Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Enduring species

Walking in the wood lot with the dogs always gives me the opportunity to see many things that I might otherwise overlook, or not pay any attention to.

The other day, in between snow storms, I came across the base of this tree, its roots plunging into the ground from a mound around its base. The base, the ground and the old roots were all covered with moss.

The moss was blooming, or at least appeared to be growing! In December!

It sent me to Wikipedia where there is tons more information than I wanted. Basically mosses (of which there are more than 1200 varieties,) are different from "higher plants by not having internal water-bearing vessels or veins, and no flowers and therefore no fruits, cones or seeds. They are small (a few centimeters tall) and herbaceous (nonwoody) and absorb water and nutrients through their leaves. Mosses have stems which may be simple or branched and upright or lax, simple leaves that often have midribs, roots (rhizoids) that anchor them to their substrate, and spore-bearing capsules on long stems. They harvest sunlight to create food through photosynthesis but do not absorb water or nutrients from their substrate through their roots, so while mosses often grow on trees, they are never parasitic on the tree... They can dry out and be rehydrated... come back to life. They reproduce through their spores, relying on the wind to distribute them.

"It is generally believed that in northern latitudes, the north side of trees and rocks will generally have more luxuriant moss growth on average than other sides. This is assumed because the sun on the south side creates a dry environment. South of the equator the reverse would be true. However, naturalists feel that mosses grow on the damper side of trees and rocks. In cool damp cloudy climates, all sides of tree trunks and rocks may be equally damp enough for mosses. And different species of mosses have different moisture and sun requirements so will grow on different sections of the same tree or rock." And on it goes - there is a whole lot of information, but a lot of it is technical, and I'm not in the mood to translate it to plain English.
All of this contributed to my continuing wonder about all life and how even the tiniest little plant grows. So much of what we see is large, right in our face and easily explained. How wonderful that there are many tiny, hidden worlds that continue despite humankind's considerable effort to control, manage, even exterminate them, knowingly or unknowingly.
I often wondered how Santa's reindeer survived the cold snowy winters of the north pole - and since I know they most often live on mosses, I know now how! Amazing what information we have at our fingertips with technology. So while there are times that technology and I are not on the same page at all - there are many more that I greatly appreciate: the inventors, the outside-the-box thinkers, the geniuses and the entrepreneurs who support the incredible ideas that they dream up.
So here's to the tiny worlds and ecosystems within our wonderful planet and here's to the people who help us learn about them and help us preserve them.
Maybe today you'll discover a tiny ecosystem that will make you wonder? (not in your fridge though!) Have a wonder-filled day.


  1. I love exposed roots. They tell me so much. And yes, moss communities are luscious. Like a carpet in the forest they provide wonderful habitat, comfort, and bliss. Thanks for this very nice piece!

  2. Thanks Bill for stopping by and for your kind words... sorry I haven't been able to access the internet because of the poor weather... lots of snow and gray skies - but that's the winter these days... be well.

  3. I have been obsessed with moss lately, and love watching it change and even flourish in the cold weather. It is something most people don't even notice, and it is gorgeous! I have two Labs and am walking in the woods everyday and enjoying such little things.
    Just found your blog and like it very much.