They change from one day to the next, depending on the weather. They grow in compact mounds, uniformly coloured, one leaf blending into the next. They are multicultural; as many as 40 different species can live together on one tree, intermingled. Male and female plants may seem to be separate species. And they are best seen in the pouring rain, when cameras and magnifying lenses are at a disadvantage.
Back at home, Googling mosses, looking at photos, I find apparent matches. But most of them, once I follow the links, refer to them generically, as "moss". It seems that other people are as befuddled as I am.
Moss experts try to help, giving specific mosses easily remembered names. "Finger-licking good moss," "palm tree moss," "beaked moss," "wavy-leaved cotton moss," "goose-neck moss," and my favourite, "electrified cats'-tail moss." Now, the problem is remembering which of all those green, spiky mosses goes with which handy name.
|This, I think, is Oregon beaked moss. I could (easily) be wrong. Note the lone, red sporophyte. (Or Rhytidiadelphus loreus? See comment by Matt Goff.*)|
|And this should be Electrified cats-tail, Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus.|
|Zooming in on one of the dozens of mosses on a short trail. Unidentified, for the moment. (Buckiella undulata*)|
|This one has a strong central stem. (Oregon beaked moss?*)|
|And in this one, the stem and branches are brown, even on a wet, green day. The branches here are opposite: compare to those on the Oregon beaked moss, which are alternate. (Glittering wood moss, Hylocomium splendens.*)|
|A hanging moss. These grow mainly on branches. (Brachythecium?*)|
I thought I had memorized the order in which our guide, Jocie Brooks, had showed us the mosses, and could co-ordinate them with the sequence of photos. I was too optimistic. We saw repeats at random throughout the walk, and my list got scrambled in my mossy brain.
At least I remember clearly which one was the "Finger-licking good moss". Unfortunately, by then my camera had gone on strike because of the rain. Can't win.
*Updated after comments by Matt Goff.