January 19, 2010

Mosses on Firewood, with an Experiment

When I bring firewood into the house during winter, I often notice that different forms of lichens and mosses are attached to the wood. They seem very alive, as though they'd be ready to get growing again if they were back in the woods. It turns out that mosses can go for many months without water, suspending their growth while in drought. I learned about this ability while reading Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses by Robin Wall Kimmerer, a wonderfully informative and fascinating look at the tiny, beautiful plants. Her writing combines scientific details imparted with a great teacher's ability to make them understandable, and poetic musings on nature.

So, I thought, I'll pick off some of the moss from the log and place it in the rosemary flowerpot, which already had some moss growing in it, though a different species; it'll be happy to be watered again, I thought. The photo above was taken a couple of days after the move. But....I hadn't yet read the chapter detailing the difficulty of transplanting mosses; they are not at all like perennials, which you can move around the garden at will. Each species has a particular habitat and growth pattern; this moss which was happy far above the ground growing on bark, turned out not to like the environment of the flower pot. The lovely little moss is now brown, alongside the soft green carpet of the happy moss. I've learned that a moss is a plant to appreciate where it appears and grows, and that it is not one to be domesticated.


  1. Altoon,
    I am enthralled by your blog and the ruglets. I could see the influence of the lichen and mosses permeating through your 'Tiles' ruglet.
    I feel your blog achieves. . . the lifting up of the day, with it's celebration of many of lifes great 'small joys'.
    I am blessed to be the temporary carer of land, just outside Brisbane, here in Australia. I continuously admire/observe the changes in season, contrasts in light, profussion of abundance and devastation of loss (drought). I admire your eloquence. I did not come to English until late and continuously need to search the dictionary for so many meanings. Prose. Your endeavour to use this . . . . mine was to find what it was.
    I will continue to explore your site and thankyou for your ouput, it is inspirational.
    Best wishes,

  2. What a wonderful comment, Sharon; I am moved by what you have to say. Sitting at home at the computer, writing blog posts, sharing work and life online, means so much more to me when I know that I am touching other people. Thank you.

    And how lucky you are to be in the grand Australian landscape. I visited there 20 years ago and loved the spare, austere land of Victoria and the desert center.

  3. Ah...the trouble with loving lichens and mosses and burning good maple is all the occasions for grief. Sometimes I just try not to look. But they are so beautiful. There are just a few that grow higher up the trunk and in the crown like these little ones, Orthotrichum or Ulota spp.

    And may I second Sharon? I so look forward to your posts.

  4. Susan, now that I notice the life on my firewood, I spend time on my walks looking up at lichens and mosses high above the ground; it's lovely seeing all those patches of color in the subdued landscape.

    and I'm glad you continue to enjoy the blog.

  5. Hi, Altoon, My mother used to make "terrariums" in glass bowls and aquariums and bring mosses, lichens with bits of sticks and stones from the woods to make miniature landscapes. She would cover them with sheets of glass and was careful to keep them damp. I remember they would last for many months.

  6. Helen, I imagine if your mother brought in the pieces of wood with the mosses on them, they'd be more likely to survive, as opposed to what I did: taking the moss from it's habitat. And maybe some mosses are more amenable to transplant...

  7. We have a number of different mosses in the garden and even took a two-day workshop at the UW-Arboretum to try to learn more. You already learned the main thing: mosses grow in the atmosphere that is perfect for them. That's why they are so difficult to transplant. So I try not to water mosses outdoors to create artificial conditions and I also try not to feel bad when a lush patch disappears after a few years. The wants that like my conditions will find me.

  8. That last sentence was supposed to say: The ones that like my conditions will find me!