The boulders that tumble down this mountainside are home to an amazing variety of beautiful ferns and mosses, especially along the course of the stream where mist often dampens the rocks. I have a hard time remembering the names of different mosses, but I believe this bright green clump in the photo below is that of the aptly named Fountain Moss, which thrives in damp habitats like this.
I'm often surprised to find Sphagnum Moss so far away from its more expected bog habitat, but here it was growing abundantly up on the mountainside. A few tufts of Tree Moss were sprouting out of the clump.
Starbursts of spiky Haircap Moss decorated this patch of Delicate Fern Moss.
Another patch of Delicate Fern Moss was ornamented by a plume of evergreen Wood Fern and a tangled cluster of gray-green Reindeer Lichen.
On this rock grew Broom Moss, Rock Polypody ferns, and a foliose pale-green lichen I do not know the name of.
One of the wonderful things about all these mosses, ferns, and lichens is that they stay fresh and green all winter, bringing much beauty and texture to a woods walk at any time of year. I have felt that way about Winterberry shrubs, too, which usually hold onto their blazing-red fruits until winter is almost over. That's why I was so surprised and disappointed today when I stopped by a swamp where I knowWinterberry abounds, and found just these gray bare branches.
Compare what this very same patch of swamp looked like almost exactly one year ago. I know that it's often the case that a year of abundant fruiting can be followed by a subsequent year of scarcity, but I hadn't expected to find such a contrast as this.