One of the pleasures of living in Eugene is having so many charming bits of nature tucked away close to home. These little gems of fascination are scattered around town in parks, alleys and roadsides. There is something to be discovered every day.
Exploring different routes around the neighborhood fulfills the need for exercise while enjoying the surprise of encountering what I’ve not seen before. At this time of year mosses luxuriate, so my eye is drawn to mosses on seepy rock walls. Just last week I found a hillside with at least 20 or 30 different kinds of mosses. A new short, but steep, walk up a hill adds a cardio boost along with an opportunity to watch the unfurling of roadside bigleaf maple flowers.
I like to talk to people I meet, often learning what I didn’t know. A fisherman tells me there are big bass in nearby ponds. I pick up trash as I go, for the benefit of walkers coming later. I pull up nasty invasive plant species. But my mind is now preoccupied with a different kind of invasive species, one that spreads between humans rather than on the ground: COVID-19. I cannot root it out. Instead, it controls my opportunities away from home. I am captive. No distant hiking for some time. I will miss seeing the bloom of the pig-a-back plant out at Sweet Creek. I want to study its hybrid with the fringe cup. That project is on hold indefinitely.
David Wagner is a botanist who has worked in Eugene for 40 years. He teaches moss classes, leads nature walks and publishes the Oregon Nature Calendar. Contact him directly at FernZenMosses@me.com.