What is moss?
It is a low-growing, flowerless plant without roots. Mosses typically grow in wetlands, rainforests, and generally in any location where dampness or moisture is sufficient.
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They also thrive well in shaded areas and spread through spores (like ferns). There are more than 10,000 species of moss and again, like ferns, they are known to be one of the longest thriving plant species in the earth emerging from 540 million years ago.
Pros and cons of moss
If you ever find yourself considering moss as a substitute for grass, here are some pros and cons that you should know about.
- It has very low care requirements. It will really grow where it is moist and damp.
- It is versatile and is visually appealing.
- It is environment-friendly. With low care requirements, it does not need fertilizers and much water, hence, no chemical use, etc.
- Moss prevents soil erosion and is used in reclaimed lands especially in heavy mined lands.
- It is perfect for shade planting.
- It might encourage the growth of an invasive plant called liverwort.
- It could grow dense over other plants and might suffocate them.
What is moss bad for?
Technically, if moss is bad for something, it would be around building materials. Stock wood, concrete, and fences might be niches of bad moss.
It might also be bad as dense ground cover in lawns as it could cover the overgrowth of fungus in the lawn. Other than that, all is good with moss.
How can moss be categorized?
Botanically, mosses now have their own plant category which is Bryophyta. There are more than 12,000 recognized moss species. They are best known as carpet-like covers in forests and lawns. The most commercially sold moss is the sphagnum which is used for peat moss.
Moss species identification
Basically, there are two recognized moss species identification: Acrocarpous mosses (Acrocarps) and Pleurocarpous mosses (Pleurocarps). Acrocarps are recognizable for growing in mounds with erect and unbranched stems.
They cannot stand overmoisture and need to be dried out periodically. On the other hand, Pleurocarps are fast-growers spreading in a carpet-like manner with more free arrangements and more shabby-looking than Acrocarps.
Types of moss
1. American Tree Moss (Climacium americanum)
It is a popular moss because it is used in making decorative crafts as well as wreaths. It has a dense and branching habit with pale green color and red-brown stems. It is found along streamlines and woodlands native to eastern Canada and the northern USA.
2. Baby Tooth Moss (Plagiomnium cuspidatum)
It could grow in almost any type of soil condition and is used by birds to build their nest. It produces capsule-like foliage with red-brown stalks hovering at the base. It is named as such because the leaves have toothed edges. It prefers colder temperatures and more damp soils.
3. Brocade Moss (Hypnum imponens)
This one is common in forests forming large patches of densely tufted rich green color. It has shiny leaves that turn orange when it reaches maturity. It sprouts from rotten logs, in tree stumps and tree barks. It gets its name because it looks like an embroidered fabric.
4. Catherine’s Moss (Atrichum undulatum)
It is also known as the big star moss because it looks like one at an aerial view due to the lancing habit of its leaves. It has notable deep green and stiff-textured foliage with white streaks. It will thrive in partial sun to full shade and its leaves will turn crisp brown when it is dry.
5. Common Haircap Moss (Polytrichum commune)
It is one of the easiest moss to identify with its long, upright, and spiky foliage. Its leaves are of deep and pale green hues and it has red-brown stems. It loves acidic and very moist soils. When looked at from afar, they look like small stars.
6. Common Peat Moss (Sphagnum centrale)
The common peat moss is used as a soil amendment in many gardens. It is a by-product of sphagnum moss and other organic components used mainly for potting mix or for hydroponic growing.
7. Common Tamarisk Moss (Thuidium tamariscinum)
It is a delicate feather-moss with lacy foliage. It highly resembles ferns adorned with a deep green color and long, burgundy stems. Unlike other mosses that love acidic soils, this one prefers alkaline soils. It grows in dense tufts in woodlands and in very damp locations.
8. Dwarf Haircap Moss (Pogonatum aloides)
It looks more like a succulent than moss because of its fleshy foliage growing like a small rosette. It also has stubby red-brown stems. In general, it looks like miniature aloe vera but with pale red streaks. It thrives in sheltered locations and will not tolerate much sun.
9. Fern moss (Thuidium delicatulum)
It is a fast-growing moss also known as log moss. They tend to grow on rocks and in other moist locations. It is called as such because they literally look like ferns but with a shabbier look. They have a velvet texture and deep green color. They are often dried and used in wreaths.
10. Fire moss (Ceratodon purpureus)
It is notable for its young branches sprouting on top of old ones. It forms in mounds and makes a dense moss mat in forests. It has thread-like leaves that are deep green at youth and red as it reaches maturity. It thrives in soils rich in nitrogen. As such, you would find it in burnt areas. This is where it gets its name.
11. Glittering Wood Moss (Hylocomium splendens)
It is sought-after for its shiny foliage that glows in the sun. It is a feather-type, cold-climate moss endemic to Canada, Russia, and Scotland. It has long branching, red stems and deep green, glossy foliage. It looks like miniature spruce and is used in wreaths and other floral displays.
12. Heath Star Moss (Campylopus introflexus)
It is a fast-growing moss native to South America. It sprouts in old wood/logs, fence posts, and in thatched roofs. It has a bright green color at youth and almost black when it is old. It also has red stems. In ideal conditions, it is a robust grower. As such, it is considered as invasive in some areas.
13. Hypnum moss (Hypnum cupressiforme)
It is also known as carpet moss or sheet moss. It is commonly used as a substitute for grass when it comes to lawns. It has branching, low-growing, bristly stems. Its curly leaves come in a range of yellow-green to rich green color. It is distinguished from brocade moss for its lack of midrib.
14. Juniper Moss (Polytrichum juniperinum)
Unlike other moss types, this one thrives in dry climates and in more exposed locations. It is actually present in all continents in the world found commonly in footpaths, grasslands, and even in quarries. It has deep green foliage with a spiky feel and small-forming rosettes.
