North Cascades National Park Mosses and Liverworts

Not so long ago, ancient forests filled the valleys of the North Cascades. Curving corridors still drip with lush dark green tiny plants. Mysterious, shaggy plants of primitive origin cover the forest floor and drape from branches, as if dripping like the incessant rainfall. Soft carpets cover every branch, nurse log, and rock. They cushion and replenish forest soils.

Tiny moss forests seem like a microcosm of the ancient forest. Change, dependence on clean air and water, and unique phases of life determine their existence.

These cryptogams are like 'hidden puzzles' of untold variety. They are among the most abundant (hundreds of species in the North Cascades) and least understood plants on earth. Lacking roots and the vascular system common to seed plants, they rely on nutrients dissolved in the damp, wet air. Each fall and spring lush carpets expand, grow and reproduce as they literally suck in and reserve moisture during the wet times of the year. During the coldest and driest times, mosses and liverworts can let go of their moisture and dry out without dying. They do this during the frozen winter and dry hot summer. Surviving with little sunlight or contact with soil, these amazing plants remind us of ancient times and forests that will continue to cycle through time.

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