sandhills pyxie-moss

1.28.24 ~ North Carolina Botanical Garden

It’s been a challenge getting outside with all the rain we’ve been getting lately. It was drizzling when we got to the botanical garden Sunday afternoon, even though the weather people had promised that the sun would be coming out. We decided to walk anyway.

Along the path we met a staffer named Lauren, who was out in the rain looking for salamanders. We fell into a nice conversation and when we told her about our hunt for seedbox a couple of weeks ago she suggested another plant for us to hunt down. A tiny pyxie-moss was flowering now. She showed us a picture of it on her cell phone, and gave us directions to its location. We found it!

By then it had stopped raining so I went back to the car and got my camera. What a treat to see this plant so rare and unique to the Carolinas!

A rare minute creeping subshrub of xeric areas in the Sandhills region of North Carolina. This is the smaller of our two species of pyxie-moss. Very range-restricted, the entire known range of this species is a handful of counties in North and South Carolina.
… The tiny succulent evergreen leaves are less than 5 mm long. … The flowers rarely set seed and the seeds rarely sprout.
~ Carolina Nature website

After enjoying our discovery we went on to explore more of the soggy gardens. There is always something different to see. It was still a damp, gray day.

pretty sure this is a longleaf pine

This resurrection fern was growing abundantly on one side of a tall tree stump. On the other side of the stump it was all mushrooms.

I couldn’t get around to the back of the stump for a full all-mushroom shot, but you can see where the ferns ended and the mushrooms began in the photo below.

I close my eyes and listen to the voices of the rain. … Every drip it seems is changed by its relationship with life, whether it encounters moss or maple or fir bark or my hair. And we think of it as simply rain, as if it were one thing, as if we understood it. I think that moss knows rain better than we do, and so do maples. Maybe there is no such thing as rain; there are only raindrops, each with its own story.
– Robin Wall Kimmerer
(Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge & The Teachings of Plants)

lichens on a fallen branch
‘lemon drop’ swamp azalea buds
‘Spain’ rosemary flowering
Atlantic ninebark (rose family) seed head
Ozark witch-hazel blooming
witch-hazel marcescence
winterberry aka black alder

And you know the light is fading all too soon
You’re just two umbrellas one late afternoon
You don’t know the next thing you will say
This is your favorite kind of day
It has no walls, the beauty of the rain
Is how it falls, how it falls, how it falls

~ Dar Williams
♫ (The Beauty of the Rain) ♫

Lauren had mentioned that rainy days are the best time to look for salamanders. On warm wet nights from January to March here in the Piedmont they emerge from their underground burrows and head for vernal pools to mate and lay eggs. A week after that artic blast it did get unseasonably warm. I wonder if she found any salamanders after we talked. We kept our eyes open but didn’t see any.

23 thoughts on “sandhills pyxie-moss”

  1. How wonderful to have these “walks” turn into treasure hunts! And sharing your walk is always a delight for me! Have you considered taking a master naturalist course and sharing your interests with others at that (or other) garden space?

    1. So happy to hear that you’re enjoying the treasure hunt walks, Janet! I had never heard of a master naturalist and your comment started me doing some research. Lots of food for thought. I think we will spring for membership at the garden and sign up for some of their lectures and workshops.

  2. What a lovely walk … and how many interesting things you found! I know I tend to hole up indoors on rainy days (perhaps fearing I’ll melt?!?), when often, those are the best days for taking photos. I’m glad you braved the elements so you could bring us these beauties!

    1. Thank you, Debbie! I’m always looking for sunlight for the best pictures and am often surprised to rediscover the beauty of the rain. Like you, I’d rather stay inside when it’s wet outside. I’m still scraping off the mud that dried up on the bottom of my shoes that day.

  3. What a rare treat that pyxie-moss is! It reminds me of the Australian native Waxflower Different families, but they share the same look.
    I learned about resurrection fern while in north Florida, where it covers tree trunks and branches…a very tough fern.
    That botanical garden seems like a gem!

    1. Thanks for the link, Eliza. I can see the similarities between the waxflower and the pyxie-moss. The resurrection fern must be very tenacious and vigorous — all the other kinds of ferns in the garden that day were limp and faded. Funny how it was growing on the one side of that stump. No two visits to this garden are the same!

    1. Thank you, Ally. Do you grow rosemary in your garden? I didn’t know it flowered, but I suppose all plants do in one way or another.

