Desert mosses use quartz rocks as sun shades

A graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, found that some mosses in the California desert seek protection from the relentless sun and heat by sheltering under translucent quartz pebbles, essentially using the rocks as sunshades.

The soil under these rocks retains more moisture than exposed desert soil, said Jenna Ekwealor, while enough light leaks through the milky quartz to allow the tiny mosses to remain green with chlorophyll. Mosses actually prefer dim light, making these conditions ideal for growth.