Posts Tagged ‘Yellow feather Moss’

1. Trail

I agreed, back in February, to help a group of Pathfinders get some merit badges by helping them find mosses, lichens, and liverworts. Pathfinders range in age from 10 to 15 I think, and are kind of like scouts, at least when it comes to earning merit badges. Of course as soon as the plans were finalized it began to snow and it didn’t stop until nearly every living thing was buried under feet of it. We’ve had some warmth since though, so recently I decided to check out the old abandoned road near Beaver Brook in Keene to see if we could get in there without snow shoes.

2. Snow Melt

The snow had melted well on the hillsides along the sunny side of the road but the road itself still has as much as 6 inches of loose granular snow in places. Tough to walk in, but not impossible. Good, waterproof hiking boots will be best for this trip.

3. Snowy Hillside

The hillsides along the shady side of the brook still had quite a bit of snow on them.

4. Ledge

The last time I was here the wind had blown so much snow against the ledge faces, you wouldn’t have known they were there if you weren’t familiar with the place. Many of the mosses, lichens and liverworts that the Pathfinders want to find grow on these ledges so it would have been a waste of time.

5. Dog Lichen

Dog lichen (Peltigera membranacea) is just one of many things that grow here that I rarely see anywhere else. Dog lichens aren’t fussy and will grow on soil, stone or bark but they do seem to like moist, sunny spots. They also always seem to grow near moss, probably because moss soaks up water like a sponge.

6. Stairstep Moss

Chances are the Pathfinders won’t realize how special what they’re seeing actually is, but I plan to tell them that this is the only place that I’ve ever seen this stair step moss (Hylocomium splendens.) It is also called glittering wood moss and grows on the side of a large boulder here. It could be that I rarely see it because it usually grows in the boreal forests of Canada, Europe and Russia. I’m not sure why this particular example is growing so far south. This moss was once used to plug gaps between the logs in log cabins. It has anti-bacterial qualities.

7. Rose Moss

Rose moss (Rhodobryum roseum) is one of the most beautiful mosses in my opinion and like the stair step moss, this is the only place I’ve ever seen it. This moss gets its common name from the way the small rosettes of leaves resembled rose blossoms to the person who named it. The example that grows here is large and I think must be quite old. It grows on the flat top of a boulder. As the photo shows, the rosettes grow so dense that you can’t even see the stone.

8. Yellow Feather Moss

Yellow feather moss (Homalothecium lutescens) is another moss that’s rare in this area, at least in my experience. This small clump is the only one I know of. It’s looking a little bedraggled because of being covered by snow all winter, but at least the Pathfinders will be able to see it.

9. Stone

I don’t know too much about geology but I do know that there are some interesting things to see here among the ledges, including garnets, milky quartz crystals, and veins of feldspar. I also know that I could build a nice looking wall with the stones in this section.

10. Ice Free Brook

In places the ice that covered the brook all winter has completely melted and the silence of winter has been replaced by the chuckles and giggles of spring water moving over and around the stones. Be more like the brook, I remind myself. Laugh your way through life and just flow around any obstacles that might appear.

11. Icicles

Not all of the brook is ice free. There were still some impressive icicles to be seen.

12. Falls

The lower section of Beaver Brook Falls had shaken off its think coating of ice and was announcing spring with a roar. It’s amazing to come here in the dead of winter when even they are silent. Ice makes a very good sound insulation.

13. Greater Whipwort

Greater whipwort (Bazzania trilobata) will fulfil the Pathfinder’s one liverwort requirement. Their need for 5 each of lichens and mosses will easily be met here as well. This liverwort doesn’t grow everywhere but it isn’t really rare either. I always find it growing on stones near a brook or a stream. At a glance it might fool you into thinking it was a moss but a closer look reveals the three tiny lobes at the base of each leaf that give it the trilobata part of its scientific name. This liverwort is the host plant for the larva of a moth known as the gold cap moss eater (Epimartyria auricrinella.)

14. Blue Fibers on Tree Skirt Moss

A while ago I did a post about all of things that I found growing on a single tree, and in it I mentioned how I had been seeing a lot of long white fibers hung up on lichens especially. Well, now they’re getting hung up on moss too, and they’re blue. I found this little bundle on some dry tree skirt moss (Anomodon attenuates.) I wonder if a bird was collecting it for its nest and dropped it. I don’t see many humans where this particular moss grows.

