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Mollyblobs

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Friday 18 February 2011: Moss

I've been struggling today to find anything worthy of a photograph. The weather's turned cold and grey - not a shred of sunshine all day. I took the dogs out after lunch along the river - and it was so boring! Hardly any birds, no people - just quiet greyness. I came home and looked round the garden, which was more interesting, with hellebores, cyclamen and forsythia in bloom, but there just wasn't enough light to do any of them justice. And so in the end I plumped for moss.

I love moss! It's so often overlooked, but its greeness is particularly welcome in the winter, and it's mosses and liverworts that give many of our shaded habitats (woodlands and gorges) their special character, and that woodsy smell. About this time last year I got very into the identification of mosses, but unfortunately our part of the world doesn't have a hugely diverse flora - the north and west are much better!

The moss I've photographed is Capillary Thread-moss Bryum capillare. It's very common all over the UK, and is almost certainly lurking somewhere in your garden or street. Mosses produce capsules containing spores and those of Capillary Thread-moss are produced in spring and summer, droop very characteristically and have a reddish seta (stalk). The leaves have a small pale-green nerve extending from the end, and in dry weather they twist spirally, making the shoots look a bit like corkscrews. These fascinating plants look even better under the microscope but so far I haven't got around to doing any photomicrography!

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