The Appalachian Mountains provide a home to one of the most diverse eco-systems in the world. There actually are more than 10,000 different animal and plant species residing here. Organisms such as fungi and salamanders are most diverse in Appalachia. Mosses represent another diverse species that thrive in the area.
Moss is a small flowerless green plant that doesn’t have any roots. It grows in long, low carpets or rounded cushions in damp habitats found all throughout the Appalachian Mountain range. Moss reproduces by releasing spores from stalked capsules.
Hearty and Healthy Landscape Options
Moss is classified as a bryophyte with its nearby cousins — hornworts and liverworts. Botanists believe the bryophyte family has been around for more than 450 million years, making it one of the most sustainable and hearty species on the globe, able to withstand extreme global temperature changes. For many gardeners, moss makes an exceptional option for landscapes.
In Western North Carolina, Mountain Moss Enterprises is taking the lead in bringing innovative landscaping alternatives featuring environmentally friendly mosses to the masses. Lead botanist and owner Annie Martin is a recognized moss expert and considers herself to be a moss artist. As an avid advocate for moss gardening, she cultivates, sells and creates moss-scapes from her Pisgah Mountain facility.
Annie of All Things Moss
Martin wears many hats at Mountain Moss Enterprises. She serves as a consultant on residential and commercial projects to show builders and gardeners how best to incorporate the environmentally friendly moss in landscapes. She designs moss-scapes and offers turnkey solutions from conception to installation.
Martin is a teacher and author and works with environmentalists to rescue moss, hornworts and liverworts from high-impact development areas. You can purchase live moss mats from her store, where you’ll find everything from sample containers with a variety of mosses for your experimentation to large 6x6-foot mats that roll out like a living green carpet.
Its Role in Nature
You can read the health of an environment by noticing the presence or absence of specific moss. Usually, an abundance of moss indicates the environmental conditions are good. Low levels or the non-existence of moss can be a warning that pollution is impacting an area significantly. Moss absorbs huge quantities of rain and releases water and organic acids slowly into the ground and the atmosphere, which help to slow decomposition rates.
Martin and other bryophyte biologists advocate for the safe and clean extraction of moss. While moss reproduces quickly, vast harvesting of moss can cause drastic upheavals in the ecological balance. Moss has always been used by humans, and as new concepts in green landscaping unfold, Martin warns harvesters to use caution and learn how to harvest moss in ecologically friendly ways.
Moss Heritage Uses
In the past, Appalachian builders used moss to fill in cracks on their log cabins, to stuff mattresses and to line caskets and cradles. Medics in World War I used moss for dressings due to its antiseptic and absorbency properties. They also made pillows on which wounded soldiers rested their heads and filled sanitary napkins with it for the women.
The Chinese used moss as far back as 40 AD in various folk medicine remedies to treat everything from burns and infections to skin rashes and bug bites. The Japanese have long used moss as decorative materials in their famous gardens as well as covering for sensitive bonsai trees.
Modern Imaginative Uses
The horticultural trade today relies on moss for packing material, as soil covers for terrariums and potted plants and as hanging basket liners. Artists use moss in crafts, moss gardens and green roofs. The uses often are limited only by your imagination. Use moss in and on:
· Gardens instead of mulch
· Rock walls
· Green roofs
· Serenity gardens
· Japanese tea gardens
· Instead of grass for your lawn
Mountain Moss Enterprises can help you design a moss garden for your space.
Photo credits: mountainmoss.com, krappweis at freeimages.com