Marvelous Moss: On Logs in the Vernal Pool

Leonard Weber

December 15, 2022

There is something about moss-covered logs that I find very attractive. Late Fall, before snow covers the ground (and the logs) in Eliza Howell Park, is the time I often go looking for them.

What I find especially fascinating is the contrast between the way the moss appears when I look down at the log from standing height…

… and the way it looks close-up and somewhat magnified.

There are thousands of different species of moss and I go from log to log to sample the differences.

In the major wooded area of Eliza Howell Park, there is a sizable vernal pool, not visible from the path. It typically dries up in late Summer and begins to refill with Winter precipitation. This wet and shady environment, with many fallen trees and tree limbs, is a great place for moss to flourish. It is now accessible.

Mosses are plants, seedless spore-bearing plants that have stems and leaves but no true roots. They help to decompose the logs and recycle the nutrients.

The pool is replenished by the Winter snows and Spring rains and has surface water for perhaps 8 months, providing a home and breeding area for a variety of animals, especially invertebrates. (The next photo is from April, as the leaves were just starting to grow on the trees in the background.)

As I walk the park on these gray days of December, I feequently take a detour to the vernal pool and take advantage of this opportunity to get close to the fascinating mosses.

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