We have been enjoying learning about moss this week with the children as part of the ‘Exploring nature with children curriculum‘ that we follow. I never knew there were so many different types of moss but we found many different species growing in all sorts of places. In fact even before we got out of the garden gate our daughter was shouting “moss, moss” as we seem to have quite a lot on our steps and wall.
What is moss?
Moss is a small, rootless, non flowering plant that can grow in all sorts of places such as bare rocks, trees, decaying wood, roofs, streams and ponds however it will not be found in salt water. It grows in clumps which gives us that illusion of a lush, green carpet but if you look closely you will see that these clumps are made up of a number of individual plants growing closely together. There are over 12,000 species of moss, most are perennial and will continue to grow annually at the tips of the stem and branches. Moss experiences the highest amount of growth during the winter months where there is plenty of water and low light levels.
What is the plant structure of moss?
Moss is rootless and is anchored with root-like hairs called rhizoids it is a non-vascular plant and has a simple structure of stem and leaf. The leaves have only a single layer of cells which means they dry easily but can equally absorb water through the entire surface of the leaf reviving it from its dry state hence why it does not need a vascular system to transport water. The leaves have no stalk and so grow directly on the stem and branch.
How does moss reproduce?
Mosses produce two types of sex cells, a male structure (antheridium) that produces sperm and a female structure (archegonium) that produces eggs. These can be found on different parts of the same plant but more often on different plants. Water is needed to assist in fertilisation as the sperm has to swim to the eggs to fertilise them.
Once the eggs are fertilized a slender stalk called a seta is produced and at the top of the seta is a capsule that houses spores. A young capsule is pale green in colour whereas a ripe, mature capsule is yellowish or reddish brown in colour. Once the spore is ripe it is dispersed from the capsule by wind and hopefully lands in an area with enough moisture for it to grow.
How does moss help the environment?
Moss helps the environment in many ways. An area carpeted with moss will help prevent soil erosion, which is where the surface layer of the soil is displaced by wind and rain. Moss absorbs moisture easily and then allows the water to gradually soak into the earth instead of running of the surface. Moss can also make an area more habitable for other plants to grow in by disintegrating rocks. Moss found growing on the surface of a rock can release acidic compounds, which when combined with water cause chemical weathering and eventually disintegrate the rock, allowing the moss to take its valuable minerals. The moss adds nutrients into the soil once it has died and decayed.
Moss paint activity for kids
This was a fun activity for both the kids to do and it was a nice end to our moss exploration week. All we did was take the moss that we had collected (about 1 cup full) and put it into an old food blender with some milk and corn syrup. We added 2 tbsp at a time of each until we got the consistency that we wanted.
We then all had a go at painting on a wall in the garden and hopefully in as little as two weeks time we should start to see moss growing. It is advised that you check your artwork at least once a week to see if it needs a little watering or a touch up of moss paint.
Moss painting or moss graffiti is becoming increasingly popular and if you do a search online you can find some really beautiful images of peoples moss artwork. We are very excited to see if ours will look just as good but if it doesn’t at least we know the kids had fun!
If you have had a go at making moss paint or have been finding the different types of moss in your area we would love for you to share with us on our social media sites.