 15. Line on Road

The snow had melted enough in one spot to see a little piece of the yellow line that still runs up the middle of this old road. Since the temperature reached into the 60s F yesterday I’m hoping to see a lot more of it next week when the Pathfinders are here.

If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in. ~Rachel Carson

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1. Road View

I’ve agreed to help a group of youngsters called Pathfinders in their quest to find good examples of mosses, lichens and liverworts. I know of 2 places where they could find all three of them without too much trouble and decided that the old abandoned road along Beaver Brook would probably be the safest. From what I can tell Pathfinders are anywhere from 10-15 years old and get merit badges and other awards each time they meet certain goals, much like the Boy Scouts.

2. Beaver Brook

Anyone who has read this blog for very long knows that if you stand me up in front of a group of people and ask me to speak I immediately forget everything I’ve ever known, but this should be very different. By reading other nature blogs I know that people who lead excursions like these usually go off on the hunt alone before they lead a group, so that’s what I did. Beaver Brook was almost completely iced over with just a narrow ribbon of water glistening in the sunshine. It was sunny but it was cold and the snow where it hadn’t been walked on was quite deep. Since I made this trip we’ve gotten over a foot of new snow, so I hope the Pathfinders have already earned their winter survival badges.

 3. Ledge Ice

I chose this place because of the easily accessible ledges and trees. Since vertical ledges and trees don’t accumulate much snow the lichens, mosses and liverworts that grow on them are easy to find all winter long. We’ll have to pay close attention to ice though; we don’t want anyone standing under that. Since this trip is planned towards the end of the month the ice could be rotten and falling by then.

4. Smoky Eye Boulder Lichen

Beautiful smokey eye boulder lichens(Porpidia albocaerulescens) grow on the stone of the ledges along with many other lichens and mosses. I’m hoping that each Pathfinder has his or her own loupe or magnifying glass so they can see details like the beautiful sky blue fruiting bodies (Apothecia) on this lichen. Part of this lichen in the top center of the photo was under ice, and what a difference it made in its appearance.

5. Quartz Crystal Formations

While I was looking for lichens I found a pocket of milky quartz crystals that I’ve never seen here before. It seems like every time I come here I see something new and on this day, between lichens and quartz crystals, I found three things that I had never seen here. That’s why it pays to follow the same trails over and over; you think you’ve seen all there is to see but you find that you haven’t even come close.

6. Hole in the Snow

There was a quarter sized hole in the snow that must have had warm water vapor rising up through it, because its edges were decorated with delicate, feather like frost crystals.

7. Yellow Feather Moss

Yellow feather moss (Homalothecium lutescens) always looks pale and sickly but it is perfectly healthy, as its spore capsule production shows. This moss is rare here and this small clump is the only example I know of, so maybe it will earn the Pathfinders some extra points.

8. Yellow Feather Moss Spore Capsule

I won’t tell you how many shots of this yellow feather moss spore capsule I had to take before I got a useable one, but it was a lot. This example still has its tiny, pointy, red cap-like lid (operculum), meaning it hasn’t released its spores yet.

9. Stairstep Moss

Stair step moss (Hylocomium splendens) is another beautiful moss that I’ve seen nowhere but here. It’s looking a little dry at the moment but it will snap back as soon as it warms up and we get some rain. This moss gets its common name from the way new leaves “step up” from the backs of older leaves.

10. Possible Fused Rim Lichen aka Lecanora symmicta

I found a crustose lichen that I’ve never seen before. It grew on tree bark and I think that it might be a fused rim lichen (Lecanora symmicta.) Fused rim lichens get their name from the way the tan colored fruiting bodies (Apothecia) sometimes fuse together. I don’t know if this is a rare lichen or if I’ve just never noticed it before because it fruits in winter, but it’s something else that might earn the Pathfinders extra points.

11. Blue Lichen

I’ve known for a long time that lichens change color when they dry out but I didn’t know that cold affected them. Then I started seeing blue lichens in places where I was sure there were none before and I realized that some of the lichens that I saw in the summer were turning blue in winter. That isn’t much help when it comes to identifying them though, so now I have to go back when it’s warmer and see if I can figure out what they are. Once I’ve identified them I can see what the books say about them turning blue.

