You could be forgiven for thinking that winter is a time when you won’t see anything new at the Center; it’s true most of the plants here are waiting for spring to look their best. But the cool damp weather that winter brings to our part of the world is just right for mosses, ferns, and other plants that thrive at this time of year.
The rich green velvet of mosses can be found on trees, stones, even bricks and concrete. These plants are holdouts from another era millions of years ago, and despite lacking some of the more sophisticated structures of modern plants, mosses continue to flourish wherever they have access to water. The tiny moss leaves can be just one cell thick, and can extract water from the air. The English Oak, at the southeastern end of the grounds, hosts a particularly lush crop of moss at this time of year.
Ferns are also an ancient type of plant; they are a large and diverse group, having had millennia to adapt and evolve. Here at the Center you can see the familiar green feathery fronds growing in the planted beds under the Crape Myrtles along the path, as well as up in the English Oak with the moss! Ferns develop from a characteristic “fiddlehead,” where the new leaves uncurl from a tight coil. Rather than reproducing from seeds, most ferns develop spores on the underside of the leaves, which are dispersed into the soil. The spores grow into tiny plants, which in turn produce reproductive cells. The male reproductive cells must actually swim through water to the female cells, to fertilize them and ultimately develop into a new fern plant—quite remarkable.