Well moss, of course! No, they're not praying to the moss gods, they're using hand lenses to look at a tiny moss growing on the chalk slope. This morning I attended a moss walk on Grangelands that was led by Peter Creed and organised by BBOWT. It's my local nature reserve and I visit regularly, but I still love to find out some of its secrets.
We walked through the woods, then out onto the chalk grassland, looking at different mosses and liverworts as we went. Our most exciting discovery was a rare moss called fir tamarisk-moss that was growing all over the chalk slope. It really did look like a tiny fir tree and is found on unimproved chalk grassland in the South of England.
I must have waked there hundreds of times and I've never noticed it before, so it shows how it really pays to get down on your hands and knees and have a close look. Some of our group were so excited to find it that they fell over!
Mosses come in one of two forms, either tufted cushions (agrocarps) or long, tendril-like shoots(pleurocarps). They don't have flowers, but produce capsules on a stem called a seta. The capsule is covered by a calyptra while it matures, which eventually drops off. The capsule has a lid on it, which reveals tiny teeth called peristomes.
|Creeping feather moss, with bright red seta and capsules that are still|
developing and are covered by the pale green calyptra
|Rough-stalked feather-moss, with deep red seta and capsules. Look closely|
and you can see capsules with a lid on (right) and showing the peristomes (left)
Mosses come in all shapes and sizes and are surprisingly particular about their habitats and what they'll grow on. English rock bristle is tiny (the leaves are about 1mm long) and grows only on chalk fragments. We definitely needed a hand lens to get a good look at this miniature moss.
|English rock bristle|
|English rock bristle growing on a chalk fragment|
|Rambling tail moss|
|Spiral extinguisher moss|
|Yellow meadow ant hill that has been damaged on the left hand side|
|Upright pottia - a tint moss with red spherical capsules|
|Intermediary screw moss - before being sprayed with water|
|Intermediary screw moss - after being sprayed with water|