FOUND — One Japanese Garden by the Side of the Trail

My family and I were on a trail at Big Basin Redwoods State Park when we saw a boulder-filled stretch of creek that intrigued us. I gazed at the rounded mossy boulders, abundant plants, branches and water. As I turned around, I noticed how beautiful and harmonious this spot was from every angle, like a Japanese Garden.

Big Basin Redwoods SP

The locale had a couple of plants that I want to mention. One is liverwort, which like moss, is a primordial plant without roots that takes in water from its leafy surface. To me, it’s an uncommon plant I see from time to time in a creek, and according to my plant ID resources, it’s found throughout the world, including deserts and the arctic.

Big Basin Redwoods State Park

The second plant I want to call out appears in the foreground of most of these photos showing off its bright green five-fingered leaves. My plant friends from Facebook say this is Western coltsfoot or petasites frigidus var. Palmatus.


Changing the topic back to moss; I’ve had a powerful interest in moss for approximately 10 years now. People often ask me, Why moss? I think this question implies something negative like “Why are you so interested in moss of all things?”

Mossy Rocks | Japanese Garden

I’ve asked myself the question over and over and I come up with the same answer each time. I have a lifelong love of color and texture and I’m infatuated with the bright green and fuzzy texture of moss. I want to have a modern and edgy sensibility — but if I’m honest, I actually have a romantic and sensual vision, and moss is linked to that vision.

I also love how moss is an element from the background. It’s like the cello and the bass in an orchestra; an instrument that rarely has a solo like a violin, flute or trumpet. I like flipping the symphony over on its head and making the cello the main instrument. In my mind, the moss represents what is overlooked, hidden, quiet and subtle; I love taking it out of the background and bringing it to the foreground.

Moss Plants


Moss, How I Love You…Let Me Count the Ways

Moss Photos

Mossy Photos


Five-sided green fuzzy cube, how I love thee! I love your sides. I love the grass and clover at your feet. I love the one small twig balanced on your edge.



Moss Photos


Some moss grows like small dots as you see above. When the dots (acrocarps) are close together, they make a luscious carpet. Other moss grows flatter (pleurocarps) and extend like rivulets of water or tiny clingy vines.

I’ve been pondering whether or not to “clean up moss”. After seeing others’ moss photos I’m going to bring a paint brush and tweezers to remove pine needles and grasses from future shots. Also, time for a macro lens!


Moss Photos

Moss Photos


Ever heard of a parking bollard? Neither had I. It’s a wood or cement block that marks the boundary of a parking space.




Abandoned Ski Resort, Japan

Abandoned Japanese Ski Resort

Photos of abandoned spaces are replent with moss. Visit Faerie Magazine online to see beautiful castles, gardens, bridges, and churches. Once the roof is gone, trees, plants and moss take over.

Here’s something a little more unexpected. An abandoned ski resort in Japan where the tables are now rich beds of moss. I wonder exactly where this is and how the photographer arrived at this spot. Were they hiking and decided to enter the resort? Were they searching for abandoned spaces? Did they have to pass through many dark and creepy passageways to get to this room?

Love abandoned places? See 50 more Abandoned Places


Update: I heard from Mossin’ Annie that this is a real photo, not a photoshop version. Some hikers (not botanists or moss lovers) stumbled upon the moss tables in their quest to visit abandoned places. (See Go Green with Moss on Facebook. Mossin’ Annie is the Moss Chief at Mountain Moss in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina.)

Moss Book by Karen Nierlich
Moss and Lichen by photographer Karen Nierlich captures images from around the Bay Area including Berkeley, Albany, Tilden, Muir Woods and the Dipsea Trail. Available from for $19.99. Click on book cover to access reviews and purchase!


Rain and Loss of Rain in Northern California

moss in the city

I’m feeling the loss of rain here in the Bay Area like many people. January is supposed to be the rainiest month of the year and we have had no rain! With the exception of a couple of cold days of strong wind, we’ve had warm, bright days. I miss our normal weather pattern with cold, wet days perfect for reading and making winter soups in the evenings and weekends. Those are my personal loses, but moreover, I worry for the plants and animals who are searching high and low for water and food to sustain them.

In early December we had a week of stormy days. We were all a buzz exclaiming over it. My friends and I learned a new word, “Pluviophilia” which means love of rain. I knew I liked the rain, but now in it’s absence I know I love it. I don’t want a year of sunny days with no rain. I want some of each in approximately equal parts!

Translucent Mushroom


Mushroom Trio


Moss Book by Karen Nierlich
Moss and Lichen is a collection of Moss images by photographer Karen Nierlich from around the Bay Area including the streets of Berkeley, Albany, Tilden, Muir Woods and the Dipsea Trail. Available from for $19.99. Click on book cover to access reviews and purchase!


