The beauty of bryophytes appeals to many gardeners but there are outstanding environmental reasons for using mosses. It’s not just “green” rhetoric when mosses are touted as eco-friendly. Indeed, their botanical characteristics have significant implications in a variety of horticultural applications. As we embrace approaches to sustainability, mosses offer advantages and solutions.

Myths abound about mosses which cloud the real facts. Indeed many mosses make great choices for shady spots with inferior soils where nothing else will grow. However, there are bryophyte choices for sunny exposures as well. Our options continue to expand as we examine bryophyte-specific solutions following right place, right plant guidelines. Mountain Moss Enterprises is conducting research and field tests to begin documenting bryophyte types that will be suitable for green roofs and moss lawns. Imagine a world with green roofs that are truly green year-round or a green lawn that never needs to be mowed?

Green roofs are gaining supporters around the world. In fact, there is considerable longitudinal research on their advantages available from Europeans leading the way for decades. While sedums have been a preferred plant choice, mosses could be a substitute or a complimentary plant choice. In fact, even if not intentionally introduced, mosses are finding their own way onto green roofs. Where Mountain Moss is located, we already have mosses growing naturally on our asphalt and wood shake roof shingles. Having identified several types of mosses that have potential for green roofs, Mountain Moss has been conducting research to document growth patterns. Since bryophytes have no roots, just rhizoids, the required soil depth is significantly reduced. Engineering concerns for weight load are virtually eliminated.

Amazingly, once established, bryophytes can withstand high winds and hold to their substrate. Certain mosses will tolerate extremes in temperature and periods of intense heat. You don’t necessarily need a northern exposure either. Mosses won’t experience a dormant season like other flowers and plants that die back in freezing weather. The green appeal of hardy mosses will continue throughout all seasons, even in the winter months in harsh climates. And, mosses sure feel better to your feet than sedums if you really want to enjoy your green roof as a living space. Yes, you can walk on mosses. Moderate foot traffic doesn’t damage them at all.

By creating moss lawns as an alternative to grass lawns, our environment would greatly benefit. Mosses require no chemicals typically used to maintain grass such as fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. That means no groundwater contamination. Yet, the positive impact of eliminating the need for mowing has even greater implications for air quality. Fossil-fuel lawnmowers have no emission controls so pollution is significant especially when you multiply the millions of hours used in maintaining grass lawns in America. Just one hour of mowing with a gas-powered mower equals 43 hours of driving around in an inefficient vehicle. Even the benefit of alternative energy-efficient cars is negated if you still mow grass each week.

1 hour mowing = 43 hours driving inefficient vehicle

Botanically speaking, the fact that mosses have no cuticle and absorb water quickly means that they offer water filtration solutions for controlling storm water. Instead of water rushing through vegetation, mosses absorb water through their leaves slowing the flow and allowing rain to reach the groundwater table gradually. In terms of erosion control, there are several bryophyte types that are “root fakers” and will grow on sunny hillsides with steep inclines.

The tiny rhizoids of other mosses allow them to attach to vertical surfaces such as stone or concrete walls. Mosses offer many eco-friendly solutions in urban environments including reducing the heat index and for filtering rainwater run-off.

Sustainable approaches to landscaping yield more moss opportunities as we continue to create rain gardens as another storm water solution.

Native restoration projects emphasize the advantage of indigenous plants with mosses adding that final touch of subliminal appeal.

Moss instead of mulch offers better water filtration for thirsty vascular trees and plants while still providing a desirable insulating factor. Unlike bark mulches and pine needles, mosses won’t have to be replaced each season, and beside, wouldn’t you rather see green under your azaleas instead of brown?

Mountain Moss is collaborating with green roofers and landscapers to facilitate providing appropriate mosses for their designs. We are currently developing methodologies for cultivation and distribution of mosses for green roofs and other landscape needs.

Wave your own green flag as a committed environmentalist and…

Go Green With Moss!

11 Responses to “Environmental Solutions”

  1. 1

    Hello, I took the moss off my roof, mixed it with yogurt, beer, and water. I mashed it up, soaked my lawn and laid it out. I am hoping that this moss will take and establish a lush moss lawn??? I did not order any special moss. Will this work or did I just waste hours of my life? Do I need to order special moss?? Thanks for any input :)

  2. 2

    There has been a dirt patch on half of my backyard for years and it hurts me to see my parents continue to try and grow grass. I suggested a moss garden and they love the idea.

    Only problem is where do I buy moss from?
    Can I use some of the moss from a forest close by?


  3. 3

    Are there any health risks associated to moss lawn? I was thinking about switching to moss lawn but I have a baby that loves to be outside in the yard so I was wondering if there were any concerns with kids playing in the yard perhaps because of the release of spores. Thanks.

  4. 4

    We live in the Chicago area. We have an area between our house and our neighbors with a crab tree over hanging the area (shade) that won’t grow anything. And we have clay soil. We are thinking of putting in stepping stones and growing some kind of moss between them.

    The area doesn’t get much foot traffic, but the landscapers come through once a week with their big mowers. Is there any type of moss that would fill in these area rather quickly and withstand shade, clay soil,Chicago winters and mowers?
    Thank you.

