Secret Santa knows how much I like looking up close at the details and kindly gifted me a copy of Robin Wall Kimmerer's book, Gathering Moss. I read it in those cosy days between Christmas and New Year and was transported into a fascinating miniature world. Her writing is so stunning and she manages to weave stories of moss with stories of everyday and inspire a new reverence for this often overlooked plant. It's been around millions of years, it's lived through ice ages. It knows a thing or two!
I'd also happened to give Dean a book about moss gardening for Christmas and so we've been talking and reading about it a lot. One of our chapters would bring new knowledge, which then gave rise to new questions, which we would ponder for a bit, before finding the answer in the next. One such question was what do liverworts look like? Mosses and liverworts often get talked about together - but we wondered why we were just not familiar with them.
Why? Because we hadn't been looking up closely enough! On Sunday we went out for a moss walk with our magnifying lenses. It took us a long time to get up the track because there was a new level of fascination. And guess what? We found a liverwort. It's in the picture above on the left. We were using the Inaturalist app to identify things as we went along and it was identified as Forked Veilwort. Our first high five of the day!
Our favourite new word is sporophyte! You know the little moss 'antennae', which sometimes look like periscopes reaching up above the moss canopy. That's where the spores live. The picture taken through the lens shows three, the two on the right still have their lids on but the lid on the left has popped off allowing the spores to take off on the breeze.
Up close you can see just how much water moss is holding but I found it fascinating to learn about desiccation. If moss dries out it can look like it's dead but give it water and within as little as twenty minutes it starts to photosynthesize again and will regenerate itself. The same goes for some of the microscopic creatures that live within it. Have you ever seen a moss piglet? Oh my goodness, they are real things!
In the winter it is moss that is providing the colour. It's so green and lush. When you look up close there are so many different kinds and within each one a different world. There can never be a dull moment in nature, not even on a grey January day.
There's a party going on in that photo isn't there! Trumpets a plenty!
I highly recommend Gathering Moss and I found a most inspiring conversation on youtube where Lucy Jones, author of the fantastic book Losing Eden, why our minds need the wild is chatting to Robin Wall Kimmerer about her book. You can watch it here.
Ffion watched it on Saturday and was independently inspired to go looking at mosses on Sunday afternoon too, so when she came for tea we had lots of notes to compare.
She said 'it's good having moss goggles on isn't it'? I have to agree.