Symbiosis

Moss neatly tucked into bark

Moss neatly tucked into bark

One of the things that always fascinates me is moss growing on tree bark.  This particular image was taken of a spot of particularly “tall” moss growing on some extremely rough bark.  I don’t know what kind of tree it is, nor do I know what kind of moss it is, but I had fun shooting it.

The thing is, it doesn’t quite translate in the image.  I considered shooting from an angle that’s parallel to the tree trunk to get something more interesting.  However, the bark would have blocked the view of the moss had I done that.

I like the relationship of the moss and the bark.  The moss has found its way into the cracks and crevices and filled a gap in the surface of the tree.  I don’t know if the moss benefits the tree in any way or if this is a one-way relationship.

According to eHow (of which I am somewhat skeptical in general, but the tiny bit of information about mosses on trees seems like it might be correct), mosses are considered epiphytic plants.  According to Merriam-Webster, an epiphyte is a plant that obtains its nutrients and water from the air and rain, but lives on another plant.  This seems to support eHow’s claim that most mosses are harmless to the trees they grow on.  It also seems they do not benefit the tree, but who knows, maybe we just haven’t discovered how yet?

But, this view of the relationship suggests mosses are squatters.  I am somewhat envious of this way of life.  Tiny moss spores float on the breeze, land in a nice, moist crevice protected from the sun, sprout and flourish.  They are off the grid.  They produce their own food through photosynthesis.  They collect moisture and the tiny bit of sun they need from their perch.

I imagine the tree bark makes an appealing location because of the moisture it collects and the shade the tree provides, but imagine the view!  As a tiny little plant, the view of the park before it must seem as impressive as a view of the Grand Canyon to us.  Granted, it might be better enjoyed if the moss actually had eyes.  But, how do we know the moss doesn’t have it’s own way of appreciating the view?

Some birds use moss in their nests.  At least, I think that’s true.  I was thinking of hummingbirds, but they actually use lichens woven together with spider webs, not moss.

A quick google turned up about 9 types of birds that use moss to line their nests, including the Robin.  So, there you have it.  The moss grows on the trees, the birds gather the moss to line their nests, probably contributing to propagation of the moss.  Birds benefit trees by eating insects off of them, spreading their seeds, and fertilizing them.  Therefore, moss benefits trees by attracting birds.  It’s an indirect symbiotic relationship.

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One response to “Symbiosis

  1. Pingback: Weekend Walk in the Woods | Two Voices, One Song

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