Field of Science

Moss Poetry

Here is another poem from the author of last week's Sphagnum poem. This poem has some great visual descriptions and it also has a few gruesome parts so be forewarned. In the poem Leucobryum is described as turquoise colored. However my photo is more of a minty, light green. This is a photo of Leucobryum albidum. I think of Leucobryum glaucum as darker in color and probably closer to his description.

Leucobryum glaucum by Giles Watson (October 2004)

Split cases of beech nuts form a crust six inches thick,
the insides squirrel-gnawed, their curled spines turning
into mould. Crows claw the branches; buzzards clamour,
their nest at the centre of this wood. The distant chunter
of mallards, half-tamed for shooting. In the grass, a snare.

Cushions of Leucobryum, turquoise coloured and crisp,
quieten my tread to a dry crunching, hunched like the backs
of hedgehogs. Beside one, a dirty-grey skull—a weasel’s—
cleaved half-open. Cartridge cases encased in soil.

And though gunshots have defiled the sacred space,
And crows hang, inverted, from wires, by night
the Leucobryum gleams where moonlight catches it,
and the fox pads past, avoids the snare by habit
long established. Dew falls. Spore cases rise,
the calyptra hooked a little, like tiny Devil’s horns.

Click here for a link to the original posting of this poem and other botanical poetry.
Below the fold is a blurb from the author about his inspiration for this poem.

"Source material. Leucobryum glaucum forms high-domed cushions on acid soils, and is capable of withstanding long dry spells. When dry it turns a turquoise colour, or even goes completely white. It rapidly revives when moistened. Fruiting such as that described in the poem is a comparatively rare occurrence; the plant more often reproduces through rhizoids which grow from the upper leaves and develop into small tufts which become detached and independent. See Arthur L. Jewell, The Observer’s Book of Mosses and Liverworts, London, 1955, p. 57. I lived for a year in Dropmore, near Burnham, in Buckinghamshire, and observed this moss regularly in the neighbouring Bristles Wood, which was unfortunately the domain of a particularly brutal gamekeeper at the time. Despite his depredations, a remarkable diversity of wildlife was to be observed within the wood, especially at night."

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