Mountain Moss is dedicated to bridging the information gap about mosses and gardening, presenting info in terms that the average gardener or landscaper can understand. Learning about bryophytes and their horticultural applications can be a challenge. For those of us living on the East Coast, we finally have a field guide to help us identify mosses with color photographs. Published in 2013 as part of the Princeton Field Guides, Common Mosses of the Northeast and Appalachians by McKnight, Rohrer, Ward and Perdrize is a great reference. Other smaller, less comprehensive guides have been published in other regions or states that you might find useful. Some books have color photos while others feature botanical illustrations and scientific descriptions. For years, I’ve used regional field guides by Susan Munch and Paul Davison because I like their photos and descriptions. These favorite references are worn and tattered from so much use. I have other regional moss ID books in my library. Some are way better than others. Many are quite scientific and lack photographs. None of the field guides reference important factors on how to grow specific moss species. Tolerance of shade versus sun is not cited. Sometimes soil composition is mentioned though.
I was thrilled when the Princeton guide was published. For decades field guides have been available to naturalists identifying all kinds of trees, wildflowers, mushrooms, birds, even salamanders and the list goes on and on. But, mosses were considered too difficult to identify. Indeed, some species can only be accurately identified when in sporophytic state or under a microscope to discern differences in leaf margins or cellular arrangement. Realize that most all photographs indicate the ideal or moist state of mosses. Some species can look dramatically different when dry or going through a transitional stage in reaction to climate. So, identification, even with a handy companion guide, is still a challenge. It will take a while for you to develop an eye for important details leading to proper identification of common moss species. Using a close-up loupe or hand lens is essential in field identification.
After waiting for years for any type of comprehensive field ID guide, I am grateful that the authors were bold enough to attempt this feat. This ID book did not arise from the field of bryologists. Authors recognized the need for a moss field guide. Joe Rohrer is a botanist and served as a valuable member of the writing team. Imagine my excitement when Joe Rohrer and his wife, Evelyn from Wisconsin, took time during their vacation to visit my Mossery and demo moss garden in June 2014. It was an honor and privilege to showcase my cultivation efforts and beauty of my moss garden. And as you might guess, I promptly pulled out my copy and asked for an autograph. It was a true pleasure to spend the day together talking moss!
Further, there are very few references that provide specific guidelines for moss gardening. In terms of new approaches to greening our urban environments, mosses are just being introduced or considered for green roofs, moss lawns, or living walls. There is little documentation or research to guide these emerging options for mosses in sustainable landscape applications. Confusion continues with moss misinformation and generalizations.
Although the grand moss temples in Kyoto have attracted visitors for over 5000 years, the value of mosses is just gaining recognition in America as a viable horticultural choice. With over a decade of practical experience and years of research to attain expertise, Mountain Moss actively networks with bryologists and moss gardeners from around the world.
Mossin’ Annie approaches this information dilemma with a “good spirit” determination to share what she’s learned, and hence, encourage the use of mosses in gardens and for green roofs. We hope that you will enjoy learning more about moss from a botanical perspective leading to a better understanding of how to succeed in moss gardening. My book, The Magical World of Moss Gardening (Timber Press, August 2015) includes inspirational photos of moss gardens. Most importantly, there is an ID section of recommended mosses for a variety of gardening situations and another chapter on botanical characteristics to increase understanding. You’ll find specific guidelines for achieving success in your own moss gardening efforts including planting methods and maintenance requirements. Besides Mossin’ Annie’s perspectives, profiles of selected moss gardeners offer additional insights. Order your autographed copy of Mossin’ Annie’s book for yourself and to share as a gift to your other gardener friends.