growing moss in terrariums

angelo_s(z6 NY)June 16, 2005

I bought live moss from the reptile show 2 kinds pillow or cushion and tropical sheet moss about 2 months ago I'm no expert on moss but thats what I was told they were. I have a misting system and also great lighting in the terrarium. Everyone I ask told me different things some people told me that moss needs shade and others told me they need bright lights also for substract to use coco bedding or sand or even soil Some say keep the moss very damp and some say have it covered in water at all times I am clueless on what works.

So far the moss has not spread It is still green not as bright as it was when I first got it I have it growing in coco bedding the humidity is about 85%-95% and the temp is about 80 degrees F. and for the lighting for one month I used 2 20 watt day glo tubes and now I upgrated the lighting to a Tek T5 4 lamp fixture 2 6500K and 2 3000K bulbs.

I here how so many people put moss in their terrariums and it grows and covers the whole thing I dont know if there exaggerating or I'm doing something wrong.

I tried to post this message on the moss forms but I only got 1 respone that persons great advise told me to post a message on this form a real genius and a big help that was If someone can help me I would greatly appreciate it

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sahoyaref(Alberta z3a)

You got the moss two months ago? Patience, grasshopper! I had a bunch of different mosses in my terrarium for a YEAR and I still didn't have that moss-covered look by any stretch of the imagination. Moss grows VERY slowly, so the only thing that will give your terrarium that aged, moss-covered look, short of buying enough moss to cover everything, is, well. . . age. Your humidity, lighting, temps, etc. are great. The moss should be kept constantly moist, not soaking wet (unless it's java moss). Moss only needs shade outside, indoors in needs as much light as you can give it, so your lighting sounds good. Java moss does grow more quickly, so if you want to, buy some of that. Place it near or in your waterfeature, and it will spread from there. Pillow moss and 'sheet moss' don't need to be as moist as java moss, so you can put them farther away from the water feature. Then just wait! It will grow eventually, I promise. =)

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 6:12PM
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angelo_s(z6 NY)

grasshopper- thats funny Sahoyaref you made me laugh :)
thanks for the advice I'll just have to wait it out

    Bookmark   June 16, 2005 at 10:02PM
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angelo_s(z6 NY)

I just bought some new tropical moss from black jungle at the new york reptile show on july 10 the moss they had was not bright green and it was a very thin sheet so thin that it was actually sheer. anyway I bought some coco bedding from them as well and I put it in my terrarium and now it's starting to turn lite brown and dull in color I am wondering if its dying on me the other moss that I have in there is so much greener and is slowly growing I dont know if I'm doing anything wrong or mayby it was don its way out when I purchased it

    Bookmark   July 26, 2005 at 6:05PM
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sahoyaref(Alberta z3a)

Yeah, it's probably dying. I was generally very UNimpressed with the plants I ordered from Black Jungle, so I'm not surprised that they sold you half dead moss. When I phoned them to see if they would fix their screw-up (two wrong plants, one of which was rapidly dying), they basically told me it was my problem, and they wouldn't do anything about it. I'll never order from them again! Their prices are also WAY too high for the size of plants they sell. So you probably won't get your money back, or even a credit, so just chalk it up to experience and be wary of Black Jungle in the future.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 8:37PM
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I am no expert, but just a CP hobbyist. However, I have learned what I can about sphagnum.

The optimum environment for your moss depends on which species it is. IIRC there are over 300 species of sphagnum in the USA. Some are true bog, some cedar swamp, fens, etc. There are different Ph levels (4-7), water levels, and light levels required.

most all mosses can be found in green, increasing the light levels increase color in some varieties, but not all. The live sphagnum I purchased from cooks a couple years ago is S Subtile I believe. It typically remains green regardless of light levels.

As far as water level goes, a good hint is the branch structure. If it is dense then that is a good sign it is higher up from the water level. The dense branching enables efficient capillary action to take place. Plus, the dense branching would struggle in moving water.

Drier species usually require a lower pH level, but most true sphagnum varieties can deal with 5.9

To help you anymore I would have to know what species you have. I'm no expert but I can try to help you, Ive got some field guides...but it is pretty difficult sometimes to be sure without a microscope.

Cyrus B. McQueen has an excellent (IMHO) field guide for North American

hope this helps

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 10:13PM
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opps forgot, and no tap water!!!

(or any water with calcium IIRC, but I would have to verify that statement)


    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 10:26PM
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angelo_s(z6 NY)

I dont know the exact species of moss I bought it from they call it tropical moss

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 11:52PM
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Don't be surprised if they really don't know either, there isn't that many people who are truly knowledgeable about mosses... Id contact them and hopefully they can give you the scientific name, from there Id google it ;)

    Bookmark   July 28, 2005 at 7:29AM
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From my archive, good beginner's guide


4 Introduction

5-6 Chapter 1; Large common liverworts
Finding and growing Marchantia, Lunularia and Conocephalum.

7 Chapter 2 ; Bags, Jars &Sandwich boxes
Short-term ways of keeping mosses alive.

8-10 Chapter 3; Sphagnum
Where to find them, how to grow them. A few common species.

11-13 Chapter 4; Polytrichum and other large mosses
4 common species. Lime accumulation, its causes & remedies.

14-19 Chapter 5; Garden mosses.
Attitudes to gardening. Recording and recognising the most likely species, how to grow them. Creating outdoor moss habitats.

20-25 Chapter 6; Acid woodland mosses & hepatics
Notes on 30 species, including 10 hepatics, with cultural needs. Collecting and using soils.

26-29 Chapter 7; Mosses on walls
Variety of wall habitats. Seasonal growth, tolerance for heat & sunshine. Soil- free "mounted" cultures.

30-32 Chapter 8; Chalk & limestone mosses
Descriptions & cultural notes on 20 species.

33-37 Chapter 9; Definitions & descriptions
Mosses, liverworts & hepatics. Sex cells, chromosomes and fertilisation. Capsules. protonema, bulbils & gemmae. The problems of growing very small bits of things

38-43 Chapter 10; Ethics
Victorian fern plunderers. Moss Exchanges. The herbarium. Record keeping & labelling. Legal restraints on collection. On growing and naturalising rare or exotic spp. Habitat creation. Introductions. Regulations on imported plants. Recording & defending habitats.

44-49 Chapter 11; Epiphytes
Air pollution "Mounted" cultures. Acid & alkaline tree bark. Notes on 30 species, including riverside mosses.

50-52 Chapter 12; In Vitro
Discoveries in test tubes. Use of test-tubes, nutrient gel & bleach.
The difficult plants, Bryums, ephemerals. Advantages to students etc.

53-59 Chapter 13; Mountain mosses
Where to look; western oakwoods, streamsides, banks. Rock and boulder plants and their cultural needs. Humidity, temperature, refrigeration. High arctic & alpine hepatics.. Using a refrigerator. Oceanic hepatics, rock cleft spp..

60-70 Chapter 14; Managing a Collection
Possible frameworks; patio, garden, test tubes, jamjars, windowsill, propagator, aquarium. Examples & management.
Greenhouse ideas. Reflective aluminium sheeting. Temperature differences within a greenhouse. Drought resistance. Management during holidays etc...
Temperatures. Critical temperatures. Carbon loss and gain. Plants needing low temperatures.
Use of fluorescent lights. Refrigerator management. Frost resistance.
Insect troublemakers.
Weeds; dealing with moulds, mosses, algae & lichens.
Unexplored ideas & equipment.

71 Postscript

Growing mosses and liverworts is a big subject. With nearly 1000 species in the British Isles alone, and well over 15,000 worldwide, they exceed in numbers the known species of cacti, succulents, alpines, or ferns.
Also, mosses occupy habitats more diverse than the whole flowering plant kingdom. From the depths of a dark cave to the twigs of a tall free, each niche has its specialised plants. Some grow on the mainland of Antarctica, where nothing else save lichens and algae can survive, and some in the worlds hot deserts.
They began to interest me in the early 1960s. My interest took an obvious and familiar form, as a living collection. I soon saw that these humble plants were the biggest horticultural challenge I had ever found. There is a small but devoted band of botanists who have an especial love for and interest in mosses, and who make a lifetimeÂs study of them, but for some reason a tradition of growing them had never become established. Indeed mosses were generally considered so specialised that the cultivation of most species was virtually impossible. That idea has still not been fully dispelled.
Certainly their needs in cultivation are unfamiliar and varied, yet as much as 90% of the British moss flora can be grown with techniques and equipment well within the reach of most amateur gardeners. Indeed many mosses are incredibly tough and persistent, if treated in the right way.
This is in one sense a difficult book to write. I offer it especially to people who are already skilled or dedicated growers of other specialised plants, be they succulents, orchids, or alpines, but who may be complete beginners so far as mosses are concerned.
Such people will want help in naming their plants as they find them, yet this book obviously cannot be an adequate guide to their identification. It aims to give hands-on encouragement, starting with the commonest plants, the easiest to name, and the easiest to grow.
Each section introduces a few new plants and a few new ideas on growing them. I hope many readers will also find these ideas useful in growing other kinds of plants, as I have done.
On the other hand I hope this handbook will interest people who already know a great deal about mosses, but who have not yet grown them successfully. I ask them to forgive the very elementary descriptions and sketches of the very commonest species, and the emphasis on such mundane objects as flowerpots and garden sprays. Though they have inspired so much interesting and sophisticated experimental work, mosses are not high-tech plants. They will grow as well in a jamjar or cold frame as in a laboratory, -better perhaps. Unique collections, of genuine scientific interest perhaps, can be built up on a windowsill. They need patience and understanding, not money.
That is part of their attraction.

