February 14, 2010

Mosses and Lichens Grow in Brooklyn, and on Fifth Avenue

I decided to slip away from Vermont for a couple of days, and go down to New York City, where there was some real winter; I wanted to visit with family and friends, and see some art, which I'll share in the next few days. The remnants of the big east coast snow storm were mounds of dirty snow at the edges of sidewalks, and icy snow decorating the north side of tree trunks. When I arrived in Brooklyn on Thursday afternoon, it was a lovely sunny day, so I went outdoors with my camera in search of my favorite small growing things: mosses and lichens.

The lichens created soft green surfaces on bark very different from the bark in Vermont woods. The center image above was taken from a flowering tree in my parents front yard, a cherry I think; it looks like an aeriel view of a densely forested landscape, tropical, with hidden ruins of a great civilization. I can't identify the other trees, but their patterns are beautiful.

When I stepped outside, I noticed moss growing on the low bricks lining the front path. I was so happy to see it, because I learned from Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer that many city mosses are sensitive to air pollution. These little plants looked very happy; the moisture from the snow had probably perked them up quite a bit.

These large stones make up part of the massive wall running alongside Central Park, on Fifth Avenue north of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. As I was walking south to the museum, I saw hardy-looking mosses––as they must be to survive the air of busy Fifth Avenue––in the spaces between the stones, and soft green lichens on their surfaces. The greens decorated the solemn gray, a minimal palette on a geometric composition of line and rectangle.


  1. Just goes to show what you see when you look!

  2. These are gorgeous and form an interesting set. Like the first one best because it is closer to classic B & W photography.
    A terrific book is "Native Ferns Moss & Grasses" by William Cullina. He used to be at New England Wild Flower Society outside Boston, but is now director at the newer Maine Coastal Botanical Garden. Book has very useful photos & content.

  3. thanks for the comments, Susan and Julie. I also appreciate the book tip; I have a lichen book, but not one on identifying mosses.