Field of Science

A Great Season for Mosses in the Pacific Northwest

The New York Times featured an article recently about the plethora of mosses growing in the Seattle area. A rainy winter and spring have produced a great environment for the mosses this year. One of the folks interviewed for the article works at the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle. They mention that this reserve "claims to have the largest moss garden on the continent". I noted in particular that they categorized this as a claim rather than a statement of fact. Maybe because they don't actually tell you how many acres the moss garden covers? Or no one is keeping a tally of the contest for largest moss garden in North America, so they can't quite be sure? If there was a contest with a reward rather than bragging rights only we might know if there is a larger moss garden out there.

Know of any other large moss gardens in North America? Or abroad?

Spring Cleaning

I did a little spring cleaning this week in preparation for a party at my apartment tonight. During the cleaning I ran across this shampoo and conditioner. Oh yes, you can have mosses added to your personal hair-care products. Look there, it says moss right on the bottle. I can't recall if I ever actually used this shampoo/conditioner. I think that I bought it on a lark. Either way it appears to have been discontinued by Aveda.

It lists Iceland Moss extract (Cetraria islandica) as one of the ingredients. But wait, when I looked up this species to find out more information I was in for a shock!

It is not a moss at all, but a lichen that goes by the name of Iceland Moss. Another bryophyte want-to-be. Not only has it been used in hair products, but is edible and has been used in folk medicines. Just goes to show that when it says it is a moss that does not necessarily mean that it is a bryophyte.

A New Look to the Blog

I thought that the blog was in need of an update. I have had the same style and background since setting it up in 2007. It is a work in progress and I am not sure if I will stick with this update as is or try and tweak it some more. Any comments would be appreciated!

Next up, revising my personal website.

Bryophytes on YouTube

I haven't been on YouTube in quite a long time to look for bryophyte videos. My labmate Juan Carlos recommended this video. A fun highlight is that you get to meet real live bryophytes that talk to the audience (see time 3:42). The costumes that the kids have are great and it is quite exciting to see young folks learning about bryophytes!

I did some more searching on YouTube and came across quite a number of video presentations used to communicate information about bryophytes. Here a couple for your educational-entertainment.

I really liked the part in this one where the water overflows from the antheridium dispersing the sperm to the egg. However I think that the part where thy have the spore production and dispersal is a little confusing. I am not sure exactly which concept they were trying to get across in that part.

Shading by Mosses

Shading of understory plants is caused by the leaves of the taller plants. Mosses have leaves that are typically one cell thick. In this study researchers determined that moss leaves actually block a large percentage the light. The shadowing that results as the leaves wave back and forth results in a flickering pattern of sun flecks that reach the plants beneath.

I think that it is a really cool study and pretty interesting that the mosses, despite having very thin leaves are able to block light creating sun flecks just like larger plants.

Swatland, H. J. 2011.Microphotometry of Underwater Shadowing by a Moss from a Niagara Escarpment Waterfall. Microscopy and Microanalysis 17:125-131.

Mosses Grow on a New Substrate. Whale!

Mosses grow on all sorts of substrates. Soil, tree bark, leaves, rocks, sand, dung, old socks abandoned in the woods, and now a whale! My labmates were out visiting the Seymour Marine Discovery Center at Long Marine Laboratory in Santa Cruz, California over spring break and they brought back these photos of some Funaria hygrometrica (cord mosses) growing on a whale skeleton outside of the center. When they first told me that they found mosses growing on a whale I totally did not believe them, but I was imagining a breathing swimming whale. They even got permission from the Marine Center to collect some of the moss for us to use in our research collection. The description of this collection location on the label is going to be great! Thanks Laura and Juan Carlos for the photos.

You can read more about 'Ms. Blue' the whale here on the Marine Center's website. She has a pretty interesting story that goes from finding a blue whale washed up on the shore to her most recent relocation.

Happy April Fools Day!