Tag Archives: Pleurocarpous

High Hopes

 

I spend a fair amount of time observing the small and tiny features in the landscape. I suppose that comes with the territory of being a moss gardener. To fully study mosses it is necessary to see them up close, to think in micro terms and to alter your perspective in general. Sometimes this micro-focus becomes so engrained that larger occurrences are missed. The other day I noticed a 30 foot line in the moss, it appeared as though a garden hose had been left on top of the moss for a week or two and had left a very noticeable impression. Knowing this was likely, I didn’t give it a second thought. A few weeks later I thought again about the still evident impression and why it looked the same, with no signs of the moss regenerating. I chalked it up to a normal slow down in moss growth during the summer season. Then, last week it struck me again that the line was not changing at all and the period of time was too great to not have seen repairs by now.

I decided it was something else happening and my mind opened up to consider other possibilities besides a water hose. The first thing that didn’t correlate with the water hose theory was that one end of the line was directly in line with the root flair of a giant White Oak. A water hose would not be easily laid to rest on this quickly vertical part of the tree trunk.  It would surely have been to either side of the flair and not perfectly aligned. I began to think about the giant Oak and the many squirrels that climb it and all the trees in the garden but knew it was impossible for the erratic squirrels to have made a consistent path to the tree. As I went through all the known creatures great and small that could have made this line in the moss nothing seemed to make any sense.

I sat down to ponder this phenomenon and stared blankly at the little trail through the miniature jungle. Then I noticed a carpenter ant.  You know, the large black ants that are often seen in trees. It was headed towards me and in the direction of the old Oak and I thought that was interesting but impossible as the answer to my query. I followed the ant along the miniature trail which it never deviated from and right up the root flair and into the tree. Still in disbelief that this could be the correlation, I watched longer.

One after another, the carpenter ants followed the trail in both directions and soon I was convinced. It may be that the ant can’t move a rubber tree plant but apparently it can move thousands of moss plants in order to make its’ daily travels easier. I looked closely and realized that by removing the moss in their path it saved the ants immeasurable distance of travel up and over all the irregular stems of the mosses. Moss looks to us almost smooth and velvety, but if you’re the size of an ant it is more like forging a trail through an understory thicket – think Amazon jungle!

By my calculations, this 30 foot trail for the ants was equivalent to a human size trail over seven football fields long! Even more impressive was the fact that the trail wasn’t just worn down over time but actually cut through. The stems of the moss were noticeably trimmed back and the leafy growth removed.

This is another example of the rich biodiversity waiting to be discovered  in the world of  moss gardens.  We’re not the only ones working hard out there!  While we are working to create our gardens other creatures are teaching us how to coexist with it.

David Spain a.k.a. Moss Rock

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Follow Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks! on Twitter @Moss_Rocks and our Facebook page Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!

To learn more about Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!, please visit our website.  Or email David Spain at info@mossandstonegardens.com.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos are credited to Ken Gergle.

 

A day at the Beach

This past week I took a few days from my normal shady seclusion and spent some time in the sun at Holden beach. Located on the southeastern shoreline of North Carolina, Holden is a small island of about 3.4 square miles and also a turtle breeding sanctuary. A wonderful resort town for lazy vacations and strolling down the beach, it is known as “The Family Beach”. Aside from its family friendly shoreline, Holden is also dune friendly. Protecting the shoreline from erosion, the dunes are anchored by several species of plants adapted to this harsh environment.

Many of these plants are native to the barrier islands of North Carolina and some are introduced. It isn’t a surprise to know that Sea Oates (Uniola paniculata) are routinely planted and protected as a line of defense on the primary dunes that run parallel to the shoreline. Several other species however constitute the secondary dunes and create the unique and fragile eco systems.

Spanish Daggers (Yucca gloriosa), Saltmeadow Cordgrass (Spartina patens), Dune Marsh-elder (Iva imbricata), Largeleaf Pennyworth (Hydrocotyle bonariensis), American Beachgrass (Ammophila breviligulata) and the charming Fire wheel (Gaillardia aristata) all look the part of this desert-like scape. None of these species seem out of place or unexpected to the vacationing families, but a closer look might show a surprising pioneer plant that few would guess belonged. Yep, moss.

If you follow this blog you probably know that mosses inhabit all seven continents and that they grow in extreme environments from the Sahara desert to the Antarctic. Their ability to inhabit the widest variety of conditions on earth, more than any other plant species, is unimaginable. But they aren’t supposed to be at the beach are they? Just as certain species have evolved to tolerate long periods of drought and scorching sun or the deep constant shade of the rain forest, some have adaptive talents for the shifting sands and salt spray of the shoreline.

