Floating Moss

I hiked up toward Tangerine Falls today and in a small pool I found moss floating on the surface of the water.
Floating moss island

Much of the pool was covered with bits of moss…
A pool of moss

A few moss islands

The moss is not attached to the ground under the water, I picked one up and looked underneath.
No roots

Perhaps the grows on the rocks and spreads out onto the water until it breaks off? But there seems a lot more moss in the water than on the rocks. (Perhaps someone came by yesterday and pulled moss off the rocks and placed it in the water?)

I contacted a byrologist (or whatever the proper term is) and he told me that the moss is probably Pohlia wahlenbergii and it does not naturally form floating islands. He suggests that someone picking it off the rocks is the more likely explanation.
Perhaps the moss floats off the rocks

I looked at adjacent pools and found none with floating moss, but also none with this kind of moss at all.

The water in this creek is odd, I presume it has a high sulfur content (after all the falls is called tangerine) don’t know if that affects things.

Map of the area, the text is too small to read here, click on the map to see a legible version. The location of the pool is the blue circled cross just to the west of the “Cold Spring West Fork” label. N34.4666052° W119.6584374° elevation ~400meters.

I’ve never seen moss do this before (if indeed it has) and I’m intrigued.


One Response to “Floating Moss”

  1. Katie (Nature ID) Says:

    Hi, George. It’s been ’bout 5 years since I last commented on your blog, but as you know, I love a good ID challenge. Your “floating moss” inquiries intrigued me, so I took a look online.

    I’m guessing you have one of the splashzone mosses. My best guess is Scouleria marginata, possibly Scouleria aquatica (or other?). Both spp. are native to CA, but due to recent molecular biology barcoding, naming of species seems to be up in the air these days with very few real life observations, through the seasons, over the course of years (e.g., I don’t think these mosses are always black at the bases, given timing of the year, their life cycles, and if provided enough H2O).

    I did find a single EOL reference, “attached to rocks and either floating or exposed in low water (Lawton 1971)”. I’m still not a big fan of EOL, and I couldn’t locate the specific 1971 Elva Lawton reference that is so often cited. Hope this helps. I’m including the online references I found below.


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