Moss Photos in North Berkeley

These moss photos might appeal to those who love abstract art like artists Richard Diebenkorn, Mark Rothko and especially Robert Ryman. In me they evoke tender feelings of peace and harmony because of the combination of earthy & messy botanical stuff with the relative straight edges and hardness of the bricks! I also get a kick out of the little dandelion that makes it look like a tiny lawn with a tree.

This spot on Portland Avenue in Berkeley (near my brother’s house) had lots of different bricks as you can see the moss finds a toehold on the older pockmarked bricks not the newer bricks. I Imagine it had to do with the hardness and texture of the bricks.

Moss and Bricks Berkeley


White Brick and Moss Berkeley


Moss Photos Berkeley



Moss Photos in Rainy Berkeley CA

Lichen fence Berkeley

Got busy with my camera this week the minute the rain cleared because I checked some reports on California weather and learned we have just 2.5 months of winter left. This chartreuse moss photo is actually lichen. It covers a whole fence somewhere along the Arlington. Been by there several times trying to find a way to make this backdrop into an interesting photo. I may be using this image as the book cover. Love it so! But then it’s lichen…so a complication.

Arlington Avenue Berkeley

My walk took me up Portland Avenue to Colusa and then further up Vicente Ave to one of the “secret” stair paths up there. There are some gardeners there on Vicente who are crazy about succulents. Hats off to you all! I’ve included some of your gems.

Postbox and Succulents Berkeley

Moss Book by Karen Nierlich


Moss and Lichen book by Karen Nierlich.



West Berkeley Moss Photos

Mossy Fence Stannage Avenue Berkeley


West Berkeley fascinates me as a study in contrasts. There are modern homes and small, dilapidated ones. Day laborers wait up and down Hearst Avenue near Truitt & White Lumber for construction or gardening job. At the upscale boutiques and restaurants on 4th Street flocks of people socialize and shop. (Photo: Mossy Gate on Stannage Avenue West Berkeley)

Moss and Metal Grate at Hearst and 3rd Street Berkeley

There’s a rustic and an urban vibe in Berkeley. The rustic vibe consists of Mexican-inspired bright colored houses, vegetable gardens and chickens, handmade birdhouses and farmer’s markets produce. The urban vibe comes from the industrial businesses like a steel foundry, the freeway, and BART.

(Photos: Metal Grate at Hearst and 3rd Street Berkeley)

Moss and Metal Grate at Hearst and 3rd Street Berkeley



Classic Blue Dodge from the 40s Cedar Avenue West Berkeley

(Photo: Classic Blue Dodge from the 40s Cedar Avenue West Berkeley)

Mossy Chair Near Stannage and Gilman West Berkeley

(Photo: Lichen Chair Near Stannage Avenue and Gilman Avenue West Berkeley)


Mossy License West Berkeley, CA Near 4th Street Shopp

(Photo: Mossy License West Berkeley, CA near 4th Street Shopping)

Moss Book by Karen Nierlich

Moss Photo Book
 brought to you by Karen Nierlich, in Albany, CA. Follow me on Twitter or subscribe to the blog in the right sidebar.

Introducing Moss’ Mate Liverwort

I swear the person who named liverwort wasn’t thinking how they’d handle themselves on the playground. I mean really, “liver” and “wort”! His mother must have hated him!

Liverwort Smoky Mountains National Park
Bow Tie Shape is Liverwort

In the photo above the liverwort is the fleshy looking bow tie with the reptilian texture! The books I’ve been reading often talk about moss and liverworts together because they reproduce in a similar way—via sperm that swim and fertilize eggs in a separate female plants.

Liverwort Smoky Mountains National Park
More Liverwort

Like moss, liverworts appear in most every ecosystem around the world. Liverwort is everywhere except the very driest environments, there are species that live in the desert and there are approx. 9,000 specimens worldwide. Scientists used to consider them Bryophyta like moss but are now placing the liverwort in a different division. The only liverworts I’ve seen so far grow on the sides of rocks in streams and rivers where they are constantly wetted by the splash of water.

Liverwort Smoky Mountains National Park
Brown Tongues are Liverwort (I think)

According to Wikipedia, liverwort means “liver plant” in Old English and was named in ancient times for it’s supposed ability to cure liver disease. However, today it is not used as food or medicine. In fact, we humans don’t use it for anything except as an aquarium plant.

Moss Smoky Mountains National Park
Moss and Violet Plant

All photos in this post are from Smoky Mountains National Park. See more moss from the Smokies in a previous post at Sweet Tennessee Moss in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


Great Smoky Mountains
Jumping off Big Rock


Karen Nierlich is a photographer who is working on a fine art book about Moss. As Winter approaches she is thinking where she might travel in N. California to photograph moss. Any suggestions?