15. Mood Moss (Dicranum scoparium)
It is native to North America and is also known as the broom fork moss. Like the pincushion moss, it also grows on mounds or in patches. It is distinguishable with its spear-shaped leaves and slender, brown stems. It will not thrive under full sun and will sprout in tree trunks, rocks, and logs.
16. Pincushion Moss (Leucobryum glaucum)
It could tolerate a wide range of soils and it will thrive in dry climates. It is considered as a perennial moss known for its habit of growing in mounds. Each cushion or mound has branching stems hidden in a pile of gray-green leaves. It has feathery foliage making it look plump.
17. Plume Moss (Ptilium crista-castrensis)
It is also known as the ostrich-plume feather moss found mainly in Canada and in northern Europe. It is also known as the knight’s plume moss because it looks like the feathers in a knight’s helmet. It has dense, deep-green foliage that produces moss mats in a garden.
18. Ribbed Bog Moss (Aulacomnium palustre)
Also known as the bog groove moss, it grows dense tufts that form bulky moss mats. Its natural habitat is wetlands, outnumbering wild moss because of their fast growth rate. It has fine deep-green foliage and orange-brown stems. It is widespread in colder regions such as Canada.
19. Rigid Beard Moss (Didymodon rigidulus)
This one is commonly sprouting from old pavers, slabs, or concrete. It is considered as the most common Didymodon species producing dense, emerald green foliage of carpet-like quality. It will not tolerate much sun as it thrives in sheltered locations.
20. Sand Beauty (Racomitrium canescens)
It is known for being drought-resistant and can thrive in hot temperatures. It thrives well in semi-shade locations even in sandpits. When it is too dry, its leaves tend to close on its stems and will turn into a pale green.
After the rain or when given enough moisture, it will turn into dark green again. It grows in dense clusters growing at three centimeters high.
21. Shaggy Moss (Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus)
This one has a fuzzy look with long, red-brown, stems. It gets its name for its mossy, unkempt look. It is deep green at youth and will turn brown as it matures. It is native to the moist forest lands of the Midwest Pacific.
22. Shiny Seductive Moss (Entodon seductrix)
It is a fast-growing, fast-spreading feather moss in a sideways pattern. Its most common habitats are rotten logs and old wooden fence posts. It has fine, deep-green foliage which will make a good ground cover in rock gardens, and yes, it is shiny. It loves full sun and is native to North America.
23. Silky Forklet Moss (Dicranella heteromalla)
It is a popular Acrocarpous moss that thrives in acidic soils and in tree stumps, ditches, and woodlands. It has long, narrow, yellow-green leaves curled in the same direction. It has the tendency to grow in a clumping habit and will remain curved regardless of where it is grown.
24. Spoon Leaved Moss (Bryoandersonia illecebra)
This is known for its juicy, pale leaves. Their stems are hidden in their dense leaves. When they are older, their pale leaves will turn brown. They are found in fertile, rocky, and very moist soils. It is considered a rare species in Canada as it is only found in Ontario.
25. Springy Turf Moss (Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus)
It could grow up to 6inches tall and is tolerant of acidic and very damp/moist soils commonly found in lawns and grasslands. It is notable for its dense, pale green leaves and red stems. It is also spiny and thick and makes a good ground cover. It is also called an electrified cat’s tail.
26. Square Goose Neck Moss (Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus)
This one is commonly found in woodlands near streams, marshes, and in golf courses. It is known for its branching stems that produce dense tufts of carpet-like form. Its stems could reach up to 15cm long with sharp bends and in an outward manner.
27. Tousled Treasure/Callicladium moss (Callicladium haldanianum)
This one grows in rocky, sandy soils and in damp, semi-shaded locations. It has glossy, dark green foliage with red spores. It is very attractive for lawns. It is long branching, outward stretching, producing dense tufts of carpet-like quality.
28. Warnsdorff’s Peat Moss (Sphagnum warnstorfii)
It is a popular soil amendment for gardens. It is the by-product of dried sphagnum moss and is cultivated mostly for this purpose especially in New Zealand and Peru. There are 350 species of sphagnum moss thriving mainly in the northern hemisphere.
29. Water Screw Moss (Syntrichia latifolia)
It is low-growing at a maximum of just an inch tall. It has a glossy look making it a decorative moss. It has generally broad leaves packed in clusters around its burgundy stems. They grow in old logs, fence posts, and shaded roads. They have small green flowers.
30. White Cushion Moss (Leucobryum Glaucum)
This one is called as such because of its pale green color with whitish tips and mound-forming habit.
It produces dense patches of up to 4inches tall and will turn blue-green in color when it receives more rainfall or when in locations with more moisture. It is common in Florida, eastern Mississippi, and also in Canada.
Uses of moss
Aside from what we have already covered when it comes to the uses of moss, you would be surprised to know that it comes in handy for many other functions. Here is a rundown of the uses of moss.
- Sphagnum moss is actually a source of clean, potable water in forests.
- Because of its sterility, it is a good source of iodine which helps in dressing wounds.
- Dried moss is flammable and could be handy in starting a fire.
- It is waterproof and is a good insulator.
- Some types of moss are edible and they are also natural water filters.
How to get rid of moss
There are many ways of getting rid of mosses and the most potent of all is flushing it off with dish soap. Other methods would be spraying iron sulfate moss killer. Adding lime and making the lawn acidic will also get rid of moss.
To conclude, moss is more than just an ancient patch of greens. Aside from being substitutes for grass, it also has a wide range of uses, particularly for the environment. It is no wonder why mosses remain to be significant even at the present age specifically for garden enthusiasts.