Mossiest Trees Ever (I Say)

More moss photos from the Dipsea trail

Mossy Tree Trunks, Dipsea Trail Marin California
10 Mossy Tree Trunks, Dipsea Trail Marin California

We found the mossiest trees I’ve ever seen while hiking the Dipsea Trail from Muir Woods to Stinson Beach! You can see them right here—the pose makes me think of rock album covers. You know the ones where the band members are all spaced out and looking cool. I was hopeful that this spot might be mossy all summer, but I’ve already been back and not so. A month later and there is nothing but drier and dry moss.

Mossy Tree Trunks
3 Mossy Trees Close Up, Dipsea Trail, Marin CA


Mossy Trees

Kids Walking the Dipsea Trail, Marin CA

Happy Moss-ter Day

Hiked today with my family to celebrate Mother’s Day in Marin from Muir Woods to Stinson Beach on the Dipsea Trail. For those who don’t live in the Bay Area, the Dipsea Trail has a local cult standing due to a competitive running race that takes place there each year. Today as we hiked the trail we were repeatedly passed by runners going from regular to full throttle over the dirt trails.

I ‘m happy because as we approached Stinson Beach the trees became mossier and mossier. The sky and trees started to drip like a light rain. Really it was the condensation from the fog.

It was super mossy. I realized I had been worried about running out of moss to photograph during the summer months. Looks like if I explore Marin near the coast, I’ll find lots of moss to photograph all summer long. Here is one of the many photos I took today.

moss with raindrops
Moss on Dipsea Trail, Marin


mossy trees on Dipsea Trail
Kids, Kelly, Tod on Dipsea Trail between Muir Woods and Stinson





Dave Crockett’s Tavern and a Mossy Roof

Recently my family and I visited Tennessee to see my father-in-law. There a number of sites we revisit each time we are in Morristown, TN. One of them is a tavern Dave Crockett’s parents owned and he lived in as a boy. He was born in 1786 and from what I read the tavern was build in 1795 (though this structure is actually a reproduction built in the early 1900’s.)

My interest (of course) is to show you this roof covered with buttery dollops of moss, though I’ll include a few photos of the location overall. It’s so ball-like that must be a feature of how this moss grows. Love these moss pom-poms.

Mossy Shingle Roof


 Carriage House at Crockett Tavern
 Crockett Tavern Sign
 Crockett Tavern
 Fence at Crockett House

Lichen or Moss?

Cup Lichen
Cup Lichen

I took this photo 2-3 years ago and thought until this week it was moss.

This enchanting specimen is commonly known as Pixie Cups, for the tiny cups of course. It grows through out the US and Canada and supposedly if you walk in the woods and train your eyes on rotting logs and tree stumps you’ll find it there. It’s scientific name is Cladonia which applies to a whole family of cup shaped lichens. My first lichen ID!

In the Beginning…There was Moss

There are innumerable cool facts about moss.

Moss Facts 1. Moss was the first plant on earth. Algae adapted to life on earth…evolving into lichen, liverworts and moss.

2. Mosses live all over the world. There are over 10,000 species of moss worldwide.

3. Mosses tend to grow in moist places, but some species are drought tolerant and cold tolerant.

4. Mosses don’t have roots.
5. Mosses are anchored to earth, rock, trees by rhizoids which look like tiny roots. The rhizoids are a thread like structure but don’t absorb water or nutrients.
tilden186. Mosses get their nutrients from rainwater, dew, fog and sunlight. They may get nutrients from the top layer of soil, if they are touching it.

7. Mosses don’t produce pollen, seeds or flowers. They reproduce via spores.

8. Mosses grow in a wider range of light exposures than other plants, from bright to dark.
9. Mosses have been used over the centuries as pillow stuffing, wound dressing and diapers. It is not used as a human food to the best of my knowledge.
10. Mosses collectively provide more carbon offset than all the trees in the world.


Nature LoverKaren Nierlich is the author of the book Moss and Lichen and takes photos around the San Francisco Bay Area.

She also curates a collection of forest-inspired jewelry and gifts for nature lovers at

My First MOSS Photos were of–LICHEN

Lichen & Moss Trees
Lichen Covered Trees Stanislaus National Forest

My interest in photographing moss began several years ago when I spent some time on my own at a trailhead in the Stanislaus National Forest. My family and I and my husband’s brothers and their families were vacationing in the vicinity of Pinecrest as we do most Thanksgivings. My young son had fallen asleep in the car and I decided to hang around the car so he could sleep while the others went to look for a sledding spot.

There was snow on the ground and I was walking around when I noticed these bright green Dr. Suess-like-rings on many trees. There were a large number of trees on the snowy landscape next to the parking lot. Each tree had identical concentric circles of chartreuse lichen and the snow greatly highlighted the color. (Moss and Lichen are closely related.)

Lichen Ringed Trees

I’d never seen this formation before though I’ve noticed it a handful of times since but with the snow the rings were more visible and beautiful. I haven’t stopped wondering what makes this cool rings. My best guess is it has to do with the way the snow melts off the trees.

Close Up of Lichen Ringed Trees
Close Up of Lichen Ringed Trees

I used my point & shoot camera to take photos that day. It’s not pro equipment but this camera always took great photos. Emotionally, I know these lichen photos to be the inspiration for what became my moss project. The project seems to be about nature authentically observed but including a quirky or unexpected angle.  Dr. Suess and Andy Goldworthy rolled into one.