Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Moss on the ground

with 24 comments

From November 1st comes a close and bright look at moss on the ground.
The dry leaves fallen onto the moss were from Ashe junipers, Juniperus ashei.

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You may have heard of Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist and political dissident. The other day we watched Margaret Hoover interviewing him in November 2021 for her television show Firing Line. I was glad to hear him warning about the danger of political correctness in the United States, which he said reminded him of the “Cultural Revolution” in China. If you’re not familiar with that horrible movement, it entailed the persecution of tens of millions of people and the deaths of many of them. Here’s the relevant portion of the interview:

Ai Weiwei: But certainly, in the United States, with today’s condition, you can easily have an authoritarian. In many ways, you’re already in the authoritarian state. You just don’t know it.

Margaret Hoover: How so?

Ai Weiwei: Many things happening today in U.S. can be compared to Cultural Revolution in China.

Margaret Hoover: Like what?

Ai Weiwei: Like people trying to be unified in a certain political correctness. That is very dangerous.

You may recall that back in June I highlighted the testimony of Xi Van Fleet, a refugee from Communist China who made the same point to the “woke” Loudoun County School Board in Virginia.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 19, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

24 Responses

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  1. Despite your title, when I first glimpsed this color I thought you’d found stonecrop. Most of the moss I see tends toward shades of green, with less yellow. This comes closer to chartreuse.

    Your mention of the Maoist Cultural Revolution sent me to my archives in search of the post that marked my recognition of similarities to developments in our own country. I saved it in 2012, a year after its publication; every year since, the destruction of the “Four Olds” in the United States has become more apparent.

    In the mid-1960s, a national high school debate topic was “Resolved: That the People’s Republic of China should be admitted to the United Nations.” In 1971, that took place. Today, the old playbook is still being used.


    November 19, 2021 at 6:52 AM

    • I see why you thought of stonecrop, even if stonecrop doesn’t flower at this time of year. To my eyes, this shaded moss did seem more green; flash rendered the color more chartreuse.

      How interesting that a decade ago you already recognized modern American parallels to the destruction of the “Four Olds” in Communist China. As you said, the similarities have grown stronger in the decade since then. 2020 and 2021 accelerated the process to its highest level so far—which is what prompted me to start writing my commentaries.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2021 at 7:11 AM

  2. Mosses are fascinating. I wondered whether this was Common haircap moss/star moss (Polytrichum commune), but your mention of the junipers made me think it might be Juniper Hair-cap moss (Polytrichum juniperinum). Pretty whatever the name.


    November 19, 2021 at 6:53 AM

    • Mosses are fascinating indeed, and a subject I know nothing about. Armed with your genus name (thanks), I searched and found that Polytrichum commune does grow in Texas, but Polytrichum juniperinum isn’t marked for Texas on the distribution map at http://www.efloras.org/object_page.aspx?object_id=84764&flora_id=1. Whether additional species are found in the state, I don’t know, nor would I know how to distinguish one Polytrichum species from another. As you said so well: “Pretty whatever the name.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2021 at 7:27 AM

  3. The moss is luminous!
    As for The political comment, it’s important to safeguard democracy, now more than ever.

    Alessandra Chaves

    November 19, 2021 at 7:30 AM

  4. Moss shot from above appears like a dense tropical rainforest.

    Peter Klopp

    November 19, 2021 at 9:33 AM

  5. It looks like thousands of Silkmoth caterpillars sort of as they’re more green than yellow, but really neat moss!


    November 19, 2021 at 10:04 AM

  6. Looking at Peter Klopp’s description, I had to agree with his perception. Fortunately there were the scaly leaves of the J. ashei to provide a sense of scale. As for the current political climate, I sense that it has more in common with Germany in the 1930s than with China in the late 20th Century. Or maybe the two in opposition to each other. But reasonable minds may differ, and discuss rationally, while irrational minds will bully and make battle.


    November 19, 2021 at 11:12 AM

    • I appreciate your wordplay with the scaly Juniper leaves providing a sense of scale (at least for those of us familiar with Ashe juniper).

      As for historical political analogies, I found it telling that two people who have experienced Chinese totalitarianism find similarities in some things going on in the United States. Of the few people still alive who suffered persecution in Nazi Germany, I don’t know if any of them see a similarity in any things happening in the United States now.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 19, 2021 at 3:21 PM

      • You may be right. I think Jonathan Swift or Ambrose Bierce would both be at home in the current changing climate, political or otherwise. I’ll leave it there. I have resolved not to rant, but to try to focus on the native plants.


        November 21, 2021 at 10:35 AM

  7. Nice view of the moss as an abstract.

    Overzealous political correctness is certainly a problem facing us but there are many other threats to our democracy and way of life. We are a mess right now and I don’t see anyone offering a solution from any direction. The lines are drawn and compromise is considered an evil by too many. Until we are willing to listen to each other and give a little things are only going to get worse.

    Steve Gingold

    November 20, 2021 at 2:18 AM

    • Once again you can call me Mr. Abstraction.

      As a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras in 1968-69 I began to notice people not listening to one another but waiting to jump right into a conversation as soon as possible to make some point. You may recall that on and off over the last few months I’ve been randomly asking strangers what they think about the state of the country, and every single one has said it’s terrible. It’s also been the case that when I’ve asked them to elaborate on why they feel that way, everybody (with one exception) has seemed like a reasonable person.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 20, 2021 at 6:08 AM

  8. […] post gave you a close view of a moss carpet in northwest Austin on November 1st. Many spiderwebs parallel to the ground lay near by, made […]

  9. I’m becoming more and more attracted to these types of shots looking straight down at what’s below us, full of texture and sometimes color. Interesting how the central part of the moss appears to be changing to colors that match the Ashe juniper leaves.

    Todd Henson

    November 23, 2021 at 12:53 PM

    • Like you, I noticed the way those central mosses were drying out and coincidentally taking on the same colors as the fallen Ashe juniper leaves. Straight-down views can be rewarding but the closer the camera is, the more potential problems there are in getting everything in focus. To deal with that I used flash so I could set a small aperture for good depth of field.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 23, 2021 at 5:21 PM

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