1. Large common Liverworts.

One of the largest, the commonest, and surely the strangest looking of all liverworts, is Marchantia polymorpha. Through a lens, itÂs flat crawling stems, its elegant cups full of oval green "eggs", and its umbrella-shaped male and female fruit stalks look like something from science fiction, rather than from a suburban garden. It has probably been grown more often than any other liverwort. There was once a Dutch cactus nursery, specialists in strange plants, which offered a Marchantia for sale - at a high price. Its catalogue did not even say which species.

However there is no need to send off an order to Holland. It can be found in any garden centre, growing on paths or around container plants. It is a horticultural weed, but can be found almost anywhere where there is wet soil - by rivers and streams, under gutters, or in wet shady garden beds. It is even commoner in towns than in the countryside, especially where there is an extra source of water, such as a dripping gutter. While looking for it, a gardener will be likely to find another species. Lunularia cruciata is fond of garden paths and soil in and around greenhouses, but can tolerate drier places than Marchantia. It is smaller and shinier, of a bright fresh green, and without any darker central band. The most obvious difference is that it has little egg-like gemmae, not held in circular cups, but in structures shaped like crescent moons, hence its generic name.
Botanists used to think that these were primitive plants, but it seems they are among the most complex and highly evolved of liverworts. Though leafless, the creeping stems, called thalli, are thick, with a tough upper skin and breathing pores (stomata,) through which they can breathe and regulate water loss, just as most flowering plants do. These pores can easily be seen even without a lens, as tiny spots on the smooth upper surface of the plant.

Underneath, both of these plants have a fuzzy white growth of fine root like hairs (rhizoids) which penetrate into the soil and draw up water, just like the roots of flowering plants. Marchantias and Lunularias can be grown in the same way as conventional plants. They simply need to be pressed onto soil - any reasonable soil will do - in a flowerpot, and watered, just like a geranium or a Primula, or any other pot plant. They will tolerate hot sun, though they do not particularly like it. Because they are small - by normal gardeners' standards - they tend to get rather soggy and messy if kept too wet, if for instance, they are stood in a saucer of water. Marchantia will shrivel up and die if you let it dry up completely, but a few of the little gemmae, or a small piece, will often survive and regenerate. Lunularia, being smaller, is more easily overgrown or spoilt if kept too wet, but is rather more drought-resistant. As a wild plant it grows in drier places, often on slopes or banks. If kept out of the sun, it can even be left dried out and dormant in the summer.

Leafy or shrubby flowering plants are cooled by air circulating among the stems and leaves. So long as the air is not heated above about 50C, and they have plenty of water, they will probably not be harmed by sunshine, though some ventilation may be necessary in a sunny greenhouse. Compact leafless plants such as globular cacti are not air-cooled in this way, and despite coming from deserts, may paradoxically be more vulnerable to sunburn. These liverworts are vulnerable for the same reason. Therefore, in a greenhouse, or indoors, and certainly in an enclosed frame or propagator, they must be shielded from hot sunshine. The nearer to the greenhouse roof they are, where hot air collects, the more vulnerable they are.

These two were the first liverworts I ever noticed and started to grow. They are likely to arouse the curiosity of any plant lover. Someone who is interested should look for Marchantias in early
summer, when the difference between the male inflorescences (left) and female (right) is obvious. A third common species is Conocephalum conicum. It is larger than the first two. It has no gemma cups, and fruits are rare. The upper surface is smooth, and of a fresh green colour. When brushed or bruised, it gives off a refreshing smell - a little like the smell of apples, but more pungent. It is not an urban weed, but is found in more natural habitats, usually by streams and riversides, on permanently moist soil, rocks or brickwork. It is a very easy plant to keep. It does not mind water logging or deep shade. However the soil must always be moist. Drought will kill it, as surely as it will kill a fern or a Primula. It is even large enough to hold its own in a garden bed or on damp bricks, so long as the ground never dries out completely. A 20-year-old patch on a brick border in my Reading garden died in the summer drought of 1989.

These three species grow quite fast. A few shoots will expand to fill a pot or pan within a few months. Presently new shoots will have to grow over the old ones, and become more loosely attached, and more vulnerable to drying out. Within a year or two, the whole culture needs to be cleaned out and restarted, by pressing the best shoots firmly onto fresh soil.

In Britain, there are not may other species in the same family as these - the Marchantiales - though British M. polymorpha now comprises three similar species. Some other species are dark green translucent plants of permanently wet places. Of those resembling Marchantia, some are rare, but more resistant to summer drought. Smaller, but widespread on bare clay soil, are Riccias, of which the two commonest are R. sorocarpa with a groove down the middle, and R. glauca, without. I do not have an up-to-date worldwide list of the genus Marchantia. I have grown up to 20 distinct ones, mostly from other living collections. They are all rather similar, and so far as I can judge, can all be grown in a similar way. The family Marchantiales as a whole is much larger and more varied, containing several hundred species, all of them leafless, and most with creeping thalli. The greatest diversity of species is in warmer and drier climates, as in the Mediterranean and South Africa. Several striking species of other genera have been grown here or elsewhere in Britain, though nobody has yet built up a comprehensive collection.

2. Bags, Jars, and Sandwich Boxes

When I was a university student, from 1958 onwards, I had no plants which could rely on regular care and attention. However I kept a few small ferns in jam jars with a handful of peat in, standing on my desk, or in a corner of the room, not too far from a window. There they sat quite happily, with the lid firmly closed, even during the long vacations. Without realizing it, I had re-invented the Wardian Case, so popular in Victorian times. Water, air, and even dead insects, were slowly recycled in a little enclosed ecosystem. The only attention they needed was a light spray of water every few weeks, and the wiping away of algae on the inside of the glass.

When I had a flat with a small garden, in 1962, I put a glass tank with a lid in the shade of a bush, and soon filled it with ferns, club mosses and mosses, especially from North Wales. As I became aware of the wide variety of mosses which existed, I found that most could be kept alive in that tank, or in a jam jar, or even a clear Perspex sandwich box. However it soon became obvious that keeping mosses alive was quite a different matter from actually growing them well, and that the spindly little shoots in sandwich boxes were quite different from those of the wild plants. At the time I did not yet realize just what a horticultural challenge these plants would prove to be. Yet there are probably thousands of people who have kept bits of moss in this way, for a time. A collection of bits and pieces in jam jars, or even in plastic bags, is not a long-term proposition, but it is a beginning, and with patience and careful observation, anyone who is interested can build on the experience gained in this way.

A more convenient way of keeping a lot of material is in seed trays, each covered with a sheet of glass or a plastic propagator. Nowadays stiff transparent plastic is widely available from hardware shops. It is safer to handle than glass, and with care, can be sawn to the desired size. Easiest of all, seed trays can be draped in polythene. They can then be put in the open air, in a shaded place. When I first became interested in mosses, I soon filled several trays like this. If I have a lot of new material to look at, and not much time to deal with it, I may still put everything into a tray, cover it with a piece of glass or a plastic bag, and spray it thoroughly. This is fine as a temporary measure, for a few days, or even weeks, but I soon saw that it was no way to keep mosses permanently. I remember being frustrated and puzzled by their poor response, however thoroughly I watered them.

For a start, it is obvious that many mosses do not grow in damp enclosed places. Some of the most interesting ones - and often, the hardest to grow - are found on dry rocks and trees, or exposed to full sunshine. For these, an enclosed tray or cold frame is quite unnatural. It is only a matter of time before they decay or become overgrown. Yet even these drought-resistant species seemed to dry out and to become dull and tired, however cool and damp their surroundings. Keeping the trays wet, or putting a layer of peat in the bottom to hold water, only seemed to make matters worse. They appreciated an occasional spraying with water, but that still left the problem of what to grow them on, if anything. Gradually it became clear that the way we plant and water "normal" plants is irrelevant for most mosses. They are fundamentally different in their needs, which are far more varied than the needs of the more familiar flowering plants.

