Shady Dell’s Smallest Wonder

A view of the Lost Coast from Shady Dell .
A view of the Lost Coast from Shady Dell .

The Lost Coast is a destination for intrepid hikers who enjoy the rough and uninterrupted coastline of Mendocino County. If you’re one of them, I recommend you take some time looking underfoot next time you explore the wilderness to see what sort of cryptic and special plants are growing nearby because there are some amazing plants out there!

A highly unassuming and very rare moss was just found at Shady Dell, the forested beach property recently protected by the League at the south end of the Lost Coast. The moss is called the poor pocket moss, Fissidens pauperculus, and was hiding in plain sight. Botanists stumbled upon the tiny plant (it is less than half an inch tall) while studying where to extend a mile of the coastal trail along the property. Now that we know the poor pocket moss is there, we will be working with our partners to protect its habitat and route the new trail around the spot this delicate plant makes its home.

Mosses are fascinating because they resemble some of the earliest plants that grew on land. They are small in stature because they do not have tissues to transport water inside themselves (unlike trees which have wood), instead they hydrate by directly absorbing water from the environment. That’s why moss are so soft and green in the winter and then turn brown as conditions dry out. Amazingly, mosses rehydrate really quickly soon as it rains again.

Learn more about Shady Dell and ongoing work to protect this amazing place here.

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About Emily Burns

Emily Burns, the League’s former Director of Science, led the research program that includes the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative. She holds a PhD in Integrative Biology on the impacts of fog on coast redwood forest flora from the University of California, Berkeley.

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