12. Greater Whipwort Liverwort

The Pathfinders need to find 5 mosses, 5 lichens, and 1 liverwort and the greater whipworts (Bazzania trilobata) that grow on the ledges here will take care of the liverwort requirement. They’ve shriveled a bit because of the cold and dryness but it’s still obvious that they aren’t a moss. I always find these liverworts growing on stones near streams, so they must like high humidity.

13. Script Lichen

Script lichens (Graphis) are another candidate for a hand lens but well worth the effort. There are 39 species of script lichens in North America and many more throughout the world and their most important identification characteristic is their squiggly apothecia, which look like ancient script written on tree bark.  I counted at least five different species on this day in just this small area, but I think you could probably spend a lifetime trying to identify script lichens. If I was still a teenager I might take on such a challenge.

14. Yellow Crust Fungus

I’m sure that the Pathfinders will find all that they’re looking for and plenty more besides. I even found a bright yellow fungus that I think might be a crowded parchment (Stereum complicatum), even though they are usually orange. Color like this is always a welcome sight in winter and I hope I can remember where it was so I can show it to them.

15. Brook View

The only thing I can’t be sure of is how much snow we’ll have by the day of our trip. I’ve already had to start wearing gaiters, but if we keep getting two or three snowstorms each week like we have been lately we might all need snowshoes.

I’m glad that I made this solo journey because now I know that the kids won’t be disappointed. There is plenty here to see and I hope they will come away from this place with an urge to see more and learn more. I also hope the knowledge that they can see beauty virtually anywhere as long as they are willing to look for it will stay with them for a good long time.

Every child is born a naturalist. His eyes are, by nature, open to the glories of the stars, the beauty of the flowers, and the mystery of life.  ~ Ritu Ghatourey

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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

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After over a year of using my moss identification guides to identify various mosses, I think I’m ready to do at least one post on them. I’m fairly confident that the following plants are what I think they are, but I don’t have access to a microscope so none of this information should be taken as absolute gospel. Information about the guides I’ve used can be found under the “Books I Use” tab at the top of the page.

1. Rocky Hillside

My thoughts usually turn to mosses and other forest floor dwellers at this time of year because they’re so easy to see with no leaves in the way. Instead of roots mosses have small, thread like rhizoids. Since they can’t take up water like vascular plants they absorb it like a sponge over their entire surface, and when they’re seen in abundance as in the above photo, it’s a fair bet that the soil is either quite moist or the area is shaded enough to keep  them from drying out between rains. Though some mosses can go for quite a while with no water, most need regular replenishment. Like lichens, mosses can look very different when they are dry, so serious moss hunters like to do their hunting after a rain.

 2. Rose Moss aka Rhodobryum roseum

Since I’ve never paid very close attention to mosses I never realized that some of them, like rose moss, had leaves that are quite big-easily big enough to be seen with the naked eye-and can be quite beautiful. Rose moss (Rhodobryum roseum) gets its common name from the way its rosettes of leaves look like tiny flowers. When rose moss dries out its leaves contort and fold upward like petals of flowers that close at night. I found a large colony of this moss growing on a boulder.

 3. Maidenhair Pocket Moss aka Fissidens adianthoides

Pocket moss gets its common name from the way the lower lobe of its leaf curls around its stem to form a pocket. That feature can’t be seen in the photo and neither can the way the central nerve, or vein of each leaf stops before it reaches the leaf tip, but those two features plus the fact that the example in the photo was constantly dripped on by ground water tell me that this is maidenhair pocket moss (Fissidens adianthoides).

4. Maidenhair Pocket Moss Sporophytes aka Fissidens adianthoides

The capsules where some mosses produce spores are called sporophytes. In the case of maiden hair pocket moss the capsules are like a tiny barrel that is covered on one end by a calyptra, which is a piece of tissue that looks like a stocking cap. When the spores mature the calyptra dries out and falls off, but before it does the fruiting bodies of this moss remind me of cranes. Or herons.  Under the tiny stocking cap is a lid (operculum) that also comes off so the spores can be released. This happens at different times of year for different mosses.

 5. Medusa Moss aka Hedwigia ciliata

The name medusa moss (Hedwigia ciliata) comes from the way this moss looks like a bunch of tangled worms when it dries out. This moss is fairly common but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it grow quite as long as it was here. It was obviously in a good location for optimum growth.

 6. Medusa Moss aka Hedwigia ciliata 2

This is a closer look at the Hedwigia ciliata in the previous photo. It is also called white tipped moss and is almost always found growing on large boulders in the woods.

