Functioning of Moss

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Lawn & Garden

Author’s Reflection

Prior to writing this article, I had never paid much attention to moss. It is not easy to find in the semi-arid region of Utah where I dwell. However, one evening, after I had written about the life cycle of moss, my wife and I went for a walk along a river in a nearby canyon. And there, I found moss! I excitedly started describing the structure of the plant to her, pointing out each part. I am sure she was thrilled!

What did I learn from writing this article besides the origin of moss, its structure, its reproductive strategy, its methods for acquiring nutrients, and how to grow and kill it? The world is a fascinating place if you take some time to learn about it.

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More Great Links

  • Bryophyte Ecology
  • Learn the Moss Life Cycle
  • Living with Mosses
  • Moss Acres
  • Tales from the North Side: Problems with Moss


  • “AP Biology: Learn the Moss Life Cycle.” YouTube. Feb. 7, 2010. (March 22, 2012)
  • Australian National Botanic Gardens. “What Is a Moss?” April 15, 2008. (March 23, 2012)
  • Conrad, Henry S. and Paul L. Redfearn, Jr. “How to Know the Mosses and Liverworts.” Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown Company Publishers. 1979.
  • Cullina, William. “Gardening with Moss.” Horticulture Magazine. June 28, 2011. (March 22, 2012)
  • Encyclopedia Britannica. “Moss.” 2012. (March 22, 2012)
  • Glime, Janice M. “Bryophyte Ecology.” 2009. (March 22, 2012)
  • Marshall, Jessica. “Swimming Pools Kept Clean by Going Green.” Discovery News. Oct. 28, 2009. (March 22, 2012)
  • Martha Stewart Living Television. “Moss Basics.” 2012. (March 22, 2012)
  • Mergel, Maria and Philip Dickey. “Tales from the North Side: Problems with Moss.” April 2007. (March 24, 2012)
  • Oregon State University. “Living with Mosses.” Spring 2000. (March 22, 2012)
  • Pierce Conservation District. “Pasture Management: How Plants Grow.” 2012. (March 23, 2012)
  • Richardson, D.H.S. “The Biology of Mosses.” New York: John Wiley & Sons. 1981.
  • Schenk, George. “Moss Gardening: Including Lichens, Liverworts, and Other Miniatures.” Portland, Ore.: Timber Press. 1997.
  • United States Geological Survey. “Capillary Action.” March 9, 2012. (March 23, 2012)
  • Whitman, Ann. “More Moss.” National Gardening Association. 2012. (March 22, 2012)


1. What is moss?

Moss is a type of non-vascular plant that grows in moist environments. It is typically found in shaded and damp areas such as forests, swamps, and bogs. Mosses do not have roots, stems, or leaves like other plants, but rather have thin, thread-like structures called rhizoids that anchor them to their surroundings and absorb water and nutrients.

2. How does moss reproduce?

Moss reproduces through spores rather than seeds like other plants. The spores are released from a capsule-like structure called a sporangium and are carried by wind or water to a suitable place for germination. Once the spore germinates, it grows into a small, thread-like structure called a protonema, which eventually develops into a mature moss plant.

3. What are the benefits of moss?

Moss has several benefits for the environment. It helps control soil erosion by holding soil in place, and it also helps retain moisture in the soil, which is important for the growth of other plants. Moss also plays a role in carbon sequestration by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it in the plant’s tissues.

4. How does moss get its nutrients?

Moss obtains its nutrients through photosynthesis, just like other plants. However, since moss does not have roots, it relies on the absorption of nutrients through its leaves and rhizoids. Moss also has the ability to absorb nutrients from rainwater and dew that collect on its surface.

5. Can moss be used for landscaping?

Yes, moss can be used for landscaping in a variety of ways. It can be used as a ground cover in shady areas where grass might not grow, or it can be used to create a moss garden. Moss can also be used as a natural accent in rock gardens or as a filler between stepping stones.

6. Is moss harmful to other plants?

No, moss is not harmful to other plants. In fact, it can be beneficial to other plants by providing a protective ground cover and retaining moisture in the soil. Moss also does not compete with other plants for nutrients since it obtains its nutrients in a different way.

7. What are some common types of moss?

There are many different types of moss, but some common ones include sphagnum moss, cushion moss, and haircap moss. Sphagnum moss is often used for horticultural purposes because of its ability to retain water, while cushion moss is a popular choice for landscaping due to its soft, cushiony appearance. Haircap moss is often found in wooded areas and is known for its hair-like appearance.

8. Is moss easy to maintain?

Yes, moss is relatively easy to maintain. It requires little to no fertilizer or watering once it is established, and it can thrive in a variety of soil types. Moss is also resistant to pests and diseases, making it a low-maintenance option for landscaping.

9. Can moss be used for medicinal purposes?

Yes, moss has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. It has been used to treat a variety of ailments such as infections, digestive issues, and respiratory problems. Some species of moss contain compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, making them useful for treating certain conditions.

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