Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Mosses

If you've just joined us, I've been showing images of a weekend in Adams County, Ohio from the first weekend in November. Our first stop was Adams Lake Prairie, then we were on to Chaparral Prairie, and then finally to Davis Memorial. After a quick stop at The Wilderness Preserve, we were on to the moss workshop at the Edge of Appalachia, Ohio's largest privately protected natural area. Taught by Dr. Barb Andreas, I was preparing for an intense weekend of looking through microscopes, and I was not disappointed. Friday night we started out with an introductory slideshow full of amazing photographs of the tiny, intricate anatomy of mosses. Off to bed it was after a long day and my first night sleeping in Adams County.

Saturday morning we began at the Cincinnati Museum Center's Eulett Center, a brand new building that serves as the new focal point of the Edge of Appalachia Preserve. The last time I visited the preserve, the staff was housed, well, in an old house. Now, they've got this incredible building, full of really cool microscopes and technology that made studying mosses a breeze.

Ok, I'm kidding just a little bit. Moss Identification is tedious- why? The parts of a moss plant- the leaf, the stems, are just so tiny, that in order to be able to see those parts, you just have to use both a dissecting and compound microscope. We examined our specimens at 40, 100, and 400 times magnification.

We did make it into the field to collect moss specimens, and we were accompanied by a very hungry cat that was trying to make the Eulett Center home.

Over the weekend, I saw more than a few people sneak food to it- so it was wise to follow us. We searched for and examined mosses as doggedly as the cat followed us. We put a good twelve hours in on Saturday, mostly at the microscope, followed up by three hours Sunday morning. I spent the most time examining the mosses and trying to learn the characters that I would need to identify them in the future. These included, amongst a host of other characters- the shape and size of individual moss cells- whether the cells have bumps on them called papillae, and whether the stem has a bunch of hairy things on it, the name of which I have now forgotten.

All in all, a great weekend, I learned what it takes to identify mosses, and I'll have yet another thing to look for and learn about when I venture through the natural areas of Ohio.


P.S. The moss workshop I attended is part of the Edge of Appalachia's advanced naturalist workshop series. I would recommend any of their workshops.


  1. Aaaargh!!! MORE stuff to look for while walking the woods! I guess you professional botanists have to do this, but sometimes I'd rather be like that cat: just wandering around and enjoying the scene without having to know the names of EVERYthing. Especially stuff I'd need a microscope to identify. Have fun!

  2. brings back memories of the year i tried to learn to id local liverworts. hard without a microscope.

    please, please take that kitten to the local animal shelter. i am currently doing a lengthy lit review of the impacts of feral cats and dogs on wildlife, and the magnitude of adverse impacts is nothing short of astonishing! a cute kitten like that has a good chance of finding a good home, but its lifespan in the woods will be short, scary, hungry and destructive. thanks for listening to my rant.

  3. Jackie- Yep- Sometimes it's a curse- It's hard to just take a simple walk through the woods. There are plenty of ways to make moss identifications in the field, so hopefully I'll pick up this information over time as a study more mosses.

    Buford- Yess, with liverworts, wow, another thing completely new.

    Since this cat is hanging out at a nature preserve, and one of the best ones in Ohio, I'm sure the staff didn't let it hang around for long. It has just appeared that weekend, I was told.


  4. Cats I can identify immediately; mosses take a little longer.

    Seriously, the workshop sounds great, but I doubt I'll ever be ready for advanced naturalist training. My head is already too full of things whose names I cannot remember.

    Good work, Tom.

  5. Moss neat!

  6. Marvin- You'll be ready. I'll let you know when the next series is announced.

    Thanks Chris- It was fun and really interesting. Intense is another word that comes to mind.