Magnificent Moss

Art by Veikko Suikkanen
Art by Veikko Suikkanen

Today I’m sharing a topic I’ve been busy studying: Moss! I’ve been learning all I can about how to add moss to my garden, especially where it wants to grow in the deep shade from our spruce trees.

First, here’s today’s work of art, by Veikki Suikkanen from Finland. Click to visit his gallery on FineArtAmerica. It was hard to pick only one of his delightful mossy forest paintings but this won out. It’s called ‘Spirit of the Forest’. As always, click any image to see its source.

A program I happily reserve space to keep on my DVR is the PBS program Growing A Greener World and I’ve been really enjoying an older episode on moss. They visit a favorite place of mine, Moss and Stone Gardens and interview co-owner and moss aficionado extraordinaire David Spade.

While I haven’t travelled to Raleigh, NC to visit them in person yet, their website is an amazing wealth of information about anything and everything you ever wondered about adding moss to your landscape. They answer questions and show how easy it is to bring this wonderful plant into our yards and give it a good home.

“What if I told you there was a plant that stayed green all year round and yet it survived on minimal amounts of water? You could use it like a lawn and yet you never need to mow it, mulch it, trim it, fertilize it or use pesticides or any chemicals for that matter. It’s the ultimate eco-friendly, low-maintenance plant, and it sounds too good to be true but it’s not, because it’s moss. And despite anything you’ve heard about it in the past, it’s all of those things and more.”

~Host Joe Lamp’l in the intro to episode #319 ‘Moss Gardens’ on Growing A Greener World.
They share some really interesting things about moss, and show us how we can incorporate it into almost any landscape, including sun. Click here to visit their website and watch the full episode.

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Slideshow images can be viewed on my other blog’s Pinterest page ‘Nature ~ beauty beyond words

True or False facts on moss by

Moss prefers acidic or nutrient poor soils. True or False?
False – Most mosses are not particular about the pH or nutrients of the substrates on which they grow. It would be more accurate to understand that mosses thrive where there is little or no competition, which often occurs in acidic and poor, compacted soils, or for that matter, on stone.

Moss only grows in the shade. True or False?
False – Mosses have the greatest range of light exposure than any other land plant. This doesn’t mean that all mosses can tolerate sun, only certain species can. Mosses are found growing in all climates and exposures, from full blazing desert sun, to almost undetectable amounts of light found in caves. Mosses can also be found on all 7 continents.

Moss only grows on the north side of trees. True and False?
False – Moss does grow on the north side of trees, and it also grows on the south, east, and west sides of trees, as well. Moss may grow only on a north side of a tree if that’s the shadiest location as the sun tracks the sky. If there is something else providing shade (or moisture), the moss will grow in those places just as well.

Moss will invade my garden if I am growing moss on my property. True or False?
False – Moss spores are everywhere, even if there aren’t any mosses on your property. The spores travel on the wind to extreme distances, therefore proximity doesn’t mean density. Moss will grow anywhere the conditions are appropriate for successful germination and can develop into a mature plant.

Convert a moss-infested lawn into a moss lawn by letting nature take its course. True or False?
False – This is very unlikely to happen satisfactorily without intervention. In most regions, the conditions necessary for moss to dominate vascular plants isn’t adequate. For example, in rain forests or areas like the Pacific Northwest, moss can over grow the under brush of existing plants; the abundant moisture gives the moss enough growing potential that it can blanket everything. For other regions, something else needs to tip the scale in favor of the mosses, like abundant moisture, in this case I am referring to irrigation by man. To be more specific, one would have to water the moss lightly throughout the day in order to give it maximum growth potential, but not enough to give the existing plants (grasses, weeds) enough to sustain themselves.

Moss needs to be kept moist. True or False?
False – Despite this common impression, moss is actually one of the most drought tolerant plants. Also, there are a number of species that need regular periods of dryness to survive. Mosses need moisture to reproduce sexually, but not asexually. Water is needed for photosynthesis, but not for survival. Moist areas allow for faster growth, but isn’t necessary for existence. Acrocarps mosses tend to be more drought tolerant than Pleurocarps.

Spreading or spraying diluted yogurt, buttermilk, beer, or manure tea will promote moss to grow. True or False?
False  – The key here is not what substance will create moss in an area, but what allows moss to develop. The most important things to allow mosses to develop are moisture and lack of competition. Competition can be other plants, debris, or loose and irregular surfaces. Moisture is always needed to begin moss establishment. When mosses are beginning to colonize in an area, moisture is what allows the young mosses to perform photosynthesis, which in turn allows for growth. Leaf litter, pine straw, twigs, loose stones, and such, make it harder for moss to find a stable substrate on which to attach. Moss prefers to have direct contact with whatever it is spreading onto; therefore, a smooth substrate will allow the mosses easier contact. Mosses do not draw nutrients or sustenance from the substrates they are attached too; therefore, anything you apply to the substrate is not utilized by the moss since it does not have the root structure necessary to benefit from such applications.

Blending moss and buttermilk into a slurry is the best way to grow moss. True or False?
False – Although widely reported to work effectively, this technique is usually met with failure and a moldy mess. The best way to grow moss is by division of a colony or fragmentation, buttermilk is not needed.

David Spade aka Moss Yogi

Moss spores will add to my seasonal allergies. True or False?
False – Moss spores may be as common as mold spores or pollen at times, but they are generally non-allergenic. You can be allergic to anything, but the likelihood that moss or it’s spores will give you allergies, is extremely low.

