Sunday, 15 February 2015

Rose moss and other little green treasures

I've always liked moss, especially the intricate shapes and textures that you can see in miniature, but I've never known very much about it. In an attempt to find out more, I went on a Moss walk this morning at Aston Rowant nature reserve. Organised by BBOWT, our walk led us through the woods and out onto the chalk grassland, where Peter Creed, our guide, pointed out all sorts of different mosses. The highlights were a couple of rare mosses, Rose Moss and Crisped Neckera, but more of those later.

Rose moss

Crisped neckera
We headed off down through the woods, stopping every few meters as we came across another type of moss. When you start to look closely, you see there are so many different mosses, some growing on tree branches, others on the ground and some growing only under very specific conditions, such as on chalk.

Common tamarisk-moss - looks like tiny little fern leaves

Dilated scalewort - actually a type of liverwort

English rock-bristle - grows on chalk. Tiny leaves and you can just see
capsules starting to grow

Rambling tail-moss
Wood bristle-moss
Then we came across several clumps of Crisped Neckera, one of the rarest mosses in Oxfordshire.
Crisped neckera
Crisped neckera
Carrying on through the woods, we found even more types of moss growing in the damp shade.

Very aptly named Big shaggy-moss

Capillary thread moss

Common pocket-moss
I couldn't resist keeping an eye out for other things as well..



Snails - hiding away out of the cold
Then we headed out onto the open chalk grassland. Aston Rowant nature reserve is famous for the masses of yellow ant hills that leave the hillside looking bumpy and uneven. Some of them are over 100 years old and they provide another type of habitat that some types of moss grow on.

Yellow ant hills
We were looking for another rare moss called Montagne's cylinder-moss, which is very similar to Neat feather-moss. We found plenty of that, but couldn't find the rare one.

Neat feather-moss
Then we trecked up the hillside to a very specific location, where we found the extremely rare Rose moss. It was growing in a small area on the north side of some of the ant hills.

An ant hill - the rose moss was growing only on the north side of the ant
hills. In this photo it is the dark green rosettes at the bottom of the photo

Rose moss

Rose moss

Rose moss
On the walk back to the car, I spotted this tree that I liked the look of. Out on the exposed hillside, it looks like it has been well and truly windswept!

We also walked past 'the cut'. 50 years ago somebody decided it would be a good idea to build the M40 motorway straight through the Chiltern Hills, gauging a road through the chalk hillside. The motorway cuts the nature reserve in two and provides an ever-present hum from the cars.

What a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning. Moss may be small, green and often overlooked, but it's fascinating and beautiful. I shall never look at it in the same way again! 


  1. wow so many mosses! I don't know a single species myself. Question is will you and Bug Mad Girl be able to remember them all again? Maybe I should test you tomorrow (Tuesday) on my next post and see how many you know? lol

  2. I'd definitely recognize some of them again, but would struggle with the ones that are very similar - you have to crawl around on your hands and knees with a hand lens to tell some of them apart! It was a real eye opener to go on a guided walk with an expert.