name from the way that each plant looks like a tiny rose blossom. Rose moss is also a good indicator of your surroundings because it prefers growing in lime rich soil or on limestone boulders.

2. Rocky Hillside

Can you tell which of these boulders have limestone in them? I can’t either but rose moss can, and it grows on just two of them.

3. Stairstep Moss

Stair-step moss (Hylocomium splendens) is another very pretty moss that looks quite fragile, but I’ve seen it with icicles hanging from it and I can say with certainty that it’s a lot tougher than it looks. That is most likely why it grows as far north as the arctic tundra. When dry this moss has a slight satiny sheen to it, and that’s probably how it came by its other common name of glittering wood-moss.

4. Stairstep Moss

Stair step moss gets its name from the way the new growth “steps up” off the midrib of the previous year’s branch.  Each year a new branch grows from the old and this growth habit allows stair step moss to grow up and over other mosses. You can tell the age of the moss by counting these steps.

 5. Yellow Feather Moss aka Homalothecium lutescens

What I think is yellow feather moss (Homalothecium lutescens) always looks pale and kind of sickly, but if you look closely at its growing tips and new spore capsules you’ll find that it quite healthy. If you see it at all, that is; I know of only one small colony that grows on the very end of a log with a diameter of an average doughnut, and I’ve never found it anywhere else.

6. White Tipped Moss aka Hedwigia ciliata

It’s easy to see how white tipped moss (Hedwigia ciliata) got its common name. This is a fairly common moss that seems to like to hang from the sides of boulders and ledges. Another name for it is Medusa moss, because when dry its leaves press close to the stem and it takes on a very wiry, string like appearance. Its ball shaped orange spore capsules (sporophytes) are hidden among the leaves on very short stalks, so they’re hard to see. This moss will even grow on asphalt roofs, so it is a perfect choice for green roof projects.

7. Delicate Fern Moss aka Thuidium delicatulum

Delicate fern moss (Thuidium delicatulum) is another pretty moss but I’m not sure how it comes by its common name because it is far from delicate. I have a few patches of it growing in my back lawn that get mowed and walked on regularly and they thrive in spite of the abuse. The leaves of this moss grow more horizontally than vertically and it often forms very low, dense mats on logs or the forest floor in damp, shaded places.

8. Greater Whipwort

Some “mosses” might have to be looked at a little closer.The growth on this stone isn’t a moss at all, though from a distance it looks just like one. It’s actually a liverwort called greater whipwort (Bazzania trilobata) and it grows right alongside mosses.

9. Greater Whipwort

Up close greater whipwort looks as almost if it has been braided. Each leaf on this leafy liverwort is only about an eighth of an inch wide and has three triangular notches at its base. This is where the trilobata part of the scientific name comes from. It means “having three lobes.”

10. Rock Foam Lichen

Something else often found growing on boulders right beside mosses is rockfoam lichen (Stereocaulon saxatile.) Mosses soak up moisture like a sponge when it rains and then release it slowly and lichens often take advantage of this. The best time to search for both lichens and mosses is after a rain because both are at their best when wet.

11. Haircap Moss aka Polytrichum commune

Haircap moss (Polytrichum commune) gets its name from the hairy covering (calyptra) on its spore capsules (sporophytes). It is a very common moss that grows in dense colonies of 2-4 inches tall, often mounded in the center. The sheaths on its leaves can be golden yellow and shiny and give this moss another common name of goldilocks. I see it almost everywhere I go.

12. Haircap Moss Capsule

Haircap moss spore capsules start life round bat as they age become almost square and winged. The example in this photo still has its end cap or lid, called an Operculum, in place. This means that it hasn’t released its spores yet. I’m not sure what caused the blue color but this is the only blue spore capsule that I’ve seen.

13. Possible Narrow Leaved Beard Moss aka Helodium paludosum

One reason I don’t do more posts on mosses even though they fascinate me is because they can be difficult to identify without a microscope and many of them look very similar. A good example of that is what I think is this narrow leaved beard moss (Helodium paludosum.) It looks a lot like the Hedwigia ciliata we looked at earlier, but without the white tips.

The reason I wanted to show this moss is because of the immature spore capsules (sporophytes). When young the sporophyte is completely surrounded by a tough protective covering called the calyptra. The calyptra is what gives the spore capsules in the above photo their whitish color. As the sporophytes grow their skin-like calyptras will be shed, revealing their reddish brown color. So, if you find a moss with white spore capsules you know that you are actually seeing its immature capsules.

14. Brocade Moss aka Hypnum imponens

Brocade Moss (Hypnum imponens) is very shiny and sometimes has an orange brown color. Its common name comes from the way it looks as if it has been embroidered on whatever it happens to be growing on.  It is easily confused with knight’s plume moss (Ptilium crista-castrensis,) but the spore capsules on knights plume moss are elbow macaroni shaped and horizontal, while those of brocade moss are cylindrical and stand vertically, as seen in the above photo.

15. Lime Green Moss

Mosses often change color when it gets colder and this delicate fern moss surprised me with what I thought was its bright orange color. My color finding software told me it was just my color blindness again, because it is really lime green. It is a very bright lime green though, and was shining like a beacon.