Anyone can collect twenty or thirty species and keep them alive for a few months in the way just described. That gives time to experiment, and to learn. What the next few chapters will do is to introduce different groups of mosses and liverworts which even a beginner can find in Britain with little trouble. For each group, I shall introduce one or two ways of keeping and propagating them on a more permanent basis.

  1. Sphagnum growing

Most gardeners are familiar with dead Sphagnum. It is stuffed into hanging baskets to hold moisture. Its remains form peat, which has long been ripped up and marketed as the panacea for all gardening problems. Yet the live plants deserve a better fate.

All Sphagna need a habitat which is wet and acid. They will not be found elsewhere. In the South and East of England, some of our few remaining acid heathlands, with their characteristic flora of heather, bracken and birch, are still being threatened. Only the wetter parts of these dry lowland heaths support Sphagna. These areas of boggy ground are often quite small, and vulnerable to drainage or disturbance. For conservation reasons, the sale and the use of Sphagnum peat is being phased out, for these are among the most characteristic of all British plant habitats, and their continuing loss is one of Britain's greatest conservation problems. If you know of such a place, where sundew and Sphagnum grow, do not trample or disturb it unnecessarily, and collect only very sparingly. Technically, the collection of even a few shoots of a common moss can be illegal, especially in nature reserves, in which some of our remaining lowland Sphagnum bogs are now protected. Another threat to these Sphagnum habitats is commercial peat extraction. I have used Sphagnum peat for many moss cultures, but have found that the coconut-fibre substitute is an adequate for this purpose. If kept soaked in acid water, it supports excellent growth of Sphagnum, and of all other mosses and liverworts of similar habitats I have yet tried growing on it.

Most of our upland and mountain regions have high rainfall and acid soil. Here Sphagna are to be found almost everywhere, and the variety of colours and forms is obvious. Even a casual visitor should find several species in a short time. It is fair to warn that Sphagna are easy and delightful plants to grow, but often hard to identify. There are about 30 species in Britain, and very few people who can confidently name most of them on the spot. Sometimes two gatherings of quite different size, colour and general appearance prove to be the same species. The very common S. subsecundum and its varieties are especially variable.

Firm identification needs a microscope, a good textbook, some experience, and the methodical examination of leaf and stem characters. The main stem has leaves which can only be seen by pulling off the branches, or in some cases, the head of the plant. Stem colour varies, as does the presence of a translucent outer layer of enlarged cells around the stem. The branches may be erect or hang down, sometimes being pressed against the main stem. The differing shapes of the branch leaves, from rounded to sharply pointed, are easy to see with a lens, as is their arrangement, sometimes in well-defined rows. The most obvious features, the varied and attractive colours, are unfortunately unreliable in naming many of the common species, and even the most experienced Sphagnologist must check some gatherings under a microscope. The delightful pictures in some popular books may give some idea of the beauty and variety of our 30 or so British Sphagna, and may enable a few intelligent guesses to be made about their names, but little more. However, there can be no better way to arouse an interest in these plants, and a desire to identify them, than to start growing them.

They must be kept wet, which is easy. Plastic flower pots can be stood in a shallow tray, a seed tray without drainage holes perhaps, which is kept topped up with standing water. That is a familiar idea to most plant growers, though Sphagna, unlike familiar plants, have no roots, and simply soak up water like blotting paper. It is equally important to keep the conditions acid. Sphagna should be grown on peat. Normal soil, or anything containing lime, is fatal to them. The biggest practical problem is to ensure an acid or lime-free water supply. Hard tap water, being alkaline, will kill them, not immediately perhaps, but certainly within a few weeks. In one university greenhouse I know, a drum of distilled water stands on the staging. Most gardeners will opt for the cheaper traditional solution - a water butt - the larger the better. The cleaner and higher the roof from which rainwater is collected, the better also. Most greenhouses have not a large enough catchment area to reliably supply all the plants they may contain. I collect water from the main roof of the house. One refinement which many gardeners will find a labour-saver was that the tap in the water butt by the house in Reading could be connected to a hose which ran down the garden, to fill another water butt in the greenhouse, seventy feet away. This may seem rather a lot of trouble to take if all you want to do is keep a bit of that bright red Sphagnum (probably Sphagnum recurvum) from last summer holiday, but there is a bonus. Anyone who arranges a good store of rainwater and can grow Sphagnum, can also grow other mosses, also insectivorous plants such as sundews, Venus flytraps and pitcher plants, and other interesting things which other less enterprising gardeners find difficult or impossible to keep. The essentials are so simple.... A bag of peat or acid fibre, a waterproof tray, and a supply of rainwater.

The most attractive feature of Sphagna, to a grower, is the range of colours they can show, ranging from the rare S. fuscum, of a dark khaki, through greens, reds and oranges, to the pale glaucous ochre of S. papillosum, found on rather dry heathlands. Unfortunately, one of the commonest, S. recurvum, is very variable in colour. These colours only develop well in sunshine, or at certain seasons. I have grown a few Sphagna in jars, but plants in such enclosed containers or in small frames or propagators are always in danger of overheating, and therefore must be shaded, so the plants will remain a dull green. If well ventilated, or in the open, Sphagna do not mind summer sunshine, though in a greenhouse they appreciate shade. They must never dry out completely. In their tolerance for water logging, Sphagna are unusual among mosses.

Over thirty years, I have on three occasions lost a number. In the hot summer of 1976 I forgot to move the trays into shade during a two week holiday. Many dried out, and some died. In 1986 I stood the trays in the open air, but did not put netting over them. Blackbirds turned the plants over, looking for grubs. The plants and labels got so mixed up that some were lost or never sorted out. During my more recent illness, all the cultures dried out during five years of almost total neglect, and most were lost. Birds can be a problem, as many gardeners know. Many mosses can be successfully grown in the open air. However they do need to be protected from disturbance, especially in spring, when birds will collect them for nesting material. The simplest protection is plastic netting. Wire netting should not be used, since the zinc leached out of it may be toxic to many mosses.

The biggest advantage of growing plants in the open is that they are washed clean by natural rainfall. Sphagna which are grown in a sunny site in a greenhouse lose a lot of water by evaporation in summer, and can become mucky and encrusted. Such sickly Sphagna can be seen in greenhouse collections of insectivorous plants. If the water is at all alkaline, these deposits soon disfigure and damage them. The cure is to spray thoroughly from above, and literally to wash them off. For doing this, a large garden spray is essential. For growing mosses on any scale, such a spray is the most vital single piece of equipment. It is a sad reflection on our destructive society that these pump-up garden sprays are promoted not primarily for watering, but for dispensing chemicals such as mosskillers and weedkillers. They are invaluable for watering, cleaning and spraying plants - not just mosses - and as a source of high-pressure water for D.I.Y. jobs.

Among the British Sphagna there are wide ecological differences. It does not seem essential to reproduce most of them. .S papillosum is a common large species of sunny sites, usually ochre-coloured. Medium sized, and very common, is S. recurvum, with stem leaves bent back (recurved). Its varieties can come in almost any colour, though the bright red forms are the most attractive. Trailing in pools, its fine branches having a look like "a drowned kitten" is S. plumulosum. Very common, in sun or shade, and with its many varieties, colour forms and related species, is S. subsecundum, with its branches often a little curved to one side "like cow horns". Preferring some shade, at least in drier parts of the country, is the large green S. palustre, like S papillosum, but greener. In boggy shaded woods is found the smaller S. fimbriatum, with ragged ends to the stem leaves, and with it, one of the smallest species, S. tenellum. S. squarrosum is quite distinctive, with recurved leaves giving the branches a prickly appearance. A few, especially S. quinquefarium, may be found on well-drained sloping banks in wet western woods, and on mountainsides. If well shaded, these can tolerate slight desiccation, and may be grown in shaded humid conditions, not waterlogged.

The more brightly coloured ones only develop their colours in sunny situations, and should be grown accordingly. Some species have a strongly northern or western distribution, though I never noticed any difference in their tolerance to high temperatures. Also, a few Sphagna from the Southern hemisphere, from Tasmania and Papua New Guinea were treated like the British ones. There are hundreds of Sphagna, worldwide. Many of them are variable or hard to identify, and some of their taxonomic problems still need study in culture. This genus alone could become the subject of a large, attractive and valuable living collection.

4. Polytrichum and other large Mosses.

Anyone who finds a Sphagnum habitat, and is looking at mosses generally, will certainly find many other kinds. There are so many, the beginner will soon feel overwhelmed. It pays to be selective. However, most mosses and liverworts can easily be kept alive for a time in the way described in Chapter 2. Those from drier places are best set aside in this way, at least for now. However some others, especially those of wet acid heathland, can be grown in the same way as Sphagnum.

