Ok moss experts... (lots of pics)

gomansonMay 30, 2008

First I wanna address my subject line: are there any moss experts?? From reading around the internet and these forums, it seems like everyone thinks moss is really cool, but no one really specializes in it or knows a lot about it. Why is that?

From what I've read, it isn't generally worth it to figure out wha spieces you need or have, because it's very difficult; it's much easier to find moss already thriving in similar conditons, and transplant some of that.

That being said, if you know anything about moss, I'd appreciate some responses on these questions:

1) I've read that to help a moss lawn along, you can pull weeds and grass, and keep stuff (twigs, acorns, leaves) off of the moss. Then the moss should fill in and eventually prevent weeds and grass from filling back in. (this is all assuming there is already moss doing fairly well in an area) 1a) Why is it important to clear off the stuff that falls or blows onto moss? 2b) Could the below-pictured area, for example, be helped along into a 100% mossy carpet? (i.e. if I plucked the grass and weeds, would they eventually stop coming back?)

I live in central MN in a partially wooded lot. We have Spruce, Oak, native Maple/Ash/Basswood etc. We have a lot of moss on our property. Here are some pictures of the most common type.

2) Does anyone know anything about what kind of moss this is or it's properties?

3) There are some areas that look like different...less leafy and darker green. Is this a differet kind of moss or is it just the same moss as the leafier stuff, but just at a different stage or something? (2 pics..)

I mentioned above how I understand the method of simply matching a perspective moss's conditions and location to the conditions and location of the transplant site, but that says nothing about the other thing to consider: whether or not it can handle foot traffic. Here's a pic of one spot I'd like to fill with a moss carpet:

That sun only hits that spot about an hour at sunset. I think the reason grass isn't growing there is the lack of sun and the heavy foot traffic. That narrow alley is the only way from the front to the back yard on that side of the house.

4) What would I have to do to get a mossy carpet here? How can I find out if the stuff in the above pictures wll handle traffic, and would I have to stay off it until it gets established?

Thanks for enduring my questions...I've been saving up moss questions for a while and I figured I'd just do one big post.

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First off, I AM NO MOSS EXPERT! Though I do grow several kinds of mosses, the majority I have not had the time to try to ID though I am sure that I have seen most of them during the course of checking out different moss images on the net. However check the link below and find your county and then you will have a listing of the species that occur where you live. If you can let us know what county that is then perhaps some of the moss "experts" will be able to give you a GOOD GUESS as to what species or genus the mosses you have.

From what I am seeing the majority of the mosses you have are in the MNIACEAE (prounced as KNEE M ACE A E). These are plants of shade, coolness, and very humid to wet places. Here is a link to a page that looks blank but you have to scroll down to the bottom of the page for the thumbnails. a moss that looks like one of yours

As regards your specific questions:
1. Weeding. the only way to eliminate weeds in the mosses is to eliminate the weeds that occur nearby and around in the area that can spread seed into the moss beds. Until this is done weeds will continue to develop in the mosses.
And perhaps even then some may appear especially if birds are frequent in the area.
2. Check the comments above-I would like to know what county you are in as well!
3. Mosses tend to occur as communities especially in areas where there is a very wide range of substrate and exposure to sun. Areas where there is little variation in the conditions of light and substrate tend to have only a few to one dominant bryophyte species, such as that covering a rock in full sun.
4. The mosses you have are not mosses that can handle foot traffic at all. Most mosses do not do well with any kind of traffic on them. If you want mosses in that path then I would recommend that you remove the dirt and build a brick or flagstone walkway with wide spacing between the bricks or stones and plant moss in between upon the sand/soil fill.

Here is a link that might be useful: Mosses of Minnesota: species list by county

    Bookmark   May 30, 2008 at 5:58PM
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Thanks for the response, Terrestrial Man! I live in Wright county, MN. zip code 55376. I checked the MN DNR site but couldn't find my county listed.

Not that I doubt you, but I'm just wondering...how do you know that this kind of moss won't tolerate foot traffic? Won't it still get stepped on if I use flagstones with moss in between?

    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 12:19AM
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Hi gomanson,
I recommend that you print out the pages with the county of
Hennepin and of Stearns. Compare both counties to see the similarities. From what I am looking at it looks like Hennepin County is much wetter over all than Stearns, probably more lowlands in Hennepin (my guess??).
Here is a link to my page on links for mosses with several links of images.
Moss links

Check out the images to the lists you print out. You may not find the exact species but the genus will be close enough. My current guess is what you are walking on may be in the Plagiomnium.

The reason I think that these will not stand up to foot traffic is that they are very thin celled and will be damaged or at the least simply crushed into the substrate. With their strength in recovery I believe that they can come back but with repeated exposure to foot traffic they may be seriously reduced to those portions of the path least traveled. Using bricks or flat stones or sheets of stones would provide them a space just below the surface of the walkway where they would not be crushed but those portion exposed could be pushed down into the moss bedding and be able to recover provided the gap between the bricks or stones is three inches or so. Just be sure the mosses are planted below the surface of the flagstones.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dereila images of mosses

    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 1:53AM
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I think the flagstones are a good idea even if the moss was durable for walking. What about the second kind on my property. You can see it in the 4th and 5th pics above. (My camera's dead or I would takea better pic.) It's the kind that looks more like mini cedar leaves than mini ferns. Is this kind more durable for walking? If so, I'd rather use that kind on the path even with flagstones.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2008 at 7:06PM
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I believe both of the mosses (though I suspect that there are probably other species in the mosses there) occur naturally in damp shaded areas. Imagine on the face of a damp bank. Neither one is really suitable for foot traffic. But as fill in between paving stones both would probably do well provided that the area is misted dowon regularly. Here is one similar species from Washington, a Brachythecium species.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2008 at 3:04AM
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I too live in Minnesota. Have you read this NY Times article on cultivating a moss lawn?

Pretty interesting. If I were to do it, I think I'd try to do it the way the gentleman in this article did.

Here is a link that might be useful: Moss Makes a No-Care Lawn - NYTimes

    Bookmark   June 3, 2008 at 1:27PM
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Hi Treehaus,
Yep! Seen the article. It must be nice to be able to have a moss "lawn" or any area that moss can grow on naturally.
Not so here as way too dry and just getting enough water during the rainy season is always iffy.
What is interesting to note about the article is that it was written by what appears to be a single resident and that the image shows little to no moss on the haeavier traveled paths. Walking around on moist moss in your bare feet sounds cool but at least it would not be as destructive as with shoes or combat boots!! He failed to mentioned just what extent of foot traffic the moss stood up to but with letting it dry back during summer would tend to indicate that it never really developed into a thick live bed of moss. I believe that the Japanese who have had moss gardens for centuries do not walk on the mosses but rather have footsteps through the gardens or walkways. The link below shows one old garden with paths which mosses grow onto. Again what makes this garden succeed is the environment. As this is a temple garden I wonder to what extent is there any measureable foot traffic on the mosses?

Here is a link that might be useful: Japanes moss garden

    Bookmark   June 3, 2008 at 5:17PM
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