I hope I didn’t bore all of you to tears talking about mosses. Soon there will be very little besides moss that is still green, and for me there are few things more pleasurable than walking through the snowy winter woods with a bright blue sky overhead and the sunshine falling on some of the only green things to be seen. Mosses, lichens, liverworts, and a few evergreen ferns are part of what make nature study fun even in winter.

Nature conceals her secrets because she is sublime, not because she is a trickster. ~Albert Einstein

Thanks for stopping in.



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Long time readers will recognize this place but for you newer readers who are interested, last summer I did what turned out to be a popular two part post on an old abandoned road that we have here in Keene. Since people seemed to enjoy it I thought they might be interested in seeing what the area looks like in winter. If you missed the original posts or if you’d like to see what the area looks like in summer just click here.

1. Old Road Start

This is the starting point. Rather than break a trail through fresh snow I let the cross country skiers and snowshoers get here first. I was able to walk on nice, packed snow with just hiking boots on.

2. Frozen Brook

The road follows Beaver Brook, named for all of the beavers that once lived here. In places the ice had completely covered the brook and in others it was close to doing so.

3. Frost Covered Shrub

Down near the water every twig was covered in hoar frost.

 4. Hoar Frost

Hoar frost grows just about anywhere when there is enough moisture and it is cold enough. Here the delicate, feathery crystals grew at the edge of a puddle. Just a single warm breath is enough to destroy their beauty, so I wrapped all but my eyes up in a scarf before kneeling in the snow to take this photo.

 5. Moss and Snow

The feathery patterns in the hoar frost were repeated in this delicate fern moss (Thuidium delicatulum.) Though this moss has the word delicate in its name in my experience it is quite tough. Snow and ice don’t seem to bother it at all.  It is also one of the prettier mosses, in my opinion.

6. Frozen Waves

In places the brook looked like it had flash frozen, with even its small waves captured in the ice. Once again I saw the feather pattern that I had seen in the hoar frost and delicate fern moss. It’s interesting how nature re uses some of the same patterns again and again.

7. Icicles

There were plenty of groundwater icicles on the ledges, but there was also still enough rock exposed to allow some lichen hunting.

8. Smokey Eye Boulder Lichen

Smokey eye boulder lichens (Porpidia albocaeralescens) are crustose lichens that grow well here. The gray fruiting pruinose discs surrounded by black borders are very striking. A pruinose surface is one that is covered by white powdery granules and looks as if it has been frosted or dusted with powdered sugar. In this instance the surface reflects light, so these apothecial bodies often appear to be blue instead of gray.

9. Mountain Haircap Moss Capsules

Mosses also grow on these ledges. This example of mountain haircap moss (Polystrichastrum pallidisetum) had open spore capsules (sporophytes). When immature these capsules are covered by a hairy hood that resembles a stocking cap, and that’s how the name haircap moss came about. This moss is very similar to common haircap moss (Polytrichum commune). The chief difference between the two is a disk at the base of the spore capsules. Common haircap moss has this disk and mountain haircap moss does not.

10. Old Road

I took this photo to show how close the brook is to the road. I’ve met people up here who have told me that they remembered seeing the water up over the road in spring. Evidence that the brook is slowly eating away at the road can be seen all along it.

 11. Brook Ice

Ice dams had blocked the brook and created large pools behind them. This one had the flow down to little more than a trickle.

12. Beaver Brook Falls

I’ve spoken with a few people that I’ve met here and I think a lot of them come simply to get a taste of nature. Others though, come to see Beaver Brook Falls, which usually splashes into the pool below with a roar. On this day it was partially frozen and the water was falling behind a curtain of ice, so the roar had been reduced to little more than a splash. This isn’t a great shot of the falls but the steep path down to the brook looked treacherous, so I snapped what photos I could from the road. Even though this area isn’t that far from downtown Keene a twisted ankle out here alone could quickly turn serious, so I decided to play it safe. If you’d like to see and hear the falls in summer, just click the link at the start of this post.

The sole criterion is to walk with the senses, with hands that feel, ears that hear, and eyes that see. ~ Robert Browne

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I’d heard about a very special place in Antrim, New Hampshire, a town that lies about 20 miles northwest of Keene. The place is called Loveren’s Mill, named after Josiah Loveren, who in 1864 became the third owner of a combined saw and grist mill originally built in 1798. The mill changed hands several times until it finally closed in 1920. It isn’t the mill site that I went to see however-there is an Atlantic cedar swamp on the property that pollen tests have shown is at least 4000 years old, and most likely much older.

1.Trail Sign

The Atlantic white cedars (Chamaecyparis thyoides) here aren’t cedars at all-they are white cypress-but they are also very rare and appear in just a few pockets along the Atlantic coast. One reason they are so rare is because they grow so slowly, in some cases taking hundreds of years to reach a foot in height.

 2. Stone Foundation

I don’t know if this old stone foundation was for a mill, house, or barn but it sits close to the north branch of the Contoocook River.

 3. Contoocook

The Contoocook river is notable as the only river in New Hampshire to run north instead of south. This photo was taken near the site of the mill, which stood a little way upriver on its far side.