Among the largest and most obvious mosses are Polytrichum. P. commune often occurs among Sphagnum, and can be grown in the same way. It is the largest British species, and can make dark green tussocks up to a foot tall. On drier heathland, two other species are common. They are large compared to most mosses, but smaller than P. commune. Both have a hair point on the end of each leaf. In P. piliferum, less than an inch tall, it is white, and the tufts may have a silvery appearance. In P. juniperinum, a slightly larger plant, the hair point is reddish. In acid woodlands a fourth species is common. It may reach three or four inches in height. In drier parts of Britain it needs shade. It is P. formosum. The leaves usually have a trace of red at the tips, but no hair point. A good hand lens is helpful, since it makes it easy to see another clear-cut difference; P. commune and P. formosum can look very similar. They have flat or slightly incurved leaves, like those of a tiny Yucca. The leaf tips of P. piliferum and P. juniperinum, which tend to grow in drier places, have their margins tightly inrolled, giving the leaf a spear like tip.

All four species can be grown like Sphagnum, in plastic pots of peat, stood in trays of rainwater. In a greenhouse, they do not enjoy hot sunshine. Some shade is desirable in summer, and they may grow better in fairly high humidity. However, unlike Sphagna, they can survive desiccation, especially P. piliferum. Any intelligent plantsman, on first finding P. formosum and P. piliferum, will see that they do not grow in waterlogged places. These two can be left dry, in plastic or clay pots of peat and/or lime-free builder's sand, in part shade or full sun, and allowed to dry out during the summer. If watered well from September till May, they will grow quite fast in spring and autumn. However all these four species are quite sensitive to "lime" formation on the shoots and leaves. This "lime" can become the major problem for moss growers, and it is worth looking at it in some detail.

Mosses are fundamentally different from flowering plants and ferns. They mostly have little or no vascular tissue, that is, internal tissue designed to carry water. That is why most mosses are small. Water can only slowly diffuse up through the plant, from the soil. This works well enough for smaller mosses, say up to about a quarter of an inch tall. Larger mosses usually absorb water directly through the whole plant surface. This is why they need spraying from above. Watering the soil in which they grow does little or no good. Some larger mosses draw up water from the soil, not though their roots and stems, but externally. They soak it up like blotting paper. This is how Sphagnum remains moist. However, rooted plants can absorb the water and nutrients they need selectively, and in general can leave in the soil any dissolved substance they do not want. Mosses cannot select in this way. If the soil contains dissolved substances, they are drawn up along with the water, and as it evaporates, they make a deposit on the leaves and stem.

It is perhaps significant that the mosses and liverworts which have been most widely grown in the past are those with strong rhizoid (root) systems, which are most like flowering plants, and least troubled by lime. To grow most of the others, the grower must usually find some way of preventing these deposits from forming. One obvious way is to keep the plants moist or enclosed, so that there is less evaporation, and therefore less deposits are formed. Another almost opposite approach is to keep the soil so dry that there is never any free water. A third approach is to use totally lime and nutrient-free soil - pure peat perhaps - and water only with distilled water. This does not work for lime-loving plants, and anyway does not completely eliminate these deposits.

All these methods help, but none are entirely right for Polytrichum. It is usually sensible to imitate the conditions in which plants grow naturally. There is one important factor in the environment which very few plant growers or botanists seem to take account of. It is the impact of falling rain. Take some plants - any plants - from indoors, or from a greenhouse, and put them outside for a week during rainy weather. The dirtier, dustier and more neglected, the more encrusted with lime or infested with insect pests they may be, the better. As rain washes them clean, the difference is obvious. Mosses can be grown under cover, but most will only flourish if the cleansing and leaching action of rain is simulated by thorough and reasonably frequent spraying. A large garden spray is not just a convenience, but the most essential single piece of equipment.

Polytrichums have strong rhizoids, but also draw up water along capillary channels, up the stems, around the leaf bases and up the leaves themselves. Even if you bring home a tuft on its original soil, if it is left waterlogged in a dry place, as on a windowsill or in a greenhouse, it will soon begin to spoil as deposits build up on the leaf tips. The remedy is simple. It is, to wash them off with a spray of rainwater. Once this problem is mastered, these are easy plants to maintain. My surviving cultures are over 20 years old. They may need replanting every year or two onto fresh peat, as the old shoots begin to die. They will grow all through the year, except perhaps in the very hottest or coldest months, making their strongest growth in spring. On fresh peat, new shoots soon appear, thrusting up from underground stolons.

In one respect I have failed with Polytrichums. Male and female organs are on separate plants, and both are striking. The capsules are among the largest of any moss, but only one of my cultures has produced them in recent years. Other British Polytrichums include P. strictum. It grows among Sphagnum, like P. commune, but in wet hilly and mountainous areas. It has shorter leaves and narrower stems, the lower parts of which are covered with a white felted growth of tomentum, which conducts water. It may be grown like P. commune or Sphagnum. P. longisetum is less common. It looks like P. formosum, but with wider translucent margins to the leaves. Microscopic examination may be needed to confirm its identity. P. alpinum is a rather nondescript plant, superficially like P. formosum. It is occasional in mountainous places, among steep or even overhanging rocks, or on acid soil in rock clefts. P. sexangulare is a highly specialised plant of snow patches - hollows on the highest Scottish mountains, which are covered with snow for over 9 months a year. It will not survive without special treatment. Another species, formerly included in Polytrichum, but now placed in another genus, is Pogonatum urnigerum. It is rare in the South, but frequent on wet soil banks and by streams in hilly areas. It is a typical Polytrichum shape, but young shoots are of a striking pale glaucous blue-green colour. A related but smaller plant, Oligotrichum hercynicum, with blunt incurved bright green leaves, is frequent on acid soil banks in the West and North, becoming more luxuriant and abundant higher on mountains, and reaching the highest Scottish summits.

These four can be grown waterlogged, but on acid mineral soil rather than peat. I have found washed sand, as supplied by D.I. Y. and builders' merchants, to be acceptable, as a layer over peat. None like hot summer sunshine, which will kill them in a greenhouse. They are less easy to keep. Chapter 13 discusses the problem of growing these cold-loving plants. Pogonatum aloides, formerly called a Polytrichum, is mentioned later, and has a quite different habitat.

Polytrichums are very unusual among mosses in having thick leaves. Most mosses have delicate leaves a single cell thick. The very common Atrichum undulatum is related to Polytrichum, and like Polytrichum, has a broad band along the middle of the leaf, which is reinforced and thickened by ridges made of cells projecting from the top of the nerve (lamellae). However the margins of the leaves are thin and translucent. The leaves also have teeth along the edges, visible through a lens, and a characteristic wavy (undulate) appearance. It could be confused with the even larger and more delicate Mnium undulatum which also has undulate but less pointed leaves, and creeping stems. It grows on damp sheltered soil. These two can be grown on soil, rather than peat, and do best in moderate or high humidity, as in a propagator. There are several frequent species of Mnium. The commonest is Mnium hornum, described in chapter 6, which has upright stems. Most, like M. affine, have arching stems and wide delicate leaves, but less undulate. All grow fast and easily on damp soil, in a cool shady place.

In a related genus is Rhizomnium punctatum. It is about a half-inch tall, or more. Its large round leaves with a strong border are very distinctive. It grows best on rotten logs in acid swamps, and can tolerate deep shade. A lens will show the brown filamentous growth around the base of the stems (protonema) by which it spreads, and from which new shoots arise. On damp or wet rotten wood in a plastic pot, and in high humidity, it spreads fast but rather unpredictably, making most of its new shoots in spring. Mnium undulatum can grow on chalk or lime-rich soil. Apart from that, these plants need acid or neutral soil. Lime or hard tap water is likely to kill them. If you collect them to grow, collect also a small bag of soil from the place where you have found them. A quite small amount will do. They can be put into a pot of peat with about a dessert spoonful of soil on top.

A careful look at acid ground will reveal many other mosses and leafy liverworts, mostly smaller than any mentioned in this chapter. Some of them are described in chapter 6.

5. Garden Mosses

This chapter is not about growing mosses in your garden. It is about finding them. It is also, in part, about attitudes.

I once met two young Japanese ladies, visiting England as part of their training to become qualified tourist guides in their own country. They were eager to further their training by administering and explaining a Japanese Tea Ceremony to their uncomprehending English acquaintances. More rewarding, for me anyway, than the strange green liquid we tasted together, was a glance in a Book of Useful Phrases they had brought with them from Japan. Among other things, it contained this quaint dialogue;

TOURIST. "Why is there so much moss on the stones in a Japanese Garden?"
GUIDE."Because it is the object of a Japanese gardener to encourage the things of nature as much as possible."

