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Meddling with Moss!


Ben Smethurst

I joined the Botany team for the day and I set off with Gintaras (Lichenoligist), Miguel, Matt and Lyn (Botanists) from the Herbarium, Arlee (the rogue entomologist) from UNSW was collecting some 'true bugs' using a beating sheet and an aspirator to suck the little critters into the sample jar! Our first stop was an open grass land. Here I helped collect a few plant specimens and helped use the field press to preserve them.

Near a 'lava tube' Gintaras explained how lichens (algae and fungus - a symbiotic relationship) vary depending on the vertical height within a tree. Each species prefers different amounts of light and moisture. Different species dominate different parts of the tree as it grows, furry ones, flat ones... Here I helped Lyn to gather moss too. I learned how they love to be sprayed by a water bottle and they appear to 'come alive' - from dormancy! I filmed it - it looked so cool how all the small leaflets unfurled and twisted in front of our eyes.

Lyn described how mosses don't rely on the substrate they are attached to for their nutrition. They don't have true roots, everything the moss needs will be absorbed through its leaves. They get it all from particulates in rain and the air! Some species of moss provide a place in the habitats that can help improve the moisture holding capacity of the soil and are helpful for germinating certain species of early colonisers, by keeping them hydrated.