 4. Plant Covered Boulder

 As you move away from the river deeper into the woods you can feel that this is an ancient place. Every stump, boulder and log is a garden, covered with mosses, liverworts, ferns, lichens and fungi.

5. Boardwalk

 Before too long, off the main trial to the right, a 200 foot long boardwalk leads through the spongy peat mosses into a grove of cedars.  Atlantic white cedar swamps are rare in New Hampshire and are considered globally rare as well. This swamp is unusual because of its 1,083 foot elevation and by the way the surrounding hills funnel cold air down into it. Because it stays so cool it supports plant life that is usually found only in boreal forests much farther north. I’ve heard that in spring the trails are lined with pink ladies slippers and native pink azaleas. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a great variety of orchids here, along with sundews, pitcher, and other plants that like cool, acidic water.

 6. Cedar Swamp

You don’t want to step off the boardwalk because you would probably sink into the floating mat of mosses up to your knees if you did-the trees in this photo are growing in standing water. They can’t stand much fluctuation in the water level, and their survival here shows that things haven’t changed much over the millennia. Still, I have heard that the boardwalks are sometimes under water in spring from snow melt, so it must fluctuate some.

 7. Cedar Fruiting

Fruiting cones show that the cedars which are actually cypress must be happy. The flat, scaly leaves and grayish, peeling bark are common to both cedar and cypress, so it is easy to confuse the two. Though many cypress are deciduous, these Chamaecyparis thyoides are evergreen, which makes identification even more difficult.

 8. Larch Branch

Eastern larch (Larix laricina) is another tree that prefers wet, swampy ground and they do quite well here in the swamp. They like to be cool and can stand temperatures down to -85 degrees F. Other trees found here include balsam fir (Abies balsamea) and red spruce (Picea rubens) and like the cypress, these trees are usually found much farther north in boreal forests.

 9. Fern Moss aka Thuidium delicatulum

There were so many different mosses growing here that I might have to do a post on just mosses. This beautiful thing is one of the fern mosses called delicate fern moss (Thuidium delicatulum). It is very lacy and fragile looking and I don’t see it too often. This moss forms large mats and will grow in sun or shade as long as the soil is moist. It is available commercially for moss gardens.

 10. Dog Lichen (Peltigera polydactyla)

I saw many lichens in the area, but I didn’t expect to see this dog lichen (Peltigera) growing on a moss covered stump. I should have gotten a few photos of its underside-that would have made species identification easier. I’ve never seen it before so I’ll have to re-visit it to be sure about its identity. It grows right beside the trail so it shouldn’t be too hard to find again.

 11. Dog Lichen Apothecia

This is one of the fruiting bodies (apothecia) of the dog lichen in the previous photo. I’ve heard three different stories of why this is called “dog” lichen. One says that the lichen itself is shaped like a dog. Another says spiky projections on the lichens look like dog teeth, and the third says that the apothecia curl into a shape that resembles a dog’s ear, which you can see happening in this photo.

 12. Worm Like Lichenized Fungi (Multiclavula mucida)

These greenish white growths were the size of toothpicks. I found them growing on a debarked log and as it turned out that is an important identifying characteristic. At least, I’ve identified them as much as I’m able to. Depending on whom you ask these growths are either fungi or lichens.  One web site says they are lichenized fungi, so I’ve decide to go with that. Their name is Multiclavula mucida, and the mucid part of the scientific name means slimy. That’s also important, because these lichenized fungi always grow in association with green algae and the algae is what makes the log in the photo look so slimy. I’ve never seen these before.

 13. Creeping Snowberry 2

Something else I’ve never seen is the evergreen creeping snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula). With no flowers it was hard to identify, but I’m fairly certain that the small trailing plant with alternate leaves in the above photo is it. This plant is classified as a prostrate shrub in the same family as American wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), which is commonly called teaberry or checkerberry. It has greenish white flowers in spring which are followed by round white berries that are twice the size of the leaves. The berries are said to taste like wintergreen and the crushed leaves smell like wintergreen. This plant is also called Moxie Plum because it is thought to have been an ingredient in the original Moxie soft drink, along with gentian root. Native Americans had many uses for this plant.

 14. Alboleptonia sericella Mushrooms

These small white leptonia  (Alboleptonia sericella) mushrooms were very small and hard to photograph. The largest one is about the same diameter as a pea. I can’t think of anything to compare the smallest one to, but it was tiny. These mushrooms have pink spores and some mushrooms in this family are a beautiful midnight blue.

 15. Contoocook Pool

There were many places where the river widened into pools that would be nice to sit beside for a while, but I didn’t have the time this day. That doesn’t bother me because I know I’ll be coming back in the spring. On just a short 3 mile hike I saw 6 or 7 plants that I’ve never seen before, and that amazes me enough to make re-visiting this place a top priority for next season. I get excited just thinking about what plants I might see from spring through summer in this fascinating place.

As you sit on the hillside, or lie prone under the trees of the forest, or sprawl wet-legged on the shingly beach of a mountain stream, the great door that does not look like a door opens. ~ Stephen Graham

Thanks for coming by.

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