Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Moss Sproutlings February 1, 2009

On a sunny day last week, this little patch of moss at the base of one of my crabapples in the parking strip caught my eye. I don’t think I’d ever seen it do this before, although maybe it does every year and I just hadn’t noticed before.

Moss sproutlings

Oh man, too bad I didn’t have a macro lens like Kim at the Inadvertent Farmer! What even are those little sticky-uppy things? Sprouts? Spores? No, spores would be underground. Or would they? Any moss experts out there, please enlighten. I have read that moss doesn’t get any nutrients from the soil since it has no roots. Are those sprouts some kind of air-nutrient-harvesting mechanism? Or are they just walking sticks for garden elves?

In the Northwest, moss is usually considered an enemy (especially by people with shaded lawns) and attacked in an attempt to eradicate it. Conversely, there are those who adore moss and there is even an entire industry devoted to supplying “moss gardens.” To quote from this site, “moss… seems to prefer poor quality soils with low nutrient levels.” Hm, I guess that would adequately describe my parking strip! It’s probably time for another layer or three of mulch…

My daughter got some of her baby books out recently, including a three-volume set called “Voyage to the Bunny Planet” by the genius author/illustrator Rosemary Wells. In each of the books, a young rabbit has had a terrible day and needs an escape. In one volume, “The Moss Pillows,”  young Robert endures an awful visit to relatives (including being at the bottom of a pig-pile of violent cousins and having to eat cold liver chili for dinner) and ends up cowering in the bathroom. Magical Bunny Queen Janet comes to spirit him away to the day that “might have been.” He enters a magical realm where

“Deep in a pocket of emerald moss,

I lie where the leaves fall free.

My pillow is soft as milkweed

And as green as a tropical sea.”

Couldn’t we all do with such an escape at times? I know I could! I think my daughter had had a bad day at school and she sought out these books as comfort, even though she can’t quite read on her own yet. I hope that’s only the beginning for her of many happy years of taking temporary solace in imaginary worlds when the real one isn’t going so well.

My current yard has no lawn, so I like the few patches of fuzzy green moss (and their occasional punk-rock hairdos) that have appeared here and there. I actually didn’t even mind it in my previous garden’s lawn, since it seemed a lot happier there than the grass, didn’t need water to stay green, and was actually softer than grass for walking barefoot.

Do you have a relationship with moss? Love? Hate? Some combination of the two?


11 Responses to “Moss Sproutlings”

  1. Racquel Says:

    You must have the perfect environment for it to grow. There is a gardener in VA that has an entire backyard of moss (in place of grass). It was on A Gardener’s Diary on HGTV.

  2. Catherine Says:

    I like your suggestion of elf walking sticks! I’ve never seen moss do that either, and we have plenty of it. One reason I want to get rid of our grass is because it’s full of moss. I think moss can be beautiful in the right place. Now I’m going to look for those books.

  3. Paula Says:

    I’ve been know to count this as moss blossoms for bloom day when I didn’t have other blossoms! It will be interesting to find out what they are officially. I like finding miniture moss & fungi gardens. It really is amazing once noticed. And it can be like entering another world.

  4. Melanthia Says:

    That photo is amazing, with or without macro. We’ve got moss in our grass beneath the apple tree. I figure if it weren’t for moss we wouldn’t have a green lawn. Still, I’m slowly ridding the front of grass. Too much work and not enough payback. We also love Wells, btw. I pick up the Max and Ruby books when I spot them since that’s our little guy’s name. Cheers.

  5. easygardener Says:

    Wierd those little walking sticks. I get lots of them on the moss on the pots holding my carnivorous plants. I kept trying to remove it but have decided to embrace its fuzzy greenness as I ended up wasting my time as it always came back.

  6. Nikki-ann Says:

    That is a great shot despite you not having a macro lens! The sproutings look familiar, but I can’t think of where else I might have seen some like that.

  7. Ronnie Says:

    Those indeed are garden elves’ walking sticks. It’…scientifically proven… and my friend who consumed Salvia Divinorum claims to have seen them himself!

    One area of my garden has seasonal moss…during the winter and spring this patch does not get direct sunlight and the green thrives there(i find it enchanting!), but whence the sun cometh it vanishes for the summer!

  8. Georgia Says:

    Are they edible?

  9. Megan Says:

    I’ve never noticed the sprouts before, but I like them. I love moss just about everywhere. I feel lucky to have it volunteering on one of my paths, it completely covers it, like a moss lawn. I probably should do something about the stuff growing on the roof, though.

  10. Jen Says:

    What a cool photo, Karen. Everytime I see moss I try to nurture it but it never seems to stick around long.

    Rosemary Wells wrote one of the first books my daughter was given. I wonder what happened to it….

  11. Love the photo, Karen. I do love moss, and used to make terrariums with my Nana. We would go to a park and walk through the woods, collecting berries and mosses and ferns, etc. (I think it was legal then; at least I hope:)

    I had some in my garden a few yrs. ago when we had a small pond. It’s gone now (long story) but I want to put one back in this year. I would like to see some moss grow on the rocks around it. When the right conditions are there, it will form. I suppose it could be a problem for some people if it invades the area, but I do think it’s pretty and even ‘magical’ to me, from some of my childhood memories:)

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