Tag Archives: fire

Mosses and Lichens

21 Aug

One class of plants that is often overlooked are the mosses and lichens.  I’ve always been fascinated by them – how do they cling to life year after year on those rocks at the cottage.  In the spring, they are lush and soft and puffy.  In the fall, they crackle under your feet as you walk.  Look closely, very closely and you’ll see complicated patterns and structures and real beauty… 

Let’s take a look at 2 mosses and a lichen we find at the cottage. 

Close-up of pin cushion moss - lovely isn't it?

 What is a lichen?

Lichens are not a single plant. 

A lichen is a complex group of plants depending on a close association between a FUNGUS and ALGAE – a symbiotic relationship.  A lichen consists of an upper part of interwoven fibres related to the fungus and a layer of more loosely fibrous structures related to the fungus that surrounds the algae. The algae can carry out photosynthesis and feed the fungi. The fibrous structures that make up the fungi adds support to the algae and keeps the algae from drying out.  in the Language of Flowers, Lichen means “dejection” and “solitude”.   



 This is a photo of reindeer Lichen. Lichen can survive for long periods of time without water. They just dry out and go dormant when there is little water or light. They can begin to grow again even after very long periods of dormancy.  Animals such as Reindeer and Caribou feed on lichen during the coldest periods of the season. It has lots of carbohydrates that give the caribou energy to make body heat. Caribou have special microorganisms in their stomachs which let them digest lichen. Very few other animals eat lichens.   


 What is a moss? 

A moss is a class (Musci) of plants without flowers or roots. Moss usually grows as low, dense, carpet-like masses on tree trunks, rocks, or moist ground. In the Language of Flowers, Moss means “maternal love”.  



Fire moss sends up stalks in early spring, usually as soon as the last snow melts. At first the stalks are green but they turn red as they mature. Cylindrical spore capsules form at the ends of the stalks and mature by late spring. Changes in humidity cause the stalks to twist and turn thereby aiding in spore dispersal. By mid summer the capsules decay and the stems break off.  


Check out the photo of Sydney below – what kind of moss or lichen surrounds her?  Fire moss?