Above: Little planet projection of a spherical panorama stitched from 25 photos taken by a Canon S100 on a Saturn V Rig atop a 24 foot tall carbon fiber pole. The green area at the center is a cryptogam garden.
The forest floor under most coniferous forests is covered with moss. Many species of moss and other cryptogams (e.g., liverworts, hornworts, ferns, clubmosses, horsetails) can tolerate low light and acid soil and are well adapted to dominate under a continuous forest canopy. The forest floor under deciduous forest is typically covered with dead leaves instead of moss (an observation). The annual deposit of dropped leaves could be what prevents moss growth (a hypothesis). If the mat of leaves is an important obstacle to moss growth, then removing the leaves periodically should allow moss to grow under a deciduous forest (a test of the hypothesis).
In 2009, I raked the leaves from a few hundred square feet of forest floor under a forest of maple, beech, birch, aspen, and pine in my backyard in Vermont. I repeated this once a year except for the year I never got around to it. I usually raked in the fall after most trees had lost their leaves, but sometimes I did it in the spring.
Above: The forest floor under a mostly deciduous forest before I started removing leaves (top), immediately after leaves were removed for the first time (middle), and after six years of more or less regular annual leaf removal (bottom). Leaves were raked a couple of weeks prior to taking the lower photo. Don't know what became of the boy.
Above: The forest floor under a mostly deciduous forest before I started removing leaves (top), immediately after leaves were removed for the first time (middle), and after six years of more or less regular annual leaf removal (bottom). Leaves were raked a couple of weeks prior to taking the lower photo.
Some moss was present before the raking started, especially on local high points (like boulders) where wind removed leaves, and steep slopes where leaves were more likely to fall away. After four or five years of removing leaves, moss covered more than half of the soil surface that had been free of moss. Neglecting to rake the leaves for a single year set back the moss invasion dramatically. This result is consistent with the hypothesis that deciduous leaves covering the ground every year prevent moss from spreading over very much of the forest floor.
To photograph the entire moss garden, a Saturn V Rig was attached to a Ron Thompson Gangster Pole. I did not use the uppermost two pole sections, so the total pole height was about 24 feet. A piece of flexible high-pressure PVC tubing (OD 17/32”) allowed the camera rig to hang vertically from the pole top. This tubing fits over the shaft on which the Saturn V Rig rotates and was secured with a cotter pin. The other end of the tubing fits snugly in the top of the (third smallest section of the) pole. A short piece of carbon fiber tube stiffened this joint, and duct tape wrapped over the joint held the tubing securely inside the pole.
Above: The south wind that brought 64°F air to Vermont on Christmas Eve was gusting to 30 mph overnight. One of the victims of this wind was a dead standing birch tree that I heard crash to the ground from inside the house. Sometimes you don't have to wait long between repeat photos to learn something about forest dynamics.