Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Small Treasures, Just off the Road

Taking a break from my cooking duties on Thanksgiving afternoon, I drove up over Corinth Mountain Road, intending to visit the Hudson along Spier Falls Road.  But a swamp full of brilliant Winterberry shrubs found me pulling over to the side of the road to better enjoy the view.

As I stood there admiring the blazing display, I realized that another, more quietly colored swamp lay just behind where I was standing.  Pushing my way through some Witch Hazel shrubs, I entered this cool dark boggy spot, where I found hummocks thickly draped with bright-green Sphagnum Moss.

Here's a closer view of that shaggy Sphagnum, its green tufts touched with brown.  I wondered if Sphagnum turned brown after frost, or if this was its natural color.  We have a number of different species of Sphagnum, and they do come in several different colors.  I do not know which species this is.

Sphagnum is often a sign of boggy conditions, and as I teetered from hummock to hummock, looking for evidence of boggy plants, I came upon many other kinds of mosses, including this leafy mound of Rhizomnium punctatum.  Not necessarily a bog moss, though, since I often find it in less acidic wetlands.

The same could be said for this pretty moss, called Brocade Moss (Hypnum imponens)

Dicranum  (Broom Moss) can also be found in drier woodlands than this, so neither was this moss an indicator of acidic boggy conditions.  I love its fluffy texture and bright-green color, and it looked especially pretty surrounded by the tawny brown curls of dried fern fronds. (Maybe Cinnamon Fern?)

Here was a pretty tableau of evergreen forest plants, the red-berried Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) sprung from a bed of Delicate Fern Moss (Thuidium delicatulum), which it shared with the shiny green leaves of Goldthread (Coptis trifolia).

Nearby was a healthy clump of the shiny, dark-green liverwort Bazzania trilobata, sometimes mistaken for a moss and often intermixed with moss.  A few starry tufts of Haircap Moss (Polytrichum sp.) have crept into this liverwort clump.

Pleased to find such a sheltered damp spot full of evergreen mosses and lichens, I then continued over the mountain and along the Hudson River to the Sherman Island Boat Launch, where I parked my car and wandered the surrounding woods.  Here, too, is a beautiful woodland filled with many treasures, including this little brook that dances and sings and shines with reflected skylight on its way to join the river.

I love the quiet music of a tiny waterfall.


The Furry Gnome said...

Love the moss pictures! Little bits of green in the woods at this season. But how can you ever learn to identify them?!

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks, Furry. I learned to ID some mosses by walking with moss experts who know them all and are happy to share their knowledge. Then I posted a blog about what they told me, and I can refer to this blogpost to jog my memory. Repetition, repetition, repetition! Google, google, google! Very few have common names, so I try to remember what the Latin names mean, which sometimes helps, because they can be descriptive. But still I know only a few. Every year I learn one or two more.

catharus said...

How lovely! Oh, there's nothing like Winterberry, is there?! I love it!

Virginia said...

Very beautiful. Your leg must be much better to hold you sturdily while going hummock to hummock. I also liked the idea of you taking off while in the midst of Thanksgiving cooking...but then I did see your FB post the day before with delicious desserts all made and ready :)