Aloina aloides, sometimes called Aloe-moss is an acrocarpous species suited for coastal conditions. Even though its habit is perfect for the secondary dunes it is also equipped for duty in the city. Colonies spring up in sandy or poor soiled islands in parking lots across America. These islands in a sea of concrete aren’t much different than their home at the beach. Drying winds and salty spray from de-icing solutions welcome them into a place inhospitable to many other plants. Landscapers’ of these forgotten islands often resort to mulch and gravel to deal with these harsh conditions but mosses, as usual, can take advantage of the lack of competition. Strangely enough, humans inadvertantly  provide conditions for moss by their activity of clearing, building and maintaining of cityscapes. Disturbed soils are fresh territory for colonization, mosses can stabilize these areas and pave the way for other plants to take hold, as they do in the shifting dune sands.

So this fair skinned shade gardener enjoyed a little too much sun as he found himself taking a busman’s holiday at the shore with Aloe-moss at his feet.  Too bad it wasn’t that kind of Aloe!

David Spain a.k.a. Moss Rock

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Follow Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks! on Twitter @Moss_Rocks and our Facebook page Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!

To learn more about Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!, please visit our website.  Or email David Spain at info@mossandstonegardens.com.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos are credited to Ken Gergle.

 

Knowing your Acrocarp from your Pleurocarp

Acro

Our main mission at Moss and Stone Gardens‘ blog, is to educate those desiring to learn more about mosses.  Our goal is to make it easy for you to understand mosses; to take the mystery out of moss – not the mystic.

As a landscape design group specializing in moss and stone gardens, we work with homeowners and design professionals designing with moss.

Particularly today, in what appears to be a movement towards moss, as designers and gardeners are looking for sustainable, shade loving options, either as a lawn replacement or as a sculptural backdrop to accent the grounds of commercial or residential properties, we feel it is even more important to help with this education.  As such, this is the first in a series to educate the reader about mosses on the most basic level — an introduction — to begin to guide you through the movement towards moss.

INTRODUCTION
All mosses can be classified as 2 types:  Acrocarpous and Pleurocarpous

Recently, I asked David Spain, our moss expert, to describe the two types of mosses we are so often writing about.  I hope you learn as much about Acrocarps and Pleurocarps as I did.  If you have further questions, please leave a comment and David will get back with you.

Acrocarpous – Dicranum scoparium

Acrocarpous mosses have an upright growth habit.

As defined by Encyclopedia.com,  Acrocarpous MossA type of moss in which the archegonia (i.e. female sex organs), and hence the capsules are borne at the tips of stems or branches.  Acrocarpous mosses may branch extensively; once they have fruited, branches take over the erect growth.

Acrocarps are usually unbranched and erect, forming a mounded colony.

Acrocarps are slower growing than Pleurocarps.

The sporophytes of the Acrocarps emerge from the tips of the plant.

Acrocarps do not regenerate from fragments as quickly as Pleurocarps.

Weeds are less likely to invade Acrocarps due to the thickness and tight packed stems.

Common Acrocarps for moss gardens are: Polytrichum commune, Dicranum scoparium, Campylopus introflexus, and Luecobryum glaucum.

 

Pleurocarpous – Bryoandersonia illecebra

Pleurocapous mosses have a prostrate growth habit.

As defined by Encyclopedia.com, PleurocarpousA type of moss in which the female sex organs (archegonia) and capsules are borne on short, lateral branches, and not at the tips of branches. Pleurocarpous mosses tend to form spreading carpets rather than erect tufts.

Pleurocarps are freely branching in a chaotic fashion.

Pleurocarps spread out branches from the colony in a creeping fashion.

The sporophytes of the Pleurocarps emerge mid stem.

Most Pleurocarps grow faster than Acrocarps.

Pleurocarps quickly regenerate from broken fragments.

Pleurocarps quick attachment to stone and growth rate makes them better for colonizing hard substrates.

Maintenance of Pleurocarps is easier due to their matting tendencies and low even profile, blowing debris off of them is easier.

Pleurocarps can be used as a nursery for Acrocarps, once an area is colonized by these pioneer mosses, the slower growing Acrocarps can more easily colonize.

Common Pleurocarps for moss garden are: Thuidium delecatulum, Plagiomnium cuspidatum, Climacium americanum, Bryandersonia illecebra, Entodon seductrix, Hypnum cupressiforme, and Hypnum imponens.

As we move you toward mosses, we hope you visit with us again and feel free to visit our website at Moss and Stone Gardens to send us an email.

By: Helen  Yoest

Follow Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks! on Twitter @Moss_Rocks and our Facebook Like page Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!

To learn more about Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!, please visit our website.  Or email David Spain at info@mossandstonegardens.com.