Considerable sums of money are spent each year in persuading British gardeners to bash, burn, and poison as much of the 'things of nature' as possible, including the mosses on our lawns, on our paths, and even on our walls and trees. When greater sums of money can be made out of persuading British people to grow mosses rather than kill them, then it will surely become a mass pastime, promoted by the so-called "Gardening Industry". Meanwhile, it is only remote and mysterious people like the Japanese, who encourage mosses on their rockeries and monuments, or even devote gardens to an appreciation of their quiet beauty. The Japanese have philosophical ideas about landscapes, and about simplicity and repose, which are expressed in their traditional gardens. Those ideas are quite different from those expressed in British gardening advertisements, and in so many British gardens, crammed with lurid mass-produced bedding plants, gardens from which everything wild, everything unpredictable or mysterious or complicated is supposed to be excluded, and in which everything is supposed to be under total control - except perhaps the weather. To people who promote this kind of gardening, mosses are surely the ultimate irrelevance

One of the most interesting exercises for any gardener, if he or she can defy these attitudes, is to observe things, rather than do something to them. It needs no tools, no money, and very little energy - just, perhaps, a pencil and notebook. Very few gardeners ever make a deliberate survey of what is actually in their own garden - be it a survey of insects ("pests"), of birds' nests, or of wild plants ("weeds"). I recommend making a survey of your garden mosses.

I made such a survey in Reading in 1963, on the week I moved into our house there. Among the squashed and abandoned childrens' toys, the builder's rubble, and the heaps of rusty bedsprings, were only 20 species of wild plants, including fruit trees, and various scraps of grass which had survived trampling by a family of children. Yet there were as many as 14 kinds of moss. The first lesson to be learned from such an exercise is that really thorough searching of a small area, even an unpromising one, may reveal more kinds of mosses than a superficial look in an apparently far more attractive place. Any reasonably civilised garden should have about a dozen kinds, though some may need intensive searching with a lens to discover. A lawn should hold a few, a piece of cement, or a brick or stone wall should have 3 or 4, even in the most polluted town, and a soil or cement path at least half a dozen more. In this chapter, I will concentrate on those which are most likely to be found on soil.
If you are reading this book, you may want to gather some, identify them, and try growing them in a flower pot. As a gardener, you will not want to merely observe your plants. You will want to control them. And you will soon discover - as I did - the maddening fact that many mosses, even from your own garden, seem resistant to any kind of control or cultivation. If you try to grow those same mosses in a flowerpot instead of killing them, you can expect many disappointments. In a frame, a greenhouse, or even outside, although they may enjoy the same climate, the same position and the same soil, many will refuse to flourish or even survive, until you have begun to understand their cultural needs. I will give descriptions of a few of the commonest garden mosses, and a few ideas for growing them. It is the ideal way to learn, for whenever a culture fails you can replace it, and check the conditions in the spot you took it from.

Most gardens are unlikely to contain any liverworts except Lunularia and perhaps, in a wet corner, Marchantia. I have already mentioned these. More rarely, shady lawns may have a leafy liverwort, Lophocolea bicuspidata, described in the next chapter. Looking at the mosses, you will soon see the distinction between two main groups. There are those with creeping or branching stems (pleurocarps) and those with close-packed upright stems arising directly from the soil (acrocarps). I will describe first some pleurocarps, since the common garden ones are relatively large.

On a lawn, unless it is very shaded, or the soil is very acid, the obvious mosses will be creeping pleurocarps. Brachythecium rutabulum is the commonest large species. It is one of our commonest British mosses. It is equally likely on paths or garden beds. Also common, even on the humblest lawn or the dullest housing estate, is Eurhynchium praelongum. This has a quite different appearance. Its pinnately branched stems may be distinguished with a lens from those of other similar mosses. This will show its distinctive feature, that the stem leaves are much wider than the leaves on the branches.

A piece of turf has a history, no less than an ancient tree or a medieval hedgerow. Older lawns - if they have not been wrecked with chemicals - may contain orchids or other small flowering plants of interest. Mosses may be part of that history. A former professor of botany near Reading owned a magnificent lawn on chalk soil, containing mosses characteristic of an almost vanished habitat - the flower-studded chalk turf which once covered much of the Chilterns - mosses which are now rare in the surrounding countryside. Botany students visited, to admire and to study them. Few homeowners can boast of such a thing, but many older lawns contain Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus, a very characteristic plant, with leaves strongly recurved. Some lawns, especially on wetter clay soil, may have Calliergon cuspidatum. The individual leaves of this, though blunt and lacking a nerve, are so tightly rolled together at the shoot tips as to make a point which feels quite sharp when touched.

Shady lawns and paths may have Eurhynchium confertum, like E. praelongum but irregularly branched, with weaker straggling stems.. On acid lawns, heathland mosses may grow, including Polytrichums, which look very dark green against the grass, and under trees, woodland species may occur, such a Mniums and Atrichum undulatum. or these plants, the choice of soil is obviously no problem. A little of the soil on which they were growing is sure to be suitable. When choosing a soil, it is worth remembering that most mosses can only exploit the surface layer. There is no point in giving them more than a half-inch or so of soil, at most. If they are in a flower pot, it is often convenient to fill the pot with peat or fibre, and to put a sprinkling of the appropriate soil on top of that.

One of the few botanists who has published an account of his efforts to grow mosses was Professor Paul Richards. In "Mosses; A King Penguin Book" in 1950, he wrote;

"I have found that most mosses grow well either in earthenware pans, glazed on the inside, or in ordinary porous flower pots or pans stood in an inch or two of water. The pot or pan should normally be covered with a sheet of glass, as even if it is standing in water, the moss may dry out in warm or dry weather..
A situation for the moss garden should be chosen which is protected from direct sunlight, at least from April to September. An ordinary unheated greenhouse is suitable, provided there is shade from the summer sun and precautions are taken against overheating."

In subsequent articles, he described similar ways of growing large liverworts. My experience is similar, but differs in two important respects. There are so many unpredictable factors that it would be rash to give precise guidance on how best to grow the plants I have just mentioned. I will only say that with the exception of Calliergon cuspidatum, these mosses above do not like being waterlogged. I have grown them all in clay pots (well drained), on a shaded shelf of a greenhouse.

I did not have the benefit of a cool shaded site for the collection in Reading, as this book makes plain. The species mentioned above were sprayed frequently, but were allowed to dry out for long periods in warm summer weather, when the temperature in the greenhouse, despite shading, was too high for healthy growth. In cooler autumn and spring weather they grew fast, filling a pot within a few months. At these times they could be covered with polythene sheeting, which kept them moist for days on end. Cultures may deteriorate after a year or two, or become overcrowded. When they do, they are best replanted onto fresh soil.

Once you have a system that works, and start looking for new but similar mosses from further afield, it becomes important to notice what kind of soil they are growing on. The distinction between acid and alkaline soils becomes obvious, as one learns to recognise the plants, and especially the mosses, associated with each kind of soil. The texture of the soil may also be important. Mosses of sandy soil will usually not flourish on clay, or vice-versa. When collecting mosses to grow on any scale, it is a good idea to keep plants from the same locality together, and to bring back also a small plastic bag of soil from the site. A small spoonful of this soil, sprinkled on top of peat or fibre, will be quite sufficient for most of them. In general, the smaller the plant, the more important it is to choose the right soil or substrate for it. However the important thing at first is to establish a place, and find a way of planting and watering, which works for a few of the commoner ones.

Anyone who can grow just the few creeping species mentioned already could in theory build up a sizeable collection, and one of considerable scientific interest. Even just in lowland Britain, there are over 30 species of Brachythecium, Eurhynchium and related genera alone, which can be grown in similar ways. Here are usually more species of acrocarps in the average garden, though they are smaller. The exact species depend very much on the nature of the soil. Many will be difficult for a beginner to identify.

Bright yellow-green plants with a white hair on the tip of a broad leaf are probably. It is usually on brickwork, cement or walls, and is described and drawn in chapter 7, but is so common that it may turn up on soil or paths as well. Plants of a similar colour, but without the hair point, are usually Didymodons or the closely related Barbulas. These are a large group, with about ten reasonably common species. Some are not at all easy to identify. Several are likely in gardens, especially on paths. B. unguiculata has a rather solid leaf with a sharp tip. B. convoluta is usually paler, lemon-green, and also with a slightly wavy leaf. D. fallax has short narrow leaves, twisted and incurved when dry. D. insulanus has longer narrow leaves, irregularly twisted. These all like a lime-rich soil, well drained, (use clay pots, not plastic), and plenty of light. They only grow well if kept in high humidity, and thoroughly sprayed with water, but are well adapted to cope with long periods of drought. I have long treated them as seasonal growers, on a rather warm greenhouse shelf with diffuse sunshine, and watered freely between October and April, leaving them dry and dormant in summer. In later years most have grown well on lime-rich "mounted" cultures, as described in Chapter 8.

