Ah, we just got another Indian summer day. There’s no way I can stay in the house when November’s temperatures get into the 60s, so Clover and Gottoo, who are always begging to take a walk, and I, took a long beautiful walk up to the cow pasture and beyond. The pasture was at its most appealing, close-cropped and smooth except for rocks and a scattering of barberry bushes to add a touch of red here and there. The pussytoes lay perfectly flat against the ground, their leaves silver rosettes. The mosses were greener than the grass, showing off their myriad shapes and textures with no need to compete with taller vegetation.
The most prominent plants at this time of year, however, are the lichens. These unusual plants form a symbiotic partnership between a fungus and an alga. It's a very happy marriage as the fungus shares his house with the alga, who provides the food for the two of them. Neither partner has roots, stems, leaves or flowers, but a fungus doesn't even have chlorophyll, so he's delighted to give shelter to the algae who do.
The gray-green lace doilies growing on our pasture rocks are lichens. Reindeer moss, the wiry clumps of pastel green growing in open spaces in the woods, is another. The algae who live in these houses are often single-celled like the green scum found in stagnant ponds. Old man's beard (not to be confused with Spanish moss which is a flowering plant of the pineapple family) drips down in long flowing streams from the branches of trees in damp forests.Some of the most appealing lichens, British soldiers, also known as red cap moss, and fairy cups, are species of Claydonia.