Mosses, Liverworts and Lichen

Mosses, liverworts and lichens. That’s what you’ll find in this week’s snow-less March woods!

Ptilium crista-castrensis, Knight's plume moss

Ptilium crista-castrensis, or Knight’s plume moss, has a unique feather shape that is easy to recognize. The temperature did not *quite* reach the freezing mark today, and all of the mosses and liverworts we saw were frozen solidly in place. Knight’s plume (or ostrich plume feather moss, which seems like far too many words to describe one moss!) moss is a lighter green than some of the other mosses. Quite unique!

Trichocolea tomentella, woollywort liverwort

This one took a minute for us to ID! We don’t have a good guide book for liverworts (if anyone has suggestions, we’d love to hear them!).  Turns out this is Trichocolea tomentella, or woollywort liverwort…looks a bit like furry little snowflakes, don’t you think?

Trichocolea tomentella, woollywort liverwort texture close upA close up of the Trichocolea tomentella shows just how “wooly” the woollywort is!

Hylocomium splendens, stairstep moss

Hylocomium splendens or stair step moss has a growth form that can make it quite deep underfoot and is unique among mosses to H. splendens. Each year’s growth makes a new ‘level,’ making the only moss I know of that actually admits it’s age!

Hylocomium splendens, stairstep moss, brown stemAnother defining feature of Hylocomium splendens is a wiry, reddish-brown stem.

Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus, or Pleated shaggy moss

Another moss! A vibrant patch of Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus, or Pleated shaggy moss.

Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus, or Pleated shaggy moss

At first glance I actually though this was Climacium dendroides, or tree moss. However, since the branches seem to go right to the bottom of the stem, I believe it to be Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus. The branches of C.dendroides start about half way up the stem, giving it a bit of a palm tree look.

Lichen Birds nest

Onto the lichen….a bird’s nest made out of lichen, actually!  Hummingbirds often use lichen to build their nests, but this one seemed a bit too big for a hummingbird. It had been vacant for a while so it was a little worse for wear.

Leaf miner in the winter

Does anyone know anything leafminers? I don’t. Leafminer time lapse is on the to-do list, though! These little larvae will turn into some sort of insect once they finish feeding (fingers crossed for a weevil!). I’m currently semi-addicted to Charlie Eiseman’s “Bugtracks” blog. He authored “Tracks and Signs of Insects,”  a book which is high on my wish list! The guide describes “tracks, egg cases, nests, feeding signs, galls, webs, burrows, and signs of predation” as signs of insect identification. Right up my alley!

We have another six weeks of snowless-spring woods walking to do this year! I foresee putting our moss and lichen guidebooks to good use!


the dirty girl at dirty botany
Head dirty girl at!
Bug worshiper.
Slime mold fanatic.
Macrophotographer in training.

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3 thoughts on “Mosses, Liverworts and Lichen

    • Michelle Post authorReply

      Thanks for the ID, that was fast! We are fairly certain it was Symphyotrichum undulatu, so yes, in the aster family. These little guys are fascinating; do you think you’ll mind be peppered with ID requests all summer?? 🙂

      • Charley Eiseman Reply

        Always happy to look at leaf mines! If this is Symphyotrichum, then the larva is more likely some kind of Bucculatrix–still a moth, but Phyllocnistis insignis is pretty much specific to the tribe Senecioneae.

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