Mosses and Lichens create forest fairy gardens!


Deep in Chapman Forest, Charles County, MD among the Virginia Pine needles  Pincushion moss and Cladonia lichen grow together. Lichens are not a plant, while mosses are! Mosses are defined as simple plants with the most basic of root structures, leaves, and stems. Lichens are a very different type of creature, called a composite organism. Not just a plant, lichens are actually a single entity created from a joining of algae and fungus.


Out of focus but you can see the perfect pincushion shape.



Cladonia looks and feels like something you’d use to scrub a pan! Cladonia is a genus of moss-like lichens in the family Cladoniaceae. They are the primary food source for reindeer and caribou.


This is Hair Cap moss,(Polytrichum commune/Polytrichum juniperinumi).  I thought it was called Star Moss and the pictures I Googled looked similar. But its Latin name is Tortula ruralis. Fortunatey I was with Rod Simmons who knows mosses. I can see that moss identification will be a challenge.


Hair Cap is on the left. I think the lighter moss is also Pincushion but not sure.


The celadon-colored, flute-shaped lichen are British Soldiers. Cladonia cristatella, commonly known as the British soldiers lichen, is a fruticose lichen belonging to the family Cladoniaceae. They were favorites of mine as a child. These are missing their definitive, very noticeable red hats.