image of the month

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I was mesmerised recently by these striking moss-covered limbs of some sycamore trees in Chee Dale, beyond Rusher Cutting Tunnel. One part of it is the opportunity to get on birds-eye terms with the canopy so that one sees it from above. Then you can really enjoy the intricate, interlocking patterns of the branches, sub-branches and then a near-infinity of twigs and twiglets receding into the background. How complex an organism is a tree even to our gross senses.

The other part of my pleasure in this scene is the inversion of our standard hierarchy for the green stuff. We are so obsessed with trees – I too love trees but – that we spare little thought for what are notably termed ‘the lower plants’: the mosses, ferns and liverworts. Yet here you realise that these older ancestral plants are no mean performers in the business of life. Trees exist sometimes merely as a ligature to support the ubiquity and underpin the dominance of the humble mosses.

Mosses, incidentally, in the form of blanket bog (a product of sphagnum mosses) are arguably the most important creators of habitat in this country. And on that thought ….

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