Books by Karla available on Amazon
AMAZING MOSS: Always Under Foot
Almost every morning my husband, our dog, and I drive to McDonalds where I buy a large coffee with five creams ($1.09) and then head to the woods to walk. Something new pops up every season and right now it’s moss. I love moss. It is an amazing plant.
When moss first appeared, the land had no plant life and, therefore, had no roots to break up the rocks. That’s why moss has such a little root system—just enough to let it cling to the terrain. The plants collect carbon dioxide and water and use light in a process called through photosynthesis—remember that from junior high—to create its nutrients. It reproduces by both sexual and asexual reproduction and, there are three types: acrocarpous are what grow on your driveway; pleurocarps are the bushy mosses that sometimes resemble feathers, and sphagnum which grows in bogs and creates peat moss.
How moss has been used over the years is the cool part and somewhere within this history is a story waiting to be written.
During World War I, many countries experienced cotton shortages, so clean, dried sphagnum moss was wrapped in thin layers of cotton and paper and used for surgical dressings. The United States’ Moss Czar (yes there was one) said Puget Sound’s moss was the best quality (which makes me very proud) and, sometimes, small towns shut down so everyone could go gather it. The moss went to drying barns and then to the Red Cross, or University of Washington women who made the pads. It all has to do with sphagnum’s cellular structure but I won’t go into that.
This morning, looking at moss, my mind took several detours. For one, Joseph Medicine Crow just died; he was 102. Thinking about his amazing life led me to Canada’s First Nations. For years, they used moss as bedding into which they put their stillborn babies. Animals seek it out because it has some healing properties. It’s been used to make paper, as housing insulation, as toilet paper, tucked into papoose carriers to act as diapers, and during menstruation.
So, the next time you thatch your lawn, think about all the lives moss changed, made easier or saved. And, also, Lady Gaga has a moss dress. She knows a good thing.