Few gardens are without a Bryum or two and few towns or suburbs without five or ten of the fifty known British species. Plants of this genus can be the most difficult of all to identify. On soil, especially in cracks of paths and pavements, is the silvery B. argenteum, (see page 25), an unmistakable plant. Its shoots, like tiny silvery fir cones, are a beautiful sight under a good lens. Often growing with it, but of a darker green, is B. bicolor. This tends to disappear in summer, at least in the drier parts of Britain.

Two common and very similar species on soil in gardens and fields, in Berkshire and elsewhere, are B. rubens and B. subapiculatum. Like many other plants of this genus, thee last three have tiny bulbils or tubers, visible through a x10, or better, a x20 lens. The position of the bulbils may make it possible to distinguish these three; B. bicolor sometimes has no bulbils, sometimes a lot. They are green, and borne among the leaves near the top of the stem. There are actually several very similar species, mostly rather rare. B. rubens has a few reddish bulbils in the leaf axils at the bottom of the stem. B. subapiculatum has tubers on its underground rhizoids. They are often bright red, and can then be spotted with a good lens, despite being buried in the soil. I will not delve further into the mysteries of this genus, except to say that even in central Reading, at least ten species of Bryum seemed to occur, mostly on walls and tarmac. Some defied identification.

Fissidens are most distinctive mosses, with their leaves folded flat, forming on each stem a small stiff fernlike shape. A garden on clay soil may well contain F. bryoides, or the larger and slightly paler F. taxifolius. A strong lens or microscope will show the pale border of narrow cells on the leaf of F. bryoides.

Gardeners who laugh at the idea of growing mosses often say "I have some in my greenhouse!" This is a pretty sure thing, for anyone who keeps their pot plants wet enough is soon going to get Leptobryum pyriforme, with its delicate tufts of fine wavy leaves, and probably also Funaria hygrometrica, a budlike plant with a large lopsided spore capsule. Both fruit freely, though Leptobryum is a rather delicate plant, and rarely grows luxuriantly in the open air. They are the commonest "weed" mosses in greenhouses, but rarely persist for long in one place, especially if this happens to be a flower pot where a deliberate attempt is being made to grow them!

Two other tiny curiosities are likely on heavy loam or clay soils. Both are short lived annuals, dying away in summer, but leaving spores for next year. They are Tortula truncata and Tortula acaulon. They freely produce their characteristic fruits. Tortula acaulon fruits are on such a short stem as to be almost hidden among the leaves.

All these acrocarps have a strong rhizoid system, and can draw up water very effectively from the soil. They grow fast and well, and can tolerate waterlogging, drought, some sunshine, except in high summer, moderate shade, or any combination of these conditions. The trouble is that they are so small, and that things happen so fast, especially with the short-lived annual species, that within a couple of weeks, cultures are sure to contain a mixture of several species, and the one you started with (or thought you did) has died, or is replaced by something different. If you have taken a lot of trouble to identify the original plant, this is most annoying. They are, after all, ephemerals, so I suppose a plant that disappears in culture is behaving as it would in habitat! It helps, to start fresh cultures fairly frequently, every six months or so, and as carefully as possible, on fresh soil, using tweezers and a magnifying glass to pick out the individual shoots you want. The pots can be wrapped in Clingfilm for a week or two to keep them moist, and to stop unwanted spores and fragments contaminating them. I nowadays keep ephemerals on "mounted" cultures, on a thin layer of soil on pieces of polystyrene tile. This gives far better control over what is actually being grown, and I have managed to keep track of them far better in recent years. Even so, you may not get reliable results, especially with the Tortulas mentioned above. Indeed, serious long-term collections of some of these small ephemeral plants may be best kept in test-tube cultures. I give a few ideas on how to make "mounted" and test-tube cultures later.

I make no attempt to list other likely garden mosses, even in footnotes. I have given some idea of the variety of mosses you may find in even a quite ordinary garden. If you manage to name even half of them at first, it will be no small achievement, and to attempt to grow them, especially the smaller or more nondescript ones, involves considerable skill. Yet it is not wasted effort, for the same techniques can be applied to hundreds of other species, and to many other very small plants. Anyone who starts a similar project with mosses from outside Europe may encounter dozens of inconspicuous species which have never been grown by anyone before. Some of them are likely to be new to the country concerned, or even new to science.

Many people, including some who have asked me about it, approach moss growing from a different direction. They are less concerned with acquiring, naming or growing lots of species, and more interested in creating mossy landscapes, or encouraging mosses in their gardens generally. The Japanese moss garden, with its use of rocks and gravel, is the only relevant tradition I know, but is only one of many possibilities. Mosses rarely compete with larger plants. They grow on rocks, walls or trees, where there is little or no soil, and little competition. They only make conspicuous growth in places where flowering plants are stunted or absent.

To try growing mosses in the fertile soil of a garden bed is usually as futile as trying to grow parsnips on top of a bare wall. Where the soil is too acid, too deeply shaded, too low in nutrients, or too thin and dry for normal garden plants to survive, there will mosses flourish. Likewise, in severe climates, on the highest Scottish mountains, or in high Arctic tundras where little else can grow, there also mosses may predominate. More rarely, moss-dominated places can be found, such as old lead or copper mines, chemical waste sites or zinc-contaminated ground under electricity pylons, where the soil is too poisoned to support normal vegetation. Few gardeners would wish to create such habitats, even where it might be possible to do so. Nevertheless, if you want mosses to play a noticeable part in any garden, a suitable habitat must be created. The most likely habitats will contain little or no soil.

There is no need to import pieces of rock, for cement and tarmac make excellent habitats. When fresh, they are hostile, but after a few years' weathering, they are sure to become covered with mosses unless something prevents their growth. Some will be garden mosses already described, but, especially if exposed to sunshine, many will be walltop mosses, described in a later chapter. My own garden in Reading was full of old bricks. They were used to make paths, borders, and retaining walls to some garden beds. They were slightly porous and alkaline, and they supported a rich growth of mosses. The retaining walls especially offered some scope for introducing mosses deliberately, including a few which do not naturally grow in Reading. So did a rather exposed north-facing brick wall at the front of the house, on top of which several unlikely species became established, after being glued onto the bare bricks. I used a waterproof spirit-based glue (uhu) or, in later years, a silicone-based flexible sealing compound. There is usually not the slightest chance of success in sticking mosses on walls in this way, without a good understanding of which species are likely to survive in a particular place. Sloping surfaces, but not usually vertical ones which receive little rain, are best for mosses. It would not be sensible to gather any mosses except the very commonest ones described in this chapter, for use in such plantings. Better far to create or conserve the garden habitat, and then see what grows in it. Herbicides have their uses, since they kill flowering plants but usually leave mosses and liverworts unaffected. One could use them, for instance, to create a grass-free moss lawn, which would of course be a great improvement, needing no mowing! It would also be safer, since wet grass, is often slippery after rain. There is an unusual garden in the Cotswolds whose owner once weeded out all herbs, leaving only carpets of native mosses. However he did not introduce new species, nor know which ones were growing there.

Many mosses need higher humidity than is likely in a garden. A moss-covered log for instance, moved from woodland, is likely to lose much of its cover within months. Where water runs from a gutter or overflow, especially into a shaded corner, there may be a small wet area where Marchantia, Conocephalum, or perhaps some mosses may flourish better than elsewhere. An acquaintance has used Marchantia as ground cover at the wet margins of a garden pond. Many mosses and liverworts of wet places could be grown thus, so long as the distinction between acid, neutral and basic conditions is understood. A garden fountain splashing onto rocks can also encourage waterside mosses to grow.

A bank or slope of peat blocks (or peat-substitute blocks) is a good habitat for acid-loving mosses, and a pond filled with wet acid peat might well support Sphagna and associated plants, including mosses. There are other natural habitats which might be recreated or imitated on a small scale, even in a small garden, and which might support a few characteristic species of mosses or hepatics. A sunny wall top, for instance, with a thin layer of soil on top, can provide a home for some very characteristic mosses. There are lots of other possibilities which I have never tried, and never seen done convincingly by anyone else.

Only someone who has learnt to appreciate wild plants, including mosses, and who has gained some understanding of their habitats, is likely to achieve anything, or even to see what those possibilities might be. However, the small size of so many mosses makes it difficult and uncertain to keep track of introductions, however carefully they may be made and observed. In general, I think one is likely to learn more about mosses, and to achieve more, by studying those which are already in a garden, and by trying to grow them under controlled conditions, than by introducing new species to the garden itself.

  1. Acid Woodland Mosses and Hepatics

Most people ignore the evidence of their own eyes, and assume that mosses grow only in damp shady places. Certainly, mosses may seem larger and more abundant in woods, but even here, many interesting species are small and inconspicuous. I will start with the largest and most obvious ones. The moss flora depends very much on the type of soil, and on the local climate. In drier lowland regions, woodlands with acid, neutral or chalky soil respectively, each have their own distinctive species.

