Learning About Mosses

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K river Ont-park 8.16 moss
Moss on Kickapoo River cliff – summer 2017

There are numerous people who have been writing about the world we live in, in a way different than the explorers and scientists of years ago. Of these newer voices (there are some are of an earlier time)  Robin Kimmerer is one writer I feel a particular kinship with, as she writes of mosses. To me, lichen and moss share a similar place in the world even though they have unique qualities and functions. They are of the ‘Tiny Ones’ as I call them; the ones we do not notice while we are watching out for the large, moving, and to us thrilling big animals, or giant trees or rare birds.

Ms. Kimmerer speaks of relationships; she orients us to life from the ground up, from the small lives that weave all the Web of Life together, and then make most of the adjustments to keep the whole Dance alive. If you are interested in the lichens’ intricate world that is almost hidden in the forests you enjoy on hikes and rides and paddling the river, take some time with the mosses too. They might be easier to identify! But don’t think that they are simple or boring because they are small. Gathering Moss  opens another way into the vast and complex world of, truly,  most of the life around us. Check it out from the library this winter. As with finding lichens, winter can be a good time to find beautiful mosses, especially when we have some milder days. The cool temperatures and moisture from melting snow make conditions that lichen and moss love. They are hydrated and show off form and colors very dramatically.

WG6 R mosses 1-18c
Moss garden at the Wintergreen Trail Lichen Site 6

When out walking, observe the base of trees, rocky areas and sometimes soil also. The Kickapoo Valley Reserve and nearby forests have many moss species. As with observing lichens, a small hand lens is invaluable for seeing the tiny features that are hard to notice otherwise.

Below is a painting I just finished, of lichen and moss on a river cliff near Bridge 8. The lichen really are that turquoise color, under certain conditions.

Kickapoo Cathedrals 1
Kickapoo Cathedral I – acrylic on panel

Let’s go out in the woods, and make friends with the mosses as well as the lichens. See you out there!

Susan

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