 7. Membranous Dog Lichen aka Peltigera membranacea 3

The last time I saw a dog lichen it was growing on a rotting stump but this one, Peltigera membranacea, was growing on a mossy boulder. Dog lichens are associated with mossy area because the mosses provide the moisture that they need. This is known as a membranous lichen, which simply means that it is thin and pliable. It is also a foliose lichen, meaning that it is lobed, or leaf like. The upper part of the body (Thallus) is undulating or veined as seen in the photo. This lichen was large and easy to see. It was also probably quite old.

 8. Membranous Dog Lichen aka Peltigera membranacea

The white “roots” on the underside of the lichen body are called rhizines. On some lichens these can be quite bushy but on Peltigera membranacea they are narrow, thin and “fang like”. They are one of the identifying characteristics of this lichen along with its thin, flexible, undulating thallus.

I’ve heard another theory behind the name “dog lichen.”  It says that the name refers to the large, lobed body of the lichen looking like dog ears. It sounds plausible, but so do the other three theories I’ve heard. One says the fang like rhizines look like dog’s teeth, another says the entire lichen body looks like a dog, and yet another says that the apothecia, or fruiting bodies, look like dog ears.

 9. Fan Shaped Club Moss

Fern allies are “seedless vascular plants that are not true ferns, but like ferns, disperse by shedding spores.” Mosses don’t fit this description because, though they produce spores, they are not vascular. Club mosses fit the description perfectly and are called “club” mosses because their fruiting structures (strobili) are club shaped. These club shaped, cone-like structures are where the spores are produced. The club moss in the photo, known as fan shaped club moss (Diphasiastrum digitatum), doesn’t have any strobili showing. In fact, as I was choosing the photos for this post I realized that I have never seen this club moss in its fruiting stage.

 10. Running Club Moss

Another club moss that I have never seen fruiting is running club moss (Lycopodium clavatum). This plant gets its name from the way it sends out long, horizontal stems. All along the horizontal stem erect stems form at intervals and roots form where it touches the ground. I had to brush the leaves away from the horizontal stem so we could see it, because when it’s buried it’s difficult to tell this club moss from others. I can’t say that these plants are rare here, but I don’t see them too often.

 11. Baby Tooth Moss aka Plagiomnium cuspidatum

Baby tooth moss (Plagiomnium cuspidatum) doesn’t look like a moss at all to me, with its long, vining habit and (relatively) large leaves, but it is one. Though far too small to be seen in the photo, this moss gets its common name from the way the upper margins of the leaves are toothed. The cuspidatum part of the scientific name comes from cuspid, which comes from the Latin cuspis and which means a tooth with a single point, like a canine tooth. It is said that this moss is very common in eastern North America, but I can’t remember ever seeing it before I took this photo. It grows in moist hardwood forests on stones, logs, or soil.

12. Brocade Moss aka Hypnum imponens

Brocade is a “heavy fabric interwoven with a rich, raised design” and that description really fits brocade moss (Hypnum imponens), which always looks to me like it was embroidered by elves or some other forest dwellers. This moss, with its orange, yellow, and brown highlights and fern or feather like shape is one of the easiest to identify. It forms dense mats on moist ground. This moss was once used as stuffing for mattresses and pillows and the Hypnum part of the scientific name comes from the word Hypnos, name of the Greek god of sleep.

 13. Plaited Shaggy Moss aka Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus

A good example of why botanists use scientific names instead of common names is this moss, Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus. Its common names are shaggy moss, plaited shaggy moss, big shaggy moss, rough goose neck moss, rough neck moss, and even electrified cat’s tail moss. I kid you not. Apparently someone thought that if you somehow plugged in a cat its tail would look just like this moss.

 14. Yellow Feather Moss aka Homalothecium lutescens

When I saw how pale this yellow feather moss (Homalothecium lutescens) was I thought it was sick, but this is the way it is supposed to look. It has kind of a loose, airy look that I like. It’s also called ragged yellow moss and fossil evidence has been found that dates it as far back as the Pleistocene epoch, from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago.

Our minds, as well as our bodies, have need of the out-of-doors. Our spirits, too, need simple things, elemental things, the sun and the wind and the rain, moonlight and starlight, sunrise and mist and mossy forest trails, the perfumes of dawn and the smell of fresh-turned earth and the ancient music of wind among the trees.~ Edwin Way Teale

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