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An Ode to Moss

07.16.13

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An Ode to Moss

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  • Moss adorned tree along the Latourell Falls Trail.- An Ode to Moss
  • Coastal leafy moss (Plagiomnium insigne).- An Ode to Moss
  • Douglas' nechera (Nechera douglasii).- An Ode to Moss
  • Green spleenwort (Asplenium viride).- An Ode to Moss
  • Unidentified species (help us identify it by providing feedback).- An Ode to Moss
  • Host of mosses along the Bluff Trail at Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge.- An Ode to Moss
  • Awned haircap moss (Polytrichum piliferum).- An Ode to Moss
  • Broom moss (Dicranum scoparium) along Hunchback Mountain Trail.- An Ode to Moss
  • Broom moss (Dicranum scoparium) and lipstick cladonia, a type of lichen.- An Ode to Moss
  • Cat tail moss (Isothecium myosuroides).- An Ode to Moss
  • Common haircap moss (Plytrichum commune).- An Ode to Moss
  • Moss adorned tree along the Eagle Creek Trail.- An Ode to Moss
  • Step moss (Hylocomium splendens) in the Olympics.- An Ode to Moss
  • Water drenched moss wall along Eagle Creek off of the Clackams River.- An Ode to Moss
  • Moss adorned trees along Eagle Creek, a tributary of the Clackamas River.- An Ode to Moss
  • Broom moss (Dicranum scoparium).- An Ode to Moss
  • Unidentified species (help us identify it by providing feedback).- An Ode to Moss
  • Old-growth forest ground cover.- An Ode to Moss
  • Moss covered tree in the Indian Heaven Wilderness.- An Ode to Moss
  • Reef-like moss diversity on the rocky slopes of Saddle Mountain.- An Ode to Moss
  • Unidentified species (help us identify it by providing feedback).- An Ode to Moss
  • Moss laden rocks and forest along the Salmon River near Mount Hood.- An Ode to Moss
  • Moss adorned trees along Eagle Creek, a tributary of the Clackamas River.- An Ode to Moss
  • A variety of moss species.- An Ode to Moss
  • Juniper haircap moss (Polytrichum juniperinum).- An Ode to Moss
  • Large leafy moss (rhizomnium glabrescens) left of the white coastal reindeer, a type of lichen.- An Ode to Moss
  • Moss adorned tree along the Latourell Falls Trail.- An Ode to Moss
  • Menzies red-mouthed mnium (Mnium spinulosum) with capsules elevated on tall stalks.- An Ode to Moss
  • Oregon beaked moss (Kindbergia oregana).- An Ode to Moss
  • Red bryum (Bryum miniatum).- An Ode to Moss
  • Step moss (Hylocomium splendens).- An Ode to Moss
  • Yellow moss (Homalothecium fulgescens) and magnificent moss (Plagiomnium venustum).- An Ode to Moss
Article
Team

From the beaches of the Pacific Ocean to the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains, from the redwoods of Northern California to lower British Columbia, the low-elevation bioregion known as Cascadia is host to the world’s most massive forests in terms of standing biomass.  Thanks to the bioregion’s temperate climate and annual precipitation that approaches 200 inches per year, old-growth redwoods and Douglas firs grow over 300 feet tall, and western cedars grow stout trunks over 10 feet thick.  Below the canopies of these massive conifers, however, is the often overlooked ground cover that we’d like to recognize and appreciate: bryophytes, also known as moss and liverworts.  Cascadia is home to the most diverse collection of moss flora anywhere in the world!

Bryophytes are unique in that they are non-vascular plants.  Flowering plants, conifers, and ferns all have well-developed systems to conduct water and food and enable growth; in contrast, the conducting tubes bryophytes use are poorly developed.  For the most part, being non-vascular means that bryophytes must grow in wet places that are close to the ground or on other wet hosts such as trees.

The leaves of both mosses and liverworts are typically only as thick as a single cell, and thus have a semi-transparent appearance.  With some 9,000 species of moss and 6,000 species of liverworts, both types of the species are globally common.  Liverworts are somewhat common in Cascadia, however the species is more commonly found in the Southern Hemisphere.  Liverworts also tend to have leaves that are pressed flat against their stem, and their capsules (reproductive organs) have less overt, truncated stalks.  In comparison, mosses grow relatively tall stalks with prominent capsules.

How important are bryophytes? Very.  Among other miscellaneous domestic uses (think peat moss), mosses are critical in replenishing an ecosystem’s acid and nitrogen levels.  So the next time you are out on the trail, look down and examine where you are standing; you might be surprised at the species variety you will find.

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