November 20, 2015

A Walk in the Woods: November's Brilliant Mosses

Today was a beautiful day, and my walk in the woods was a delicious experience: yesterday's rain enhanced the spicy-sweet scent of autumn, and heightened the intensity of  mossy greens.

Nestled amid browns, the bright greens of moss are startling. In spring and summer, when the world is green, the mosses seem more ordinary.

Looking closely, we see varied textures; here, frothy, like an unkempt head of hair.

Along with the greens are the delicate red stalks of fruiting bodies....

....which carry the spores for mossy reproduction.

Here, another kind of moss, a beautiful mound with a different texture, and pointed little green fruiting bodies.

I'm actually not sure what these are, but they're wonderful looking, like Kali, the many-armed goddess, rising a couple of inches above a rock.

Finally, here are two mossy plants that I believe aren't actually mosses, but are clubmosses (I think). They are different from true mosses in that they have a vascular system, meaning stems to carry water and nutrients. They are more "sophisticated" in this than mosses, which lack this system.

But whether mosses or clubmosses, the bright greens amid the browns are heartening. They remind us that life of all kinds continues even though it seems in suspension during late fall and winter.


  1. Hi Altoon, Beautiful! Mosses go to town after the leaves fall -- all that sunlight. These are all mosses. The third from last is a moss that probably looks quite different when it's wet - expanded -- could be Hedwigia ciliata. The next one is one of the Polystichums or Hair-cap Mosses, which get quite big and have something like a primitive vascular system, though the mosses are non-vascular. In England in a bog I saw some that were about four inches tall! Very dense and wet there. The last one is what some moss people call Teddy Bear Moss, Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus. If you feel it, it has a lovely springy-scrunchy texture. I can hardly pass it without squeezing it. I love your forest floor posts!

    1. Ah, thank you so much for all this info. Those last two look so much like stems that I didn't think they could be true mosses. And Teddy Bear Moss....what a great name. There's a bunch of it growing in one spot, just where I come out of the woods. I'll squeeze it next time I go by.

    2. i think, Susan, that you mean Polytrichum and not Polystichum (which i think is a fern name). i see two different dicranums, thuidium and Plagiomnium..and yes, i think that is Hedwigia.
      ha! i hadn't heard the name teddy bear moss...i've also heard that one called pipecleaner moss.
      It is lovely this time of year after a rain, they seem to glow

  2. Full on moss geek thread here. Righteous. I think I need a walk in the woods immediately.

  3. I have dreamed of a moss garden. I don't have the right habitat for them. I so enjoyed your photos.

    1. Thanks, Lisa. Mosses do need specific habitats, but maybe you can make a terrarium with mosses?