Saturday, 25 August 2007

Step over the cracks

I had to go back to the campus on a weekend. Even in a place of learning I would have felt very conspicuous on a week-day kneeling on a footpath to get a close-up photo of the moss Tortula muralis growing in the mortar between the bricks. The steps leading down to the computer lab are narrow and shaded and I would have been a major obstacle while I took photos of Bryum argentium that grows in the corner of each step. And Bryum torquescens grows really well on the brick wall outside the library. The normally quiet path around the lake had a visitor on Saturday, a student fishing, who must have wondered what I was doing - the tiny Grimmia pulvinata was spectacular in its sunny spot on the rock.

Bryum argentium

Tortula muralis

Grimmia pulvinata

Bryum torquescens

I'm used to seeing luxuriant moss in the forest but this is a different environment. Everywhere I look in the city I see moss. Some species of moss have adapted very well to city living. We've provided nooks and crannies, built our homes, pathways, headstones and factories out of granite, sandstone and limestone so the mosses feel quite at home. It amazes me to see moss growing on busy pathways, carparks, steps and walls, keeping its head down. So small that even when it sends up its sporophytes its barely noticeable. It amazes me that it can survive for long periods of heat and drought in such hostile environments and then flourish after the first rain.
I've read that moss it very susceptible to pollution so perhaps we should feel reassured as long as the moss is happy to be there – a bit like taking a canary down a mine to test the air. When I was a child we played the game of stepping over the cracks in a footpath because to step on one was bad luck. Bad luck for the moss maybe, but I never thought of that at the time.

2 comments:

Duncan said...

Amazing stuff moss, I once had to drill a hole through a large block of scoria for a client setting up a water feature in his garden. The top of the block was covered with brown dry moss, I had to use water as part of the drilling process, and by the time I'd gone right through, the moss was green and healthy looking. Incredible.

Snail said...

What splendid photos! Love 'em.

Adds mosses to the list of underappreciated organisms to read up on.