  5. 5

    Hey Dean,
    First, Irish and Scotch moss are NOT REAL MOSSES OR BRYOPHYTES. They are vascular plants with roots and flowers. There are mosses that grow in sun — Polytrichum, Leucobryum, Atrichum, Ceratodon, Bryum. Although several mosses will go through reproductive transitions where the plants change from green to bronze/copper/brown/yellow — they will turn back to green when new growth appears. There is one red moss – Sphagnum magellanicum — but it requires lots of moisture… actually almost soggy conditions. Unfortunately, Mountain Moss does not carry this moss (at this time). I’ve only seen it growing in our protected forests and therefore it is off limits for harvesting. If we ever have a legitimate rescue opportunity, we’ll certainly collect it. I’d like to have some S. magellanicum for my own demonstration moss garden. It’s a cool moss. Sorry we can’t help you out. Mossin’ Annie

  6. 6

    Hey Jayne…
    Every now and then I have a mysterious yellow patch appear that might be urine… but I can’t confirm the actual cause. I did have a neighbor’s St. Bernard use my moss lawn as his bathroom and he left BIG gifts. Amazingly, these deposits did not damage the mosses. If the dogs use this area exclusively, the moss probably will suffer more from the dogs playing/being frisky/digging in the area than your other fear. The dogs will LOVE the cool retreat when calm and resting. My dog, Goochee loves sitting on a mossy hillock of Polytrichum and also sleeps in moss beds. Of course, when she chases a squirrel, she has been guilty of dislodging sections. I just pick them up and put them back in place. Water and walk on them… and they grow back in together again. Mosses for a dog lot are not recommended. Mosses for your yard where you endure dog interference is my path. Good to hear from you. Mossin’ Annie

  7. 7

    I don’t have any grass in a very small back yard. everything has died. I have a lab and a doxie. will moss stand up to dog urine?

  8. 8
    dean Pomerico

    Hi i like your sight i am fascinated with irish moss and scotch moss, even though i dont know if they are actually mosses. but i am looking for a moss that grows in full to partial sun to replace my mulch. Is there any other colors than green. preferably red, that stay that color year round. looking for a contrast color to my lawn. also a moss that spreads diesantly fast.

  9. 9

    I live in Knoxville Tennessee and I have an area which is shaded by 250+ years old White Oaks and all the grass has died due to me allowing leaves to remain last year. Some sun light does get through and there is moss on the trees and moss grows on my roof – so I’m fairly confident I could grow a moss lawn. However, this 25-ft x 50-ft area is also where my 8 Dachshunds frolic about and take care of business…. Is a moss lawn resilient to dog urine? Also, how do I get advice on the procedures to grow a moss lawn? Will my local nursery be knowledgeable with moss lawns? Thanks for your input.

  10. 10

    Hey Nicole,
    Mosses grow all around the world in all types of weather and sun expposures…. so, they’ll grow in Ohio even in the sun and freezing winter temperatures. Their phenolic compounds are like “built-in” anti-freeze and protect them from cold weather.

    You can take a passive approach toward having a moss lawn: Stop “liming” grass; cut grass lawn really short; keep leaf litter to a minimum and eventually mosses may introduce themselves. OR you could take a more assertive approach and start introducing mosses intentionally. After you’ve adjusted the soil pH (5.5 for acid-loving mosses or 6.5 for mosses that prefer sub-calcareous soil), and follow the previous advice, toss fragments of various appropriate mosses into your lawn. You could even start to “KILL” the grass so the mosses can establish themselves.

    If you really want a moss lawn, then more aggressive methods make it a reality much faster. Remove ALL grass — kill it, dig it all up, whatever… and then plant moss colonies. A contingent planting, filling in the entire area with mosses planted closely together and inter-leafed with each other provides “instant” moss expanses… immediate gratification. OR you could plant hand-sized colonies and wait for them to grow in.

    Mosses really need moisture niches to thrive and reproduce. Watering and walking on mosses encourages growth. While you don’t want to create soggy conditions, there is a definite positive correlation between frequent, but brief overhead watering sessions (2-5 minutes max for a minimum of 3 sessions per day) and you’ll see positive, more impressive growth.

    Mosses I’d recommend for your Ohio sun exposure:
    Atrichum, Polytrichum, Climacium, Entodon, Philonotis, Leucobryum

    Tiny mosses that grow slower but offer spectacular sporophytes include Ceratodon, Ditrichum, Bryum

    Also, Bryoandersonia, Hypnum and Thuidium (but they will go through a golden phase in sun sometimes)

    Mountain Moss offers many of these types (when available from rescue and nursery operations). Beside offering practical expertise in moss applications and planting methods, we are introducing moss types in the market that have not previously been available to the American public. Our primary selections are listed in our online Moss Shop but we sometimes have other specialty mosses in our inventory.

    For more information on mosses, check out the Eco-friendly section of our Web site and follow this Blog for more info and updates.

    Good luck as you…
    Go Green With Moss!
    Mossin’ Annie

    Many mosses tolerate sun exposures. I’d recommend

  11. 11

    I live in North East Ohio and I am looking for an alternative to grass. I have roughly 3/4 acres of mowable lawn. I have 2 acres of woods as well. My lawn gets a lot of sun light, and we have harsh winters. What would be my best bet, and I would love some more info on this matter. Im willing to start small and work on it.

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