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Is your favorite beach access currently off limits? Is the park you were hoping to visit closed?

Are you’re doing your part to “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus pandemic by staying home, but are hankering to be out in nature?

Now’s a great time to enjoy the tiny wonders of your own yard -- or even your front stoop.

The moss on our front steps is starting to spread following a since-regretted powerwash several years ago. Only a couple of inches tall, some of these tiniest chickweeds -- with barely-visible white flowers -- have already bloomed. The elfin chickweeds have managed to root in a bit of soil caught in the minute cracks between the risers and treads of the concrete block steps leading up to our front door; where the soil is deeper or the cracks wider, a few infant daisy plants have sprouted.

Nearby, bits of branches brought down by winter winds are decorated with abundant lichens, bright and plump from recent rains.

Around the corner, the trunks and large branches of our backyard apple trees are heavily festooned with lichens and mosses. And if you look closely, you might see an invertebrate clambering through or sliding along; if you wait quietly, perhaps the chickadees or a nuthatch will come close while searching the lichens for a snack.

Mosses, lichens, and an occasional liverwort also thrive in the potted plants on the back deck. Some of the mosses are already sending up their spore-bearing capsules—my favorite is the moss with curlicue setae (“stems”). The curls in the cord moss setae will straighten as they dry out and as the capsules mature, but now in short ringlets, they remind me of curling ribbon -- a special gift.

On the other side of the front stoop, tucked beside a living sibling, the long-dead limb of an old rhodie still bears the dried bracts of a turkey tail fungus, now with some of the stripes stained green with algae.

Not just “making lemonade from lemons,” slowing down and observing the small life immediately around us is always rewarding.

For information on how you can arrange your own exploration of our fascinating natural history, contact Marty Giles at 541-267-4027,, or Questions and comments about local natural history are welcome.


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