The photo shows lantern moss growing on the Turoa side of Mt Ruapheu, towards the end of the road and was taken in spring. The moss is dark brown to black and quite velvety to the touch. It may dry out completely in summer but will soften again in rain. The unusual colour may help reduce damage caused by excessive light as mosses generally prefer low-light situations.
The majority of lantern mosses (Andreaeopsida) are found in the Southern Hemisphere in high, sunny alpine regions. The preference of lantern mosses for rocky and alpine habiatats may explain why this apparently ancient group has left no fossil record. (Read more from the University of California Museum of Paleontology here.)