Launching a moss guide

Many folks tell me they love moss. Happily I find its not just me. They love the softness, the greeness….but that’s about it. Not many folks take a closer look. Still fewer attempt the mission (near) impossible of learning who’s who in the moss world. Sadly, most folks never get the chance to adore what’s growing under their feet in pavement cracks or on the forest floor.

A big block to finding out more about moss is the lack of user friendly guides. Most are highly technical and require a hefty dictionary of botanical terms. I mean, how many people know the difference between an excurrent or percurrent nerve…. or want to know? Many books require a microscope to check a species description. Many books are out of date and out of print.

With this state of affairs how can moss lovers become moss learners? If you happen to be a moss lover but feel understandably daunted, here’s a new little book that might help. Its like a miniature coffee table book of an enigmatic world right under your feet.

A little fieldguide, hot off the press

A little fieldguide, hot off the press

Its a fieldguide I’ve been working on with my friend Bernard Slattery and other friends of the box ironbark forests (FOBIF). It’s written with the beginner in mind, with a minimum of technical language. The best thing about the book is the stunning photos, taken by some determined and talented photographs (not me) …..moss is arguably one of the toughest things to photograph well. I think the photos in this guide will make it possible for a beginner to identify common moss species. It will also take the armchair naturalist on a picturesque foray into moss world.

Follow this link if you’d like to find out more.

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Don’t forget your hand lens

I love hearing the gasp when people view minutiae through a hand lens. Today I was teaching farmers and landholders at a workshop about biodiversity and showed them some moss close up. They’d been trudging over a mossy turf and hadn’t noticed it for the trees. So I passed around a few straggly tufts of moss (Triquetrella papillata) and people bought it into focus with a lens. They were stunned. Red stems with perfect leaves arranged in neat spirals. Wow. And the next moss was utterly different.

For those of you without a hand lens or access to a microscope, here’s a brief tour of moss in the mallee, from the distant view to the extreme closeup. I hope you enjoy.

Biocrust between the trees; moss and lichens carpet the ground

Moss and lichens can carpet the ground in the Mallee, NW Victoria

Most folks are oblivious to the miniature glories under their feet…

Walking across the moss carpet

Walking over a moss carpet but looking at birds

Come on down, you don’t know what you’re missing ’til you walk on your knees…

Taking a closer look with a hand lens...

Taking a closer look

When you do bend down you might see…

A miniature landscape

Miniature landscapes

Moss capsules catching the morning light

Moss capsules catch the morning light

Ant, moss, rabbit dropping

Tiny communities

Now grab a x10 lens and you might observe …..

Moss leaves curled up and waiting for rain

Moss leaves curled up and waiting for rain

Moss leaves spiraling the stem when dry

or dry spiraling leaves

The glory of getting wet and coming alive

Bling! The glory of getting wet and coming alive

Translucent leaves under a binocular microscope

Translucent moss leaves under a binocular microscope

And it’s worthwhile zooming in even further with a high power slide microscope, if you get a chance …..

Leaves one cell thick, with spherical propagules

Leaves one cell thick, with spherical propagules (like bulbs)

Planet moss

Planet moss

Leaves like lace

Leaves like lace

The surface of a leaf under high power microscope (x400)

The surface of a moss leaf under high power microscope

zoom, zoom, zoom….

Leaf cells with chloroplasts

Leaf cells with chloroplasts (x 400 magnificaiton)

Wouldn’t it be nice if we all carried a hand lens and could catch these beauties more often? Actually we can. A decent x 10 hand lens is cheap to buy from an Entomological supplier. Go on! Every pocket needs one.


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