Site I: Mosses and Friends

Here is an excellent example of how God’s creation makes the most out of every space. On this one bigleaf maple there are many mosses and lichens which use the light which the maple lets through. They provide food and protection for many small insects and mites that form the base of the food chain. Try to find all the mosses, but please be careful to not disturb or pull off any of the plants. Note that the mosses look best in wet weather; they may be a bit shriveled up if it is too dry.

Growing on the roots and soil, and sometimes on the base of the tree, is the big, showy badge moss. It has larger, translucent-looking leaves, and sometimes has black dots or multiple red-and-green-stemmed sporophytes (the spore-producing structure) on the tips of the plants.

Towards the crotch of the tree you will notice a large bloom of Menzie’s tree moss. It is dark green with tiny sharp-looking leaves and has a distinctive tree-like shape. If you look closely below or beside it you will see a little bit of tree-ruffle liverwort. It has two rows of very flattened scale-like leaves and grows in a branching pattern. Above the Menzie’s tree moss is a black chunk of Umbilicaria deusta lichen. Around here, most noticeably on the branch sticking out above it, is rough moss. You can identify the rough moss by its distinctive light green tips and branching growth.

On the bottom part of the left trunk, facing the trail, is a dry area with very little moss. The stringy moss that lives here is called cat-tail moss, and it can vary a lot in size and shape. The whitish-green powdery substance that grows in this area is actually a type of lichen, known as a dust lichen. Above the dry area is a thick growth of moss that seems to be hanging from the tree. This is a combination of two very similar mosses: Douglas’ neckera and Menzie’s neckera. The stringier plant with strongly pointed leaves is Douglas’ neckera, and the more lush plant with rounded leaves is Menzie’s neckera. They are very difficult to tell apart without a magnifying glass. Also note the licorice fern growing here and on other trees, often high up on the trunk.