        1. That’s another thing I didn’t know, that there are many varieties of rosemary. I love the way it tastes and smells, too. ♡

  4. The warm weather brought out some color – how nice to see colors on your walk Barbara … a promise for Spring, like I hope the Groundhog will proclaim is on the way. It seems as though we’ve been immersed in a drab and dreary landscape for months. I noticed a greenish tint on a lot of the tree trunks and branches on Saturday at Council Point Park … all the rain is taking its toll on the tree bark. The berries are so brilliant and I wanted to touch the longleaf pine to see how soft it was.

    1. Very little chance of touching a longleaf pine, Linda! Those trees are so tall and I was using the zoom lens almost to the max to get that picture. Once in a while we see a clump of needles that come down with the cone. The needles are 8-17 inches long and the cones are very prickly to handle. It does seem like we went straight from autumn to spring, with maybe two weeks of winter. Just like my friend, who has lived here since 2010, observed when she first moved here. We had winterberry back in Connecticut so that was nice to see. I also saw some partridge berry but the berries were all gone.

      1. I see – they looked soft and like they were ground level with the long lens. A mild Winter would be quite a change for you. Little flowers peeking out – signs of life unfurling. We always get Snowdrops in early March. One homeowner, when I always walked to the Park, had them under his tree out front – those Snowdrops and the Red-winged Blackbird were my cue that Spring was near. We will have sun and warmer weather beginning Friday afternoon, but nothing like what you will have. I like Winterberry – so festive looking. I bought an orange Winterberry Fall wreath, but have not seen a red Winterberry wreath yet.

        1. There are some bulbs coming up now in the woods behind our house — they might be daffodils. We didn’t see those until late March, early April in Connecticut. I haven’t seen any snowdrops around here, although I did see some in the woods in November which I thought was a fluke. I’ve had a red winterberry wreath for many years and it’s starting to show its age. You’re right, I have been looking for a new one without any luck, too.

          1. How nice seeing daffodils. Same for us Barbara – late March, early April. The snowdrops are very hardy. Those snowdrops I mentioned have bloomed, been covered in snow/ice and come back whole. I think I got my orange one a Michael’s.

          2. I do love snowdrops. I bought my hand-made winterberry wreath at an herb farm that sadly went out of business maybe ten years ago. The gift shop had so many one-of-a-kind items and the garden was so lovely to walk through. My sister and I went to a workshop there and made fairy gardens…

          3. Thanks for the link – I like that place Barbara and they still have their website up, despite being out of business all this time. The angel statue and those purple flowers gave you nice photos to remember this venue. I would have commented but there are still issues when commenting on the original post and going onto other blogger’s sites. As to the moonflower, my neighbor Marge had one on her deck. She bought it and I saw this green plant on her deck and she took a photo of it after dark and it was gorgeous. I remember Marge was one of the first people I knew to get a digital camera and she put it to good use – she e-mailed me how it looked, almost ethereal. After our warm spell coming up, I’ll bet those snowdrops will be pushing up.

          4. Wow — I went back and clicked on that link to see what on earth you were talking about! I had no idea! I wonder how long the herb farm was closed, which was the last thing I knew, before it re-opened as a wedding venue? We rarely went out that way. So now that rustic 1867 barn that used to be a unique gift shop is a dining room. I guess the nursery and gift shop wasn’t profitable enough. Wish I could find an herb farm down here. There was another one in CT that I used to visit when I was a teenager, Caprilands Herb Farm. When the owner, Adelma Grenier Simmons, died in 1997, her heirs tried to keep it going but there were all sorts of problems between them and it deteriorated. Now I understand they moved that barn to New York. My brother-in-law used to work there as a gardener. Nothing lasts forever.

          5. Yes, I was surprised to click the link in your post and it worked – I was there, so they repurposed the land, that unique barn and it’s now just like the people who turn a rustic area of the California vineyards into a place suitable for weddings to take place. A fellow blogger got married at a vineyard in Napa Valley I think it was, Do you have local farmer’s markers that might know where there are herb farms or perhaps sell herbs? You could visit a few farmer’s markets before the heat and humidity set in.

    1. Thank you, Donna! That fern and mushroom covered stump really stuck out in the landscape. But we would never have noticed that pyxie-moss if we hadn’t been told about it. 😉

  5. That’s a beautiful moss, and this was a beautiful walk through the botanical garden. I really like the stump with the ferns and mushrooms, too.

    1. Thank you, Robin. In spite of its misleading name pyxie-moss is actually a tiny shrub. I’d lean towards calling it a groundcover. I’m going to be visiting that magical stump often. 🙂

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