Acid woodland will usually be dominated by pine, birch and bracken, perhaps with heather in clearings, and unfortu

    Bookmark   July 28, 2005 at 12:28PM
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I've been digging around through my hard drive and found some recipes for you, you may be able to take a small sample of your moss and start a new culture from which you can harvest for terrarium use. These formulas may or may not work for your species, but it would be worth the try IMHO

I can't remember where I got these.. so my apologies to the author(s)

"How to Grow Moss for Your Garden"
Author Unknown

Adding moss to a garden is a beautiful way to enhance its appearance, and with this easy and inexpensive recipe, you'll enjoy growing moss as well.

1. Put a handful of the moss you want to grow into a blender.
2. Add 1/2 tsp. sugar and one can of beer (the cheapest brand). You can substitute buttermilk for beer if you want.
3. Blend just long enough to mix the ingredients and break down the moss.
4. Spread the soupy mixture with a spatula over the ground or rocks where you want the moss to grow.

Remove as much dirt from the moss as you can before you start.

Moss grows best in shady areas.

This will require a shaded & fairly moist spot that is not going to get washed by rain or sprinklers...
In a blender, combine 1 quart of buttermilk, 1 Tbsp. corn syrup, 1 cup beer of choice & 2 cups finely chopped , freshly harvested moss w/ developed spores or use 2 to 3 packages of Moss Spores A hand-full of brown fallen evergreen needles will help but is not required. Blend the mixture until it's smooth; adding more beer if you desire a thinner mix or more fresh moss for a thicker paste. Simply paint or pour the slurry onto the surface of whatever you want mossed and keep it moist. Do not use this mixture on bonsai... You will have to grow it separately on a page of newsprint dusted with a thin layer of peat and transplant it onto your bonsai when it is fully grown.
Keep in mind, many mosses are not fast growers and may need 1 or 2 seasons to impress you depending on moisture levels, shade requirements and soil composition. Your ideal soil Ph should be near 5.5 ( too sour for most grasses ). Use sulfur, aluminum sulfate or ferrous sulfate to sour the soil in a shade garden. We've experienced good results using various quantities of the ingredients in this recipe and by being religious about the growing conditions that most mosses enjoy...moist shade.


    Bookmark   July 28, 2005 at 10:17PM
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angelo_s(z6 NY)

wow! thanks for all that info I'll read it all tonight when I get home from work

    Bookmark   July 29, 2005 at 9:31AM
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When it comes to growing something new, I believe in reading what materials I can locate then listening to growers who have already had success with the plant in question.(such as Sahoyaref postings, I'm no help there, as my interest is primarily Sphagnum, which I doubt you have)But I hope you find the info useful.

Like everything else usually the devil is in the details

BTW, someone once told me they used the above recipes without moss, they said that they let mother nature deposit the spores.. :)


    Bookmark   July 29, 2005 at 8:52PM
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WOW! That was great Info! This place is the best! Tony =^)-

    Bookmark   September 2, 2005 at 6:58PM
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i found some moss under a tree by my postoffice and i was wondering how can i get it to grow

    Bookmark   December 19, 2005 at 12:07AM
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nathanhurst(VIC Aust)

rinkull, put it in the same lighting, soil and humidity conditions as it was under the tree. Or just try what you think is best and see how you go.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2006 at 6:17PM
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froggy(z4/5 WI)

i went out and collected about 20 different mosses in and around my work (and driving back and forth). i put them (with a bit of native soil) on a thickbed of perlite, typar, native soil (about 2 inches) and placed the moss in a slightly dug out hole. water copiously and every one is growing. the 10gal terrarium top is an open. tho... i will admit that i have a RO system and use mostly that for indoor plant.
yea i have a bunch of weedseeds happening. im letting them all germinate and grow out. then Round-up..kills everything but moss :)
this may have been the easest project that ive ever done.

i also did some experiments this last year with wild moss. one..i just pulled it up with the slightest amount of soil and put a few tufts on a concrete block to just to see what would happen. they doing great (tho not seeing to wanna grow ON the block, just their soil) and presently they are frozen little drops of green...amazing. no nuthing but mostly shade.

i also have a nephew that needs things to do so i had him dig me a 4ft deep soil profile hole in the back 40 last spring. this fall...there is a nice layer of moss running up and down the wall face. erosion takes most of it away unless ur quick (tho i imagine that erosion is also bringing me the 'moss seeds').

i also took a pile of sand and scattered tufts around it and most seem to be doing fine. NE side seems to do the best.

i then can i actually farm moss? i have a hoophouse directly on soil and i just cleared out a space with roundup thruout the year and let the humidity work...low and behold...its 100% full of moss. ive started to take out 1 inch deep cuts to put the moss in other places and guess what...layer # 2 then starts to grow out. ive gotten down to layer # 3 and it still grows it. this year im going to see how many layers i can go but the soil profile tells me its over 4 ft :) im also going to start to time regeneration. but if its humid less than a month, one can see green starting.

lastly...b/c this is so easy and beautiful...ive started putting this 'farmed' moss on indoor planters, my front yard walkway, taken old pieces of wooden things (well weathered) toys, chairs, etc' and 'take a handfull of farmed moss/soil and crush it over the top of the wooden stuff and keep them in the (unheated) hoophouse and again...there is this green layer starting.

this winter, im having my pa construct me a 'chess board' (made of plastic) and my plan is to have 2different types become the colors.

one more comment. i had a hard time when i first started doing some collection. this was because i was 'doing stuff'. the moss that i tried things like constant watering or fertilizer or mostlywet soil or etc didnt fair so well (moss never actually just sleeps :) yet the moss that i collected and did nothing to that lay in a shady pile were growing like crazy. so there it is...moss doesnt like the touches of man. same light, same water, same soil, set em and forget em and bingo...they grow like a weed. tho they do love water...rainbarrel water, hose water, rain...the get even greener. and that shade of green, OY! by far...this is the easist, most simple and no brainer type of landscaping/interiorscaping/art/botany i have ever done. its also a hoot! 'yea, i love moss' is always a conversation starter.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2007 at 10:57AM
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Sounds great till you mentioned the round up, that stuff is killing amphibians all over the world! they say it doesnt, but studies have shown that it does indeed kill a lot more than just weeds =( and thats bad news to people who use moss in terrariums that contain animals =( hope your not planning on selling the moss? if so please let people know about the round up before they buy =)

    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 7:17PM
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froggy(z4/5 WI)

ill betchya black plastic would work also. moss never dies, its only resting...

the farmer down the road puts on about 1/2gal/acre w/N on 2500 acres 2x y/y vs my 1.5% solution on dry upland on 2x2sqft, sometimes we need to keep things in perspective. point of interest here is that only 1 study (not studies) found that roundup kills amphibians and i still suspect that its more about the surfactant then is reported in the journals. i absolutely agree that we need to super test out roundup, not just half @$$ed studies in tanks. but if it was true that roundup was killing 98% of the tadpoles in the wild and the use of roundup is 'omni present'. then quite quickly there would be no more frogs, anywhere. and as someone that spends alotta time outside near woods, wetlands and farms, i will swear that there are frogs out there. if frogs are leaving us, it has much more to do with habitat distruction than roundup, imo. i dont plan on selling anything other than confidence to least when it comes to moss. frankly im not so crazy about the idea of keeping a 'frog as a pet' anyhow. moss, im much more comphy with.


    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 5:43PM
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Yeah, I like my moss too, still wouldnt add any round up next to it or any of my plants that I use for my terrariums though, my frogs are doing fine and Im sure thats one of the reasons, all that crap they spray on plants are not only killing our little critters, its also slowly killing us and destroying the natural habitats, (along with habitat destruction)yes, there are frogs out there, but no where near to say 20 years ago!? heck! prob not near to the amount there were 2 years ago! and yes, as I stated above, it is due in large part to habitat destruction, but its also due to the herbicides, pesticides, and chemicals in general that we spill either intentionally or unintentionally into our water ways on a daily basis, it doesnt take a scientist to figure that out, and even if only one test shows/showed that round up "might" be cuasing the death of tadpoles in any percentage it should be taken off the shelves! If the test showed that it "might" be causing the death of children, would you spray it in your childs back yard?