If you walk on moss, it will die.  True or False?
False – Most mosses tolerate foot traffic, but it’s a question of how much foot traffic? As a non vascular system, mosses don’t need protection from being compressed. With some foot traffic, their cellulose remains flexible, allowing mosses to be compressed without the kind of damage that occurs when vascular plants are trod on. The key difference is that their flexible structure and small scale are susceptible to breaking, if stretched. As such, walking flat-footed is greatly tolerated, while running or shuffling isn’t.

Moss is a parasitic plant. True or False?
False – When moss grows on trees, wood, or shingles, moss does not feed on the material it attaches too. Mosses may keep substrates they are growing on damp for longer periods of time, and thus, this moisture retention is capable of deteriorating some non-living materials.

If you have moss growing on your property it means you also have molds. True or False?
False – The misconception that moss and molds are related isn’t true. Moss and molds are rarely found together, except when molds are attacking the moss as they might anything organic. With molds present, moss dies or decays, as does most anything else it attacks. If you have healthy moss, you do not have mold.

Spanish moss, Reindeer moss, club moss, sea moss, Irish moss and Scotch moss belong to the Phylum of Bryophyta. True or False?
False – Including moss in the common name, does not mean it’s a true moss. Spanish moss is an epiphyte, Reindeer moss is a lichen, club moss is a lycophyte, sea moss is an algae, Irish and Scotch mosses are vascular plants that look similar to mosses.

Growing moss is beneficial to my garden.  True or False?
True – Moss is a beneficial addition to the garden in many ways: it retains moisture content, similar to mulching, it is superior to mulches in that it is a living layer that processes nutrients and contributes organic material, it does not become compacted, and doesn’t need replacing annually, and it provides a healthy habitat for beneficial insects and promotes the evolutionary symbiosis of 
mycelium and plant roots.

Moss attracts ticks, fleas, and mosquitos. True or False?
False – Ticks prefer tall plants, where they can perch to better position themselves to catch a ride on their next meal. Fleas don’t dwell in moss, and mosquitos need plants to provide shelter from wind and sun. Mosses are too short and dense to support resting mosquitos.

And finally, I needed to know –

A rolling stone gathers no moss. True or False?
True – A rolling stone gathers no moss. If the stone is rolling, moss grows too slowly to get started on it and the friction of rolling would abrade or wear off any mosses that were on it.

There you have it! If you want to learn a truth about moss missed here, let us know! [source]


As you can see, along with a great sense of humor, these guys are highly educated masters of moss and are ready to help us all discover the joys of creating an eco-friendly moss landscape.
For additional photos and poetry inspired by moss, check out fellow blogger Bert’s post:
When visiting this post on the amazing beauty of moss, also check his Page ‘macros/nature’ to see more of his skillful captures of the tiniest places of this wonderful world of nature we live in. 

12 thoughts on “Magnificent Moss

  1. Wonderful Gina… Moss is so beautiful and its forms found on stones and trees enrich the countryside… Our front lawn is full of Moss.. Many neighbours spend hours raking it out or putting on their potions to the their lawns… When the dry weather does come I can garentee our lawn is still the greenest… because its as nature grew it…

    Loved reading the facts of true and false about Moss… a wonderful indepth post… and good luck in your own Moss taking root 🙂 I can not see why not.. 🙂 Hugs and enjoy your weekend Gina.. Love Sue xox

    1. Hello Sue! Yes it really is beautiful isn’t it? I love how your lawn in the greenest because you leave it ‘as nature grew it’. So glad you enjoyed this, and thank you for your good wishes with my own moss. I’m excited to get started (but as you know, everything about gardening teaches patience!). Have a wonderful weekend yourself my friend. xox Love, Gina

  2. Fabulous post!
    Where I laid stones in a path surrounded by mulch, the loveliest moss has come to live between the flat rocks. I adore it, and thought it would die in the summer sun and heat, and did not. Now your post educated me to know it will survive and will be a welcome plant in my garden.

    Thank you for this superb research!! Diane

    1. Thanks so much Diane! I am delighted that you enjoyed my venture into the fascinating world of moss. And I’m really glad it can hopefully help keep those gems who’ve moved in between the rocks. Thanks again my friend. Cheers, G

  3. I love moss. It has such a mystical — fairy like quality. I had some rocks I was going to move in my garden until I noticed the moss had started to grow there. I hope it continues to spread and with all the new information I have — I should be able to help it along. Thanks. 😀

    1. You’re so right Colleen, and I imagine that mystical quality it what draws so many of us to it. Now once we get some moss established, how apropos to tuck in a tiny, nearly hidden, faerie door or chair amongst it? So glad you enjoyed this post Colleen. Thanks again! ~Gina

  4. I LOVE MOSS! and thoroughly enjoyed this post! Cruised down through at least half a dozen posts and since I’m having a problem hitting ‘like’ (I think its ‘cuz I have cookies blocked) I’ll just tell you in a comment – awesome!

    1. Hello Eliza! Yes I’ve sometimes had times without seeing the Like icon – and I must say I’m delighted you ‘had to’ leave a comment. Hooray! I haven’t signed on over here in a little while so my apologies for the delay in replying, but I’m always so happy to hear from you. Hugs, Gina

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