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A Walk In The Forest Primeval.

March 27, 2008

A beckoning path, one of the many, that welcomes visitors to this grand forest. The rich smell of humus (some of which I brought home on my shoes) greeted us as we sauntered down the muddy path imprinted with horse hooves. We were alone in the woods; not a single soul did we encounter; neither any creatures, except for their “marks” along the pathway.

Because the pathways are compacted earth devoid of fallen leaves or needles, the “sound” from our footsteps was non-existent. I realized too while walking that unless we were talking to each other, the whole forest was virtually silent: no bird song or twitter. “The woods are lovely, dark and deep,” decidedly damp with occasional patches of sunlight squeezing through; a perfect environment for moss which will attach itself to anything that stays still long enough (and probably helps muffle sound).

Hanging or compact, mosses are usually small (0.4-4″ tall) and soft to the touch. I love to run my hand over them and feel their plump “succulence.” They mostly grow close together in clumps or mats in damp or shady locations. They do not have flowers or seeds, and their simple leaves cover the thin wiry stems. At certain times mosses produce spore capsules which may appear as beak-like capsules borne aloft on thin stalks.

Around every corner there was no place where mosses weren’t. Every branch, tree trunk and fallen log contained a “version” of this little plant, as the dampness and low light of the forest (as already mentioned) is the perfect breeding ground for them. In cities the cracks between paving stones can harbor these tenacious plants. Some types have adapted to urban conditions and are found only in cities. And there are some that are aquatic.

Wherever they occur, mosses require moisture to survive because of the small size and thinness of tissues, lack of cuticle (waxy covering to prevent water loss), and the need for liquid water to complete fertilization. Some mosses can survive desiccation, returning to life within a few hours of rehydration.

The above photo looks like something out of the forest prime “evil.”

In these northern latitudes, the north side of trees and rocks will usually have more moss on average than other sides (though south-side outcroppings are not unknown). This is assumed to be because of the lack of sufficient water for reproduction on the sun-facing side of trees. South of the equator the reverse is true. In deep forests where sunlight does not penetrate, mosses grow equally well on all sides of the tree trunk.

As we meandered deeper into the forest, both N and I felt a little like Hansel and Gretel and wished we brought along a bag of breadcrumbs. Despite that disadvantage, we somehow managed to find our way back to “civilization.”

Copyright © 2008

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