Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Miniature World of Mosses and Lichens

With so much to take in visually at the Arboretum, the miniature plants right at our feet are often overlooked. One day, I ran into a couple with their grandchildren. They had magnifying glasses in their hands and they said they were on a “treasure hunt” to find moss. What a great idea!

At first glance, mosses and lichens look like just patches of gray or green that can be found on trees, rocks, or the ground. Upon closer inspection, however, you will discover these fascinating plants are Lilliputian, almost from alien-like worlds. Next time you visit the Arboretum, bring a magnifying glass, your macro camera lens or extension tubes, and hunker down to get a closer look.

Mosses, hornworts, and liverworts are bryophytes, which are non-vascular plants that produce spores, rather than flowers and seeds. They are often seen in damp, shady areas. Lichens are not related to mosses, although they are sometimes found together. Lichens are usually gray or green-gray, and have a drier look, whereas moist mosses are varying shades of green, gold, or reddish-brown and have a softer, appearance.

Here are some of areas of the Arboretum where you can find mosses and lichens:
  • The Fernery is one of the best places to view mosses. Crouch down to get close and really appreciate these tiny plants.
  • The Japanese Overlook Garden has mosses and lichens on several rocks, as well as on some trees, and the Japanese Hill Garden has a lovely moss carpet.
  • Look for mosses and lichens on the walls of the grotto (below the Mercury Loggia), on the stone seat bridge by the Sculpture Garden, in the shady areas of the Rose Garden rock wall, and on Lydia’s Seat (the hidden stone seating area above the Rose Garden).
  • Take a look up instead of down this time and you’ll find moss on the roof of the Log Cabin.
  • If you have children with you, have them look for mosses and lichens at the Garden Railway. They may find lichens on some stones, or moss is used to look like grass in front of some of the little houses. Mosses are great for miniature displays like fairy gardens and railways.

For more information, look for books such as Common Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians and Common Lichens of Northeastern North America: A Field Guide, or websites such as Oregon State University’s web page on basic moss biology. The Arboretum sometimes has classes on moss. On October 16, a field trip, the Mosses of Fulshaw Craeg Preserve offers an excellent opportunity to identify and learn more about mosses and liverworts. Register today.

Article and photos contributed by Kristen Bower, Guest Garden Blogger for Morris Arboretum

Monday, October 5, 2015

5 Unsuspecting Reasons to Take a Guided Tour of the Morris Arboretum

1. Free Vitamin D
Unlike many of the plants you will see while strolling through the beautiful Morris Arboretum, we as humans do not photosynthesize. However, we do still need a healthy dose of sunlight! Vitamin D is vital for a healthy immune system, strong bones and teeth. So come grab some vitamin D while on one of our regularly scheduled guided tours. They are every Saturday and Sunday at 2:00pm, and no reservations are necessary.

2.  Keep Your Mind Sharp
Learning new things is a great way to keep your mind sharp and the creative juices flowing. Engaging your brain will help to improve your memory and attitude.
This fall at the Arboretum join the Small Trees for Small Spaces tour. This one-hour guided tour will keep you engrossed by highlighting small trees that make a big impact. Check out the website for specific dates and details. Come learn something new and exercise your brain as you learn from the Arboretum’s knowledgeable guides.  

3.  Escape
Do you ever feel like you want to go on an adventure, but you just don’t have the time? No matter what the reason, we have the perfect remedy for you! Come find solace at the Morris Arboretum. As soon as you pass through the beautiful iron entrance gates, you get the sense that you are no longer in Philadelphia. Take a mini adventure on one of our guided tours through the striking gardens here at the Arboretum. You will learn fascinating history, and get lost in the compelling environment of the Arboretum. Escape your hectic lifestyle for an hour or so and come visit.  

4. Give a Unique Gift
Sometimes giving the gift of an experience is better than any material good. Generally, people are more likely to hold on to a memory of an experience, rather than a peculiar re-gifted garden gnome. Whether you are attending a birthday party, a retirement party, or a holiday event, we have the perfect gift idea for you.

The Arboretum offers group tours of many varieties. Regardless of interest, there is a tour for everyone. The Morris Arboretum offers tour topics such as: Art in the Garden; Japanese Elements; LEED Horticulture Center and Green Roofs Tour; Victorian Garden and many more. Check out our website to see the full list, or contact Lisa Bailey ( or 215.247.5777 x157) for more information and scheduling.

5. Nature Rx
If you are interested in slowing down, being unreasonably happy or de-stressing, come check out the Morris Arboretum! Nature has been proven to help do all of these things and more. The Morris Arboretum is a great place to come enjoy nature and a guided tour can help you facilitate your visit.

Article contributed by guest Garden Blogger Betsy Thompson.