The Wonder of Moss

Until recently I hadn’t thought much about moss. I’d pass by it in the yard, on the side of a tree, or even in a crack on a sidewalk without a second glance. But then I met someone who made me take a closer look.

Moss is a very hardy, flowerless plant that grows in every kind of habitats from damp caves to dry deserts on every continent (including Antarctica). They can survive extreme temperatures, both very hot and very cold.  And while moss needs water to thrive, they can also live without water. They can completely dry out, some for decades, and wait for rain. When precipitation returns, the moss will soak in the moisture and start growing again.

Moss does not have roots, but instead have hairlike anchors called rhizoids that anchor them in place. Some mosses use the rhizoids to draw moisture and minerals, while others use their absorbent surfaces to collect what they need.

What I find most interesting about moss is if you do take that closer look. A patch of moss is actually a teeny-tiny forest. It consists of tiny, individual moss plants packed tightly together to hold onto moisture. And instead of seeds to reproduce, moss produces spores in small capsules on a stalk that rise above the rest of the plant. When the capsule breaks open, the spores are blown far and wide by the wind or carried off by animals, hopefully landing somewhere suitable to grow into a whole new plant. Next time you pass a patch of moss, take that second glance!