Field of Science


 One of the postcards that I got this summer prominently featured mosses from northern California. A picture of the postcard is on the right. I also took a photo of the caption on the back. Check out the portion that my friend underlined. It reads "A variety of mosses are brought to blossom by winter rains." What strikes you about this sentence? How about the word blossom? Blossoming refers to flowers, and mosses don't have flowers! This is a common terminology mistake. People are much more familiar with flowering plants and when looking at mosses they typically try to use flowering plant terms. Mosses with sporophytes are often said to be fruiting or blooming. Figuring out what word to use can be a challenge. Sporulating? Sporophyting? Usually what I say is that they are reproducing and releasing spores. Most people are familiar with reproduction and then I can go on to explain more about spores if needed. 

This might seem like I am just being picky, but using the correct word is important for making comparisons between mosses and other plants. The little sporophytes that the mosses are producing are not the same as flowers, but are actually equivalent to an entire redwood tree! I think that comparison has much more wow factor that just being a gaudy flower.

This is the other mossy postcard that I have hanging on my bulletin board, below. Kathyrn is definitely winning the moss postcard competition, having sent me both of these. The stamp on the other side of this postcard even features a moss and fern filled glen. What's that, you say you can't see the mosses on the stamp? Well they are there. Look at that moist stream-side habitat. Those trees and the rocks surrounding the waterfall must be covered in mosses!


  1. Very well said! You had scientifically explained the difference between mosses and plants.

    "A variety of mosses are brought to blossom by winter rains."

    Changed my thoughts about creepy swamps and abandoned creeks. Haha!

  2. George - Glad to hear that you enjoyed the post. People often torn between using the same terms for moss plants as they do for flowering plants. Alternatively sometimes people forget that mosses are plants too. Just trying to help keep it all straight. Good to hear that your vision of wet places is shifting. They often have tons of cool mosses! - Jessica


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