The amazing miniature world of moss

On the woodland walk from Finsthwaite to High Dam
On the woodland walk from Finsthwaite to High Dam

A few years ago I did a photography course over the winter, only to realise that it was the worst time of year I could have chosen. I was rapidly developing an interest in the photography of gardens (sorry about the pun – it was that or ‘growing an interest in garden photography!) and, except for a few bits and pieces of interest, the gardens were bare!

Taking on a winter project turned out to be a good thing though, because it made me look beyond the obvious, to some of the smaller details we often don’t really notice. I discovered a whole new miniature world of mosses, lichens and much, much more, and developed my own small collection of photographs, ‘Bryophytes and Lichens of Windermere’, which went on show at Kendal Museum shortly after.

Mosses, I learned, belong to a group of plants called bryophytes, as do liverworts and hornworts. I also learned that for an outsider to the subject, trying to make an accurate identification of each one I photographed was going to be next to impossible, so I instead settled on my own name interpretations for image captions (as you’ll see below)!

The more I looked and photographed, the more I realised what an exciting new level of detail there is out there to be explored – so next time you’re out in the Lake District, or anywhere else for that matter, I hope the following photos will encourage you to slow down and look out for the ‘little things’ we perhaps take for granted, but which are all around us!

Photographs from my ‘Bryophytes and Lichens of Windermere’ exhibition

'Moss balls' on an azalea
‘The Pincushion’: These moss balls (my description) are one of the most curious forms of moss I’ve come across – they grow on the ‘junctions’ between stems on an azalea in our garden, and look really attractive over the winter when the buds are forming on the plant but it has no leaves
Cladonia Fimbriata
‘Horns and Trumpets’: The lichen Cladonia Fimbriata (as confirmed by an expert in these things!), but I still prefer the name ‘Horns and Trumpets’…
Moss on beech tree, which resembles a tapestry
‘The Living Tapestry’: This moss perhaps doesn’t look much until you realise it is a moss and not a type of fern. I found it on a beech tree in woodland, and thought it resembles the stitch work of a tapestry. This macro photograph pictures a section of moss measuring just 8.5cm wide.
Moss which looks like a Bonsai tree
‘Bonsai in Miniature’: Again, found on the woodland floor, I thought this resembled a Bonsai tree

Photographs taken since that time

My obsession with photographing moss, in particular, has never really gone away. It’s a beautiful thing and actually, if you don’t like moss, you probably shouldn’t have a garden in the Lake District – it spreads like wildfire, so stand still long enough, and you may turn green yourself! Here are a few more mossy shots from around the Lakes which I have since added to my collection…

At Holehird Gardens, Windermere
At Holehird Gardens, Windermere

Macro image of moss

Macro image of moss

Macro image of moss

Macro image of mossMacro image of mossMacro image of moss

Macro image of moss on a tree


Macro image of moss

Macro image of moss


In the Southern Gardens at Brantwood
The Southern Gardens at Brantwood, looking towards Coniston Water through the trees – moss really competes with grass and will take over, but I love the way it creates a cushion effect, which looks great around pathways
The Painter's Glade at Brantwood
The Painter’s Glade at Brantwood

It’s easy to get wrapped up in hunting for the big views in the Lake District, but do you have special memories of a smaller detail it would have been easy to walk by and miss? Let us know by leaving a comment below!


  1. It’s been a little while since I went out in search of some new moss photos, so I think it might be time to take another look!

  2. Thanks, Janine, amazing pictures.

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