Moss Myths

Myths and misconceptions are common in the world of mosses. As with other generalizations or stereotypes, there may be some measure of truth. To add to the state of confusion, there are plants that have MOSS in their common names that aren’t true bryophytes at all. These “Moss Fakers” are listed below.


Mosses live in the shade. >> Partially TRUE >> While some mosses prefer shady habitats, others may tolerate direct sun.


Mosses live in places where grasses won’t grow. >> TRUE >> Mosses can thrive on disturbed, nutrient deprived soils where other plants suffer.


Mosses grow on Northern exposures. >> Partially TRUE >> Northern exposures retain more moisture. However, in regions with high rainfall and humidity, mosses will grow all around the base of trees. Don’t depend on this myth if you get lost in my neck of the woods.


Mosses need moisture and wet places to grow. >> TRUE >> All mosses need some moisture at some time to survive. While some like extremely moist habitats, there are many bryophytes that grow in the sun. Small niches or microclimates provide mosses with moist habitats even in climates or places not considered “humid or wet.”



MOSS FAKERS – Plants with MOSS NAMES that are NOT true bryophytes or mosses.


Spanish Moss



Spanish Moss – Tillandsia usneoides

Bromeliadaceae

Flowering angiosperm






Club Moss



Club Mosses — Lichopods

Lichopodaceae and Huperziaceae

Spore-bearing plants called fern allies






Reindeer Moss



Reindeer Moss – Cladonia rangiferina

Cladoniaceae

Lichen






Irish Moss



Irish Moss/Scotch Moss

These vascular plants come in pots… hint… because they have ROOTS!

No true moss or bryophyte will ever have roots, flowers or seeds.

4 Responses to “Moss Myths”

  1. 1

    Myth – many people think of moss as slimy, relating to mold and even germs. In fact, moss is anti-microbial, and in a pinch can be used as a wound dressing. (Comment subject to your verification, of course!)

  2. 2

    Hey Laura,
    Moss is not SLIMY… and Sphagnum mosses are 99% bacteria free. And yes, Sphagnum species were used as bandages in World War I… actually more sanitary and absorbed way better than cotton bandages. As for your FAV moss… it’s so hard to pick just one… BUT I do LOVE Climacium, too. Right now, my own Climacium mosses are amazing… HUGE old growth that is fading to dull olive green to bronze colors with brilliant emerald green new shoots appearing on older growth. Several are displaying their multiple sporophytes originating from the same spot… like tiny feathers grouped together (similar spore capsule to Atrichum… long and cylindrical, shiny dark brown). Climacium likes shade but tolerates some sun. I’ve located it in a range of environments from boggy soil to healthy colonies growing on top of boulders to old, abandoned stone patios to major infiltration in grass lawns. It grows really well from plant fragments. Give your Climacium a “haircut” this fall… trimming off tops of older growth… and spread them out. Water and walk on them. By spring, you’ll be delighted to see new areas of your FAV moss! Go Green With Climacium Moss! Mossin’ Annie

  3. 3
    Kristen

    Hello! I wanted to purchase Irish Moss but I don’t see it on here. Do you have any available? Please email me back if you can. I would appreciate it. Thanks so much. :)

  4. 4

    Hey Kristen,
    We do not sell Irish moss. It is not a true moss (bryophyte) but rather a vascular plant. It has flowers, seeds and roots. It doesn’t have the outstanding characteristics of real mosses to tolerate cold, pests or diseases. Sorry we cannot help you with this request. If you decide you’d like to try moss in your garden, please contact us back.
    Go Green With Mosses!
    Mossin’ Annie


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