Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Green velvet cushions

Sometimes, poking about along logs, under weeds, on rocks, I see something new, something I'd never seen before. And more often, I think, I discover something I've seen a thousand times, and never really looked at.

Like these buttons and cushions of bottle-brush moss.

Amphidium lapponicum, aka Lapland bottle-brush moss.

The leaves of this moss are so fine, so densely packed together, that it looks more like velvet; even from fairly close, I could see no structure, just the smooth surface. It was growing on a cliff face, mostly above my head, but I managed to reach one and touch it. It felt soft but solid underneath, like the velvet on a young deer's antlers, or the lining of an old jewelry box, and just faintly damp.

The cliff was too steep, the moss too far away, and the bit of mud at the base too slippery to attempt a photo two-handed, so I had to reach up with the little pocket Sony; a pity, because now I'd like to see some of the finer parts of the moss.

Surrounded by a smallish, "normal" moss, showing the difference in texture and leaf size.

Another cushion, with reproductive structures.

Zooming in. The camera sees better than I do. The little pink and white "flowers", I think, are empty sporangia, spore-producing structures. The genus is named for these: Amphidium means "like an urn".

The E-Flora page describes several similar species; most of the differences would need to be discovered microscopically. One, however, I can see at first glance. Bottle-brush moss grows out of the crevices of the rock (see the top photo); others will grow on the bare rock face.

The moss was on a cliff near the lichens.


  1. I have quite a few cushion clusters on the granite wall next to the cabin. We put a birdhouse on a ledge, and now there is a cascade of cushion moss clusters running down from it. Maybe the base of the birdhouse has altered the water flow down the cliff allowing them to survive in a new place. - Margy

    1. If the birdhouse was lived in, there would also be added nutrients in the runoff. Bird guano; the best fertilizer!


If your comment is on a post older than a week, it will be held for moderation. Sorry about that, but spammers seem to love old posts!

Also, I have word verification on, because I found out that not only do I get spam without it, but it gets passed on to anyone commenting in that thread. Not cool!