Moss Sex: New Discoveries

Well, sex is definitely overstating it a bit! When I and others use the word sex in connection to moss, it’s for fun or sensationalism and eyeballs.

When it comes to moss we are definitely talking about reproduction. I’ve been formulating an article about moss sex for a while but then the  scientific journal Nature came out with new research and new discoveries in July. Glad I waited…


Moss Spores | Tilden Botanical Garden
Moss Spores in Tilden Botanical Garden


Until recently it was believed that moss relied on water and moisture to get it’s sperm to the eggs. Most moss plants are either male or female. The eggs are contained in little pod-like structures called archegoniums and the sperm have to swim with the help of water to the eggs.

Moss grows everywhere, so I don’t see how anyone could truly be concerned that moss fertilization was impossible or seriously flawed. On the other hand, based on what scientists knew about moss reproduction, fertilization seemed like a difficult proposition. Some say the moss sperm are weak and unintelligent, they scarcely live long enough make the distance to the eggs and there is also the challenge of finding the ensconced eggs with no road signs.

The new discovery is that the moss reproductive process looks a great deal like what happens with flowers, pollen and bees. Some cute micro bugs called Springtails as well as mites, act like bees traveling around, in and through the moss and the sperm are able to hitch a ride to the female eggs. And like flowers, female moss emits a chemical or scent that helps the sperm and the Springtails to find it. (Male plants have a scent as well.)

So a couple of other cool moss sex facts:

Moss is one of most ancient plants on earth and evolved from the algae in the oceans. Moss, lichen, liverworts all have sperm. Other plants do not. Scientists consider moss to be caught in a time warp; they evolved early on and then stayed the same.

In addition to water, scents and Springtails, it may be that moss sperms are released from a little pod or case, that catapults them near and far and thus reduces the distance they travel on their own. Seems like you could test this out by videotaping a moss plant continuously. Like a reality show for moss.

Scientists say the new research raises more questions than it answers. Those questions include, what’s in it for the Springtails? What do they get out of their relationship with moss? And is this kind of pollinator relationship more common then we thought? If moss & springtails do it and flowers & bees, anyone else?

What other discoveries lie ahead:)

If you are riveted by moss sex, here are my sources:

Summary of Nature Journal Article: Sex-specific Volatile Compounds Influence Microarthropod-mediated Fertilization of Moss

Droll Article on Better Sex for Moss with an Amazing Springtail Video:
How Mosses Have Sex in Spite of Their Swimming-Challenged Sperm


Karen Nierlich Moss Enthusiast
Moss Enthusiast Karen Nierlich

Karen Nierlich is the author of I Heart Moss (Formerly Journal of a Moss Enthusiastic.) She’s looking forward to the rainy season and the opportunity to take more moss photos. She lives in Albany, CA with her husband, two kids, two cats and a dog.










Sweet Tennessee Moss in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

My father-in-law’s family and ancestors lived off the land and the forest in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. They lived in a small log cabin without electricity or running water. Fresh, fresh water ran in creeks and rivers nearby. His family and others were forced to accept payment from the Park Service and move off the land so that the land could be preserved as a park. Frank Abbott grew up on a farm immediately outside the park.

Moss photos Smoky Mountain National Park

We always head up to Big Rock when we visit my father-in-law. B-I-G Rock is a big rock that overhangs a busy river. There Frank and his brothers and friends played in the summers — jumping off the rock and catching crawdads in the waters below. In Spring, the waters flowing below Big Rock are fridge but it is one amazingly mossy spot. (cont. below)

Moss Great Smoky Mountains
Mossy, Flowery Outcropping in Great Smoky Mountains
Great Smoky Mountains
Jumping off Big Rock

Each year we go up there my husband and others jump off the rock…and…I…watch. I like to think I’m a fairly rugged girl but when it comes to cold water, I’m a total wimp.

This year I wanted to be able to show a photo of myself jumping off the rock to my Facebook friends. (I know, I know, I’m not proud of this.)  So I got up there and after 2-3 tries managed to jump off. The water felt like it’d melted off an ice pack mere seconds ago. I seriously felt like I’d get ice burn if I stayed in there. I swam and scrambled out of there as fast as I could. I think you can see how pained I was in the after photo below where you see me on the bank.



Great Smoky Mountains
Scrambling Up the Mossy Bank





Karen Nierlich is author of Journal of a Moss Enthusiast, Albany, CA. Photographic prints of some images will be available in the future and she is starting to put together a book of moss photos and text.