Lurid Green Moss in Stream

2016 March 26

I photographed this clump of intensely green (almost fluorescent) moss in the stream beside our road on June 15, 2015. It was not immersed in the water, but was growing on a little gravel island in the middle of the stream. The clump was about the size of the palm of my hand.

Looking closer, we can see that the moss consists of simple stalks with tiny, scale-like leaves and no branching.

Mosses are distinct from vasular plants, and are in their own phylum. They don’t have internal vessels for moving around fluids, and so they tend to be very small and live in moist areas where they can exist without drying out. They don’t have flowers or seeds, instead they have a two-stage reproduction cycle starting with spores. The spores are transported by wind or water to a suitable location, where they form the initial sexual stage of the plant. This produces “eggs” and/or “sperm” that combine to produce an embryo that then grows into the spore-producing structure, ultimately generating the spores that start the cycle all over again[1].

There are thousands of kinds of moss, and I know next to nothing about how to identify them. I’ve been looking for good moss identification sites, but noting I’ve found shows a moss with this particular type of stem and leaflet (most of them have branched stems, and leaflets tend to be much more pronounced). Which means that I have not the slightest idea even what family this moss belongs to. Any advice would be much appreciated.

[1] The whole business is fairly confusing, but actually turns out to be mappable onto what the seed-producing plants that we are more familiar with do. It is just that the portions of the cycle that produce full plants in mosses, correspond to things like the flower ovule and pollen grain portions of the cycle in vascular plants. In general, all plants go through an “alternation of generations” cycle that switches between a diploid form that produces spores, and a haploid form that produces ovules and sperm, although a lot of them camouflage the forms to make it look more like the process that animals use. Once I get this all straightened out in my mind, I’ll elaborate on it in a later post.

One Response
  1. April 1, 2016

    Way cool! I did not know that about moss – the lack of a circulation system. As for moss identification, I would bet that there’s plenty of room for research and discovery. In no time at all, I’m sure you could discover one and name it Mossus Timus or something similar with no competition.

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