Moss – The Good, Bad and Ugly

o1                                                         Moss the Good


Moss, you either love it or you hate it. You might be making up a blender concoction to grow your own, or you might be mixing up a mossicide to eradicate it from your north facing shingles.

It is beautiful inside. Many interior display items are made enhanced with moss.


  An Old Mossed Terra-Cotta Pot, Veranda March 2010


Traditional Home September 2010

From a coffee table moss filled urn to…


Traditional Home September 2010

an entry table sphere.


I am partial to it in its natural woodland, streamside setting, and I have a lot of respect for it. Because, when you think how moss has no roots, seeds, or vascular system, it has to work really hard to build up itself into a formidable infrastructure.

It will send out millions of spores to start new growth of only a couple of inches and only a small number actually succeed. The spores face huge odds to take hold of bare rock and reproduce. There are different varieties of moss and they are very specific to their growing habitats. Also, they are specific to those that use or inhabit it.

Moss is an incredible microflora, and seen under a microscope, looks like a little forest itself, made up of stalks and leaves.


Moss Under a Microscope from


Moss looks great in a bonsai display. It is perfectly scaled to make a pleasing miniature landscape, but…


The Bad (or at least somewhat worrisome)

Some scientists are a bit worried about the collection of moss from the forest floor and the effect it will have from an ecological impact perspective.

Gatherers stuff hundred year old moss pelts into burlap sacks because it is sought by nurseries, florists and craft stores. Some have determined that moss, a renewable resource, may recover at a rate of about one percent a year. Considering that it may have taken one hundred years to make a wooly pelt at the base of a tree, that is a very slow and negligable recovery.


Maples and Oaks Swaddled in Moss, the Lush Wooly Pelts at the Base of the Trees(Sorry this photo is not clearer of the moss, it was taken for the lighting through the trees.)

And the moss on the forest floor is home to many small creatures such as mites, springtails and microscopic rotifers. There is even a seabird, a marbled murrelet, which nests on moss mats.

You might think twice now when adding it to your next bonsai.


Veranda, August 2010

I have found that moss growing on my pavers does regrow rather rapidly, but in forest circumstance, the findings seem to be very different. I have harvested moss from my backyard like they show above and below, to be used to enhance a tablescape or planter.



Moss retains several times its weight in water. On the forest floor this is great, serving as a humidifier, but on your roof that is a different story.

The moss itself does not cause roof damage, but speeds along shingle decomposition because of the moisture it retains. And by retaining water, the roof can not dry out.


Also as you can see above, seeking cool, damp and shaded locations, the moss will start to lift and curl shingles as it continues to grow unimpeaded.

So, moss can be viewed as beautiful, necessary, overlooked, bothersome and unwanted. We have had a contradictory relationship with it for a very long time. It has been here much longer than us, and as a primitive plant, it is only partly understood in its relationship to the forest ecology.