I visited the Flat Rock Sanctuary of Massachusetts Audubon recently, located in a woodsy corner of Fitchburg. The trail led up a hill loaded with large granite boulders among scrambling masses of mountain laurel glistening in the sun. This inviting path eventually evened out and was lined with a carpet of pine needles as I ascended to 951 feet, where large flat rocks called “balds” emerged. Naturalized stands of lowbush blueberry, silvery reindeer moss, small birch trees and low native grasses wound among the balds.
The bright green haircap mosses carpeting the edges of these stands and many of the boulders caught my eye. I remembered that mosses photosynthesize strongly in winter when the leaves are off the overstory trees above (a mix of beech, maple, oak with the occasional white pine). Mosses have no real root system and attach to rocks or soil via rhizoids. They are especially plump now after winter snow melt and drenching rain in the cool weather.
Another sign of spring were the swelling buds on beech and maple trees, along with the drumming of woodpeckers on hollow trees deeper in the woods. What a pleasant interlude!