Monday, April 4, 2011

Moss Puzzle

While walking through a cedar thicket, I came across a clump of moss that had been torn from the ground and left soil side up. It’s not really uncommon to find moss in this condition. Deer often kick up pieces of moss as they run. Turkeys and other animals frequently turn over moss in search of food.
Two things made me stop and question this chunk of moss. First was its size of nearly a foot square. Second was the fact that I couldn’t find where it had originally been growing. Moss disturbed by animals is normally close to its original position and is easily fitted back into place. Where had this moss come from?
Nearby was a place where the edges of the moss had been rolled up, but the patch of bare ground wasn’t nearly large enough to accommodate the loose patch of moss. Strangely, the ground didn’t show any signs of animal activity. When animals disturb moss, there are always definite scratch marks or footprints left by the perpetrator.
The moss that had been covered by the lose clump showed some signs of discoloration which indicated its cover had been in place at least a week, but probably less than a month.
I made a wide sweep around the area and could not find the source of the moss. I’m certain that it didn’t originate any nearer than 50 feet of its final resting place.
I decided to give the errant moss clump its own place in the cedar thicket. This is a very steep site. The topsoil may look dark and rich at first glance, but its depth is less than a quarter or an inch and very little besides moss grows here.
I’m always curious about how things colonize new areas. This moss is now prepared to expand into a new territory. I realize that my helping it find a secure place in which to grow is not a totally natural event, but if it had landed right side up upon arrival, there is a chance it could have survived and grown. There’s also the chance that the moss clump harbored viable seeds, insects or other soil organisms that can also establish themselves in this new territory.
As I continued with my walk, I came across another area of disturbed moss that lacked signs of any animal activity. The folded moss brought to mind the image of a throw rug on our front porch that folds over itself whenever there is a strong wind. Two weeks ago we had two separate storms with winds strong enough to shake the house and tear shingles from the barn roof. As I think back to images of shingles lifting up to disappear into the sky, I can imagine a clump of moss suffering the same fate. I wonder how many organisms travel on the wings of a storm to try their luck in a new location.


  1. Until you came up with the wind theory, I was picturing Sasquatch. ;)

  2. Hi, Lois. I've taken several pictures of Bigfoots, but I've never seen them carrying moss.

  3. Hi Steve...I am just getting caught up from Fridays SNOW storm of 10 inches of heavy wet snow that took out my electricity and Internet for over 12 hours !!
    Great post those shadowy images you got!! rather ghostly!!
    Today post had me going of on something like Lois mentioned....could you post those photos of BIG FOOT sometime ????

  4. I think you got it right with the wind. Such power!

  5. Hi, grammie g. Glad your power is restored. I saw the snowstorm on The Weather Channel. It's snowed so much up your way this year that they hardly consider it news anymore.

    Hi, Nellie. We had another one of those wind storms yesterday. I saw things a lot heavier than clumps of moss being blown around.