    Bookmark   January 26, 2007 at 9:44PM
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Hey all, i just wild collected some moss from around a pond in a wildlife area( no spraying of any kind is done there) and here is the deal, i have a Tank not a fancy set up but it works for 3 frogs and 3 toads that i have, until today when i collected the moss there was really nothing in the tank but some potting soil, and a little coconut fiber material under that. i am wondering if this moss will grow ok on the dirt? its the kind of moss you find on dead logs and tree bases in NW Ohio not sure of what kind it is, its a flat green moss. i have been on a bunch of sites today that say an acid heavy soil is best and one even said urine heavy soil, which 3 toads and 3 frogs will produce a fair amount of. any advice ?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2007 at 4:59PM
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Hi, I'm new to moss growing in a terrarium. Having lived in AZ since '79 I haven't seen a lot of moss since I left the south. So when I was visiting a brother in Port Orchard, WA. I just "HAD" to bring a some home that I found on a piece of wood. Getting it here in one piece was a feat in itself (as it was in my checked luggage).
I just made my terrarium yesterday. 10 gal tank, 3-1/2" - 4" of pebbles, 3" of T-Rex jungle bedding (forest substrate) and moisture.

OK, here's my question. I have a light strip that I have put only one 15watt "sunglo" light bulb in as the room the terrarium is in does not get a lot a natural light (hence the light bulb). The problem is that I think it is putting a little too much "heat" out that the moss is used to (coming from the Seattle WA area).

Any suggestions?

    Bookmark   August 13, 2007 at 8:58PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

I'm after some true sphagnum, I don't want to cover my whole tank in it I just want a little bit (I'm a reef keeper, I wait for corals to grow regularly), can anyone point me in the right direction?

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 12:43PM
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to late, sorry, but the moss need shadow

    Bookmark   June 29, 2011 at 11:13PM
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I sell moss harvested from my land in Pennsylvania. 90% of the mosses I sell need bright light but no direct sunlight. Cushion moss does not do well in a wet environment. Sheet mosses like fern moss, feather moss and plume moss do not do well in a wet environment. For wet environments, I recommend sphagnum and the other mosses and plants found growing naturally alongside them. I often see ferns sprouting from sphagnum bogs. Spoon moss and hair cap moss often grows at the outer edge of the sphagnum bog. Let nature be your guide.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2012 at 8:50AM
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Well I'm just an hobby moss grower from American and I respect the presumed authority you business growers have but as it might have been said before as well as emphasized, mentioned, or brought out in this whole discussion, the conditions in which you excavated your moss are the conditions in which they're likely to grow in. Now that doesn't mean I'm encouraging anyone to go out and buy a light meter, pH meter, hydrometer, temperature meter(thermometer), etc. but with all the advice being thrown around I cant help but think the most sound advice would be from Mother Nature(not to sound hokey).

In the case that you don't know the origin or species of your attained moss or even after you're given the simple specifics by some smooth-talking salesman or woman I encourage that you still educate yourself on the conditions moss are likely to thrive in such as has been advised in this forum but all with a grain of salt.
I've never bought moss but in making my case the gentleman or lady eileenb58 stated that "feather moss and plume moss do not do well in a wet environment," which is a nice statement but my first ever time seeing feather moss was at the Thorncrag Bird Sanctuary Park in Lewiston, ME(zone 5) where heaps of green, growing feather moss on rocks in cold shallow streams could be found on March and April 2012(forgive me if they were planted or by some other means set to deceive me in thinking their slow-growing nature had made them thrive there). Needless to say these feather moss were growing in a very wet environment and character to their nature grew up in top of each other still very wet to the touch in the middle of streams and along side them.
I would also like to note that there was also feather moss growing on trees but in less abundance as those I found nearer the bodies of water to possibly support eileenb58's claim of their disdain of wet environments. I don't believe eileenb58 is wrong(b/c there's a little theory called adaption and evolution) but I do believe that for the moss that she/he had access to the case is reasonable. What I really mean to support is that yes the moss people grow or find growing in conditions they have set up grow but they are not as standard as the moss that you've collected's origin is and possibly even a deviation.

I took a fragment of this feather moss from ME(zone 5) and brought it with me to NJ(zone 6), thinking it would grow inside atop clay soil(abundant in my NJ region) on a rock(some mountain rock) I had set in a shallow water basin with no particular special treatment besides filling the water basin, and I even using tap water, high in calcium as I learned only to then wait until the fragment turned a deep brown with white tips in my possession, and I'm not too sure on any of your definitions of death of moss but I, after seeing the fragment turn a nice deep brown, transported it outside in its basin to a spot under a tree on the ground in May 2013 where it received a fair amount of moisture, air circulation and had considerably colder night conditions, a different precipitation quality and frequency and soon enough, though needing a bit more precipitation in my opinion, greened-up like a phoenix. Temperatures on the ground this year are probably around 75-70 daytime and drop down as low as the 60's night time. There isn't much precipitation now as there was in May and I know moss are intolerant to dry spells but my fragment has been clinging on for dear green for almost a two years since it's excavation with it now signs of life after being placed outdoors for three months. There's something to be learned here about life and death of moss in addition to viable conditions.
Let me again say that I am only a hobby moss grower and my methods are not orthodox but upon researching feather moss(on Wikipedia if you can believe them) I found that feather moss grows naturally in tiaga/boreal forests: cold northern parts like New England(where ME is included) and Canada. As far as whether any of that means wet or dry conditions for where you place them I don't know but I do have a sneaking suspicion that they like it cold for a spell/season. I have this book "Moss Gardening" by George Schenk who states on page 201 about feather moss Hylocomium splendens, "There is no use in even trying this species unless one intends to keep it in a terrarium (where it will stay fresh a while even if it does not grow), or unless one provides a rich bosky place for it in the open, as beneath a grove of tall shady conifers." I have my little basin under a the shave of a 10ft maple, the point is take all the advice you can with a grain of salt regardless of the authority published in forum, encyclopedia, or text.

What I have done recently is set up an exo-terra terrarium with a good patch of brown(once green in the cold Thorncrag stream) feather moss on a rock besides the edge of water(collected rain water this time) that I have being pumped out of the terrarium and into a minifridge freezer(call it a DIY water chiller) then returned to the terrarium a little colder(70-65F) than room temp(90-70F) in clear tubing that water condenses atmospheric humidity in and outside the terrarium. There are two fans in the terrarium; one over the water blowing across it's surface and one higher near the terrarium's roof. The tubing with the condensed water on it inside the terrarium apparently, if not the cool water below's fault by convection, upon it's exit helps keep the terrarium cool with help from the fans that blow in their entering and exiting paths. I have miniature orchids above the whole moss set up just in case you thought it was all for the love of moss. I have only recently set this up however and am hoping that my brown moss notices the difference. While I could upload a picture, since I only today completed the project, I'll wait until I see something green from my moss to confirm to my reasoning that nature knows best.

Again, I am a hobbyist. I have not done the scientific experiments(if you don't count observation) necessary to create identical conditions for the moss I would like to grow given it's origin. To show you how much I care about the specific conditions I will give my advice: If you want a little tip from me on growing feather moss I say get a plate(dish plate or shallow ceramic plate w/e), a red lava rock(not the small broken up ones of soil additives found in baggies but the ones that are weighed along with all the other large decorative rocks at garden centers, perlite-less garden soil or even clay, silt w/e soil you have around, and some feather moss. Place the plate in a shady spot(maybe under a 10ft maple tree-this is separate from what I discussed previously as the mountain rock I explained is not porous to my knowledge) and sprinkle(hopefully not on a windy day) a little of your soil on the rock which should be perforated if you got the right one. You don't need to create a whole layer of soil on top of the rock and you might not need soil at all(did I mention that I'm not an authority). Also it's okay for the soil that you sprinkle, should you literally be sprinkling it, to fall into the plate's well(the moss will grow here too). Next break up and sprinkle the feather moss, wet or dry, over the lava rocks and add rain water to the water basin if natural precipitation isn't available to do the job often enough to wet the rocks. Red Lava rocks are porous(admit water through their perforated surface) so when they sit in water they absorb it and it can be wet, evaporate and w/e else all around it's surface above water. The fact that it is porous makes it a good surface for moss like feather moss to grow(and I wouldn't be surprised if you buy a lava rock w/ another kind of moss growing on it but don't worry b/c feather moss, as you read and educate yourself, has a unique growth pattern where it grows over even itself to form a new sheet) so there's no need to remove already present moss. What you might want to take note of is that since lava rocks admit water and since such decorative rocks are usually stored outside that it might be best to choose a rock after a few days of no rain just so that possibly all the rock that's being weighed is all the rock you're getting and not added water weight. Nevertheless you can leave this setup outside year-round if you're zone 6 and 5(let me mention again that Wiki says it like taiga/boreal forests i.e. "let it snow, freeze, thaw." The rocks I left out in the winter haven't degreaded to my knowledge despite their perforation and water's expanding property when ice. You might not see anything for a year, hopefully a good part of that time in which it's covered in white but after one winter I have found a few feather sprigs coloring my red rocks with their lively green and for you indoor terrarium growers-I'm working on my own zone 5 to zone 6 solution in a terrarium set up mentioned earlier but again I'm no authority on the matter; I'm just a hobbyist.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2013 at 11:49PM
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