Moss is familiar for all the wrong reasons as many regard it as a weed with its strong associations to symptoms of poor drainage in a lawn- an ongoing battle for those of us who desire a picture-perfect lawn! However, with the What’s Growing on the Greenway blog, we want to celebrate moss for its positive contribution to our environment!

Mosses are small plants that absorb water and nutrients primarily through their leaves and have no vascular system. This means they have no means of transporting water and nutrients over a distance. Without this ability, moss remain small; in fact very few of the 14,000 species of moss in the world grow taller than one inch. Their inability to stay up is why you never see one plant. To grow, they rely on each other for support, creating very large communities often described as ‘carpets’.

Photo credit: Paul Hunter, Cregagh Glen

Communities of moss create mini gardens or forests in their own right. For insects and invertebrates, they provide habitat and a source of food. The insects that live within the moss also feed the local bats and birds. On a larger scale moss helps filter and retain water in ecosystems, they can help erosion, stabilize ground and remove CO2 from our atmosphere.

Moss has been used historically as insulation for homes and even boots and gloves. Dried moss has the capacity to absorb 20 times its own weight, absorbs water 3 times faster than cotton, holds liquid better and is less irritating. Because of this it was used in World War 1 for dressing soldiers’ wounds as well as by North American tribes for diapers, and dressings as well. More recently it’s in constant demand for floral decoration and compost.

Photo Credit: Eoin McFadden, Cregagh Glen

Where to find it?

You will associate moss with moist areas out of direct sunlight like fallen trees, burnt stumps, tree trunks, branches or bogs. It can also be found in woodlands and at the edge of streams but will grow anywhere in a cool, cloudy climate. In the Northern Hemisphere it is commonly believed that moss grows better on the northern side of trees because the sun on the south side creates a drier environment. Moss has adapted to include dry areas like alpine rocks and stabilised sand dunes and cracks in the pavements.

Along the Greenway you can find moss everywhere. The images this week were taken at Cregagh Glen where you can see mature carpets of moss.

Photo Credit: Paul Hunter, Cregagh Glen


Be Part of it…

We hope to have highlighted to you that moss is an interesting plant and persuaded you to go out and investigate! We love the Greenway all year round and think this week is no exception.

We encourage you as always to send in your pictures!