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The Watery Fern Moss

The Watery Fern Moss
As I think we’ve pretty much established by now, I’ve a wide range of things that fascinate me, and a lot of my fascination has to do with Mum Nature. I specify la Mama Nature, and don’t just say nature, because nature can mean how organisms and beings (like us for example) behave. This is not that nature. This is MAMA Nature.

Take moss, for example. No, I did NOT say Kate Moss, I said …! Oh well, never mind – moving swiftly along. I always laugh about moss because of a particular slang expression that was popular in our ‘hood was using the word ‘mos’ after a statement. e.g. ‘He only drinks PG Tips, mos’.

Some factual intro info: –

Moss grows in cool, moist places, often forming dense, velvety masses of vegetation. Individual plants as well as the masses are called moss. Mosses are related to liverworts and hornworts.

About 14,000 species of mosses occur throughout the world, from the Polar Regions to the tropics. Most species live on shady ground, on rock ledges, or on tree trunks. (Moss clumps are most common on the side of the tree that gets the most shade and moisture, often the north side.) A number of species live in rivers and ponds. Moss plants do not grow in saltwater.

The moss plant is hardy. During a dry spell it turns brown or black, and looks dead; but it becomes green again as soon as rain falls. The mosses are among the first plants to establish themselves on rocky ground. They slowly break down the rock, preparing the way for more highly developed plants. Moss plants absorb many times their weight in moisture; they soak up rainfall on hillsides, helping to prevent erosion. The soil-building and moisture-conserving work of the mosses is indirectly of great importance to humans. The only type of moss of direct use to humans is the bog moss, or sphagnum. It forms peat, a fuel, and peat moss, a garden mulch and soil conditioner. Dried sphagnum is used as packing material in shipping plants. Thinking of peat moss and how water filters through peat which can then form the basis for many a fine ‘usquebaugh’ (water of life) single malt whiskies and it’s no wonder that I should love all things moss-like.

Moss is pretty incredible as even if it lays dormant and dried out for decades, sufficient water enables it to spring back to life – quite miraculous in my opinion.

Some examples of types of moss:

Fern Moss (that’s me, that is!) grows on wet ground or tree trunks or in flowing water. It has sprawling branches that resemble fern sprays.

Pincushion Moss, a very tiny plant, forms a cushion at the base of trees in damp woods.

Silvery Bryum is common in pavement cracks and on dry compact ground. It has silvery shoots and dark green leaves.

Tree Moss is an erect plant forming dark-green clumps in woods and swamps. It is six inches (15 cm) tall and looks like a miniature tree.

Water Moss lives beneath the surface of streams and ponds. Its long, slender branches are covered with scaly, brownish-green leaves.

I recently read a novel, ‘The Signature of All Things’ by Elizabeth Gilbert. The novel follows the fortunes of Alma Whittaker (the daughter of a bold and charismatic botanical explorer) as she comes into her own within the world of plants and science. The description of Alma’s journey studying moss captured my imagination beyond belief and brought a new found respect for this incredibly ‘simple’ organism that is such a vital part of Nature.

Respek the moss, mos!

 

 



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