Whenever I’m in the forest I like to imagine that I’m a centimeter tall. I’d probably turn over acorn shells to use them as rafts or make a friend with a banana slug. I’d probably spend most of my time by the banks of trickling forest streams where mushrooms like to spring up from the ground. It’d be on the rocks or earthy walls of the banks of those creeks where I would find a soft patch of green, spongy ground that I could curl up and be comfortable on. Whenever I’m in the forest, it’s those thoughts that lead me towards moss. That’s why I always take a close look at it and imagine what my life would be like if I were a centimeter tall.
My brain bursts with serotonin when I think about the fluffy mosses that have delicate star or fern-like leaf patterns. The more that a moss mound looks like a mini forest or ecosystem, the more delighted I am when I get to look at it more closely. Take the common haircap moss, or polytrichum commune, for example. It’s bright green and looks like a little cluster of pine trees. Would I seek a cluster of that moss out if I were a centimeter tall? Absolutely.
It’s difficult for me to pick a favorite moss. Some varieties can be pretty dense, and if you pick them up some terrifying bug with too many legs might drop from the peat and run across your hand. Those moss, like many like it, prefer to stay where they are anchored on rocks or tree stumps. As a kid, I always thought that there was something special about the forests that had moss. Those forests seemed so much more alive and vibrant to me than those that didn’t have it. Little nooks that have moss teem with activity that sends my imagination into a different, more mystical realm. It wasn’t until I got into college when I started to learn more about the weird life of moss. It goes through stages of its development that correlates to different forms of the same species that can be found throughout a forest.
Did you know that moss relies on water in order to complete its reproduction cycle? When the conditions are right, moss mounds communicate with each other by sending genetic information into raindrops that accumulate and fall from one level of the forest to the next. I like imagining where the water is going and which mound will pick the information up to grow into the next stage of the cycle. Moss’s dependency on water in order to reproduce echoes its primitive origins as one of the first plants to populate land.
What was moss-world like all of those millions of years ago? Did the land smell like an earthy forest? How wide could a moss mound’s network stretch? Did moss grow taller before seed bearing plants rose on land and influenced the habitat? Most importantly, how soft was that land to step on. We’re getting rain here as I write this. The moss log that I’ve been cultivating outside my window is sopping up the moisture and looks happy. I can imagine that the moss in the forest up the road from me is doing well too. Hopefully sometime this weekend I’ll wander out there to see how the tiny world of liverworts, little brown cap mushrooms, and lush green mosses are doing.
Author: Sofia Solana
Here’s another story about a plant that loves moisture…and something else, too! The Jaws of Death: Venus Fly Trap