Friday, March 26, 2010


It’s a little odd writing this now because I awoke this morning to falling snow here in Boston. But I assure you I took this photo just two weeks ago when it was spring. I guess winter is back for one final round.

In any event I’ve been reading and learning a bit more about plants. The one pictured is a moss. I find mosses delightful. They’re also pretty interesting from a natural history standpoint.

Mosses are the most specious (that is their group has the most species) group of bryophytes. Bryophytes are primitive land plants that are made up of the mosses, liverworts and hornworts. They lack roots, leaves, xylem, phloem and nearly every structure we typically associate with plants. They absorb water directly and usually very quickly which is why they will become instantly verdant during rain.

Some mosses are extremely specialized. A few species are found living only on the bones and antlers of dead reindeer. A few tropical species are found living only on the wing coverings of beetles.

Many similar organisms that are not mosses have been historically called mosses. Lichens (reindeer moss), seaweed (Irish moss), flowering plants (Spanish moss) and vascular planets (club moss) have all been mistakenly associated with bryophytes.


  1. First of all, I am glad I have caught up with your blog. It was extremely gratifying to both have support in my silverfish hatred, as well as knowledge, which will hopefully have some effect on my next sighting and reaction. If we all remember our GI Joe PSAs, knowing is half the battle...

    Second, I was delighted to see some of my favorite springtime plantlife featured. Many a New Englander knows the joy of spotting the first crocus of the season; it was always my favorite birthday gift. Moss, however, is often less appreciated. And I had no idea there were so many kinds of specialized moss--I mean, insect wings! One feed-off question, though: I realize lichen is not moss, but what is it? How does it get its appropriate nutrients? How many strange places can it live?

  2. A lichen is a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and an alga. The two different creatures must have just took a likin' to each other. Sorry, there's something in my genes that makes me unable to resist terrible puns. I think I have some decent photos of lichens so I'll try to develop a full post about them.