Forage Friday #45 Moss

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Last night I mentioned that the moss was starting to show a bright green of new growth. And that was a little bit of a foreshadowing of tonight’s Forage Friday post.

While not really thought of as a wild edible plant moss is considered to be a medicinal herb.

Some of my first reading on medicinal herbs came from Tom Brown Jr is survival books. He mentions that Stalking Wolf ( his Apache teacher) taught him to bandage wounds with sphagnum Moss. I was pretty intrigued with the idea that A clump of “dirty old moss” could be applied to a wound as a sterile dressing. But it is a historical fact that simple moss has been used to heal wounds since the caveman days. Moss was a major resource for wounded soldiers in World War I and is credited with saving “thousands” of lives. The Cotton had been allocated for uniforms and explosives ( nitrocellulose is made with cotton ) leading a shortage of cotton bandages. So the go to became viles of dried sphagnum moss. The secret it seems, was in the low PH factor of the moss making it impossible for pathogenic bacteria to flourish in the wound. ( I have found conflicting information about the PH of different types of moss. Some sources say that Sphagnum is neutral PH and peat is acidic. I have not taken the time to test this out for myself)

Further reading over the years has revealed that sphagnum was also used for diapers and feminine napkins with the same effect of limiting bacterial growth.

Image Titled “Star Shaped Sphagnum Moss 2120”

There are 12,000 different species of moss! But generally we think about either Sphagnum or Peat. There’s a granite moss in North America that’s red instead of green and it doesn’t seem to mentioned in the medicinal context.

Sphagnum is also said to help a sore throat and again it is probably due to the antimicrobial properties. In fact peat moss has been known to produce mummies in the lands of Celts and we occasionally hear that an anthropologist has been called in to deal with a body that was discovered in a bog.

Image Titled “Moss In Bloom” due to the sporophyte structures.

In the early Spring moss goes into spore and takes on the look of an alien jungle from a 1950s black and white science fiction movie. I always thought that it reminded me of a tiny alien jungle. When I was a kid I would look at the moss and imagine that crew of the Enterprise wading through those funny shaped pods.

Living walls have become popular. While not as effective as a tree, moss along with algae and lichens absorb 14 billion tons of carbon and fix 50 million tons of nitrogen per year. So in urban areas where a person might have nowhere to plant a tree the living wall fills the niche. The simple way this is being done is from mix buttermilk, moss and water retention gel in a blender and paint it on an outside wall. I would suggest that you make it shady spot since the moss doesn’t do well in direct sunlight.

Image Titled “Finding North”.

With the moss preferring to be in the shade and old saying is that it point a North. Well, yes and no. Moss likes shade and the shadiest side of a tree is going to be on the north side of the tree. The truth is that moss can grow on the south side of a tree if it’s shaded enough so the old trick is best used by sampling a number of trees and going with the average and even then it only going to give you a general idea of North.

Finally, the last resource that moss can provide is as a cash crop. In the final image below is only about 3 years worth of growth of moss on my property. When I was housebreaking my pup I leaned that I could train him to go to a large plastic tray like a cat would go to a litter box if I filled the tray with moss. I have since replaced the moss with sawdust for easy clean-up but the point is that moss is a renewable resource and Now that I know that it can be propagated using the buttermilk paint techniques I can seed it in places where I have harvested for a quicker turnaround time. As a child, I had neighbors who would collect and bale dried moss to sell to a buyer for use in potting soil mixes. They never made a living from it but the moss along with other herbs gathered in the forest provided a little extra money for Christmas funds, vacation or just to splurge on the latest desire. What they accomplished by searching the mountains could conceivably be done by seeding the moss in a designated area that’s a little easier for harvest. One might even use the idea to create ready made terrariums for decor.

The Moss I harvested just a few years ago it’s almost ready to harvest again.

Moss in general is a commonly overlooked resource that provides a variety of benefits and I’m certain that I’ve left out a lot but perhaps you have some knowledge that you’d like to share in the comments.

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11 thoughts on “Forage Friday #45 Moss

    1. Thank you ❤

      I read some excerpts from the Foxfire books a very long time ago.

      I have not been able to read much for a long time. I’m a highly functional dyslexic. ( dyslexia Isn’t quite the right thing but that’s what called it when I was diagnosed as a kid. )
      I can read pretty well but it’s time consuming because my eyes skip all over the page so I normally have to read the same thing multiple times and peice the information together. Audio books and YouTube are my main go to now unless I’m looking for specific information then I look for something that’s more bullet points.
      This usually brings about questions of how a dyslexic became a writer. I rely heavily on technology and my wife . (More technology these days) Speech to text has really changed the world for me.


      1. I have an issue with numbers too. ( dyscaculia if I spelled it right ) if I can see a physical representation of numbers it’s easy to do the math in my head because I can mentally break it down into bulk patterns and merge the patterns. Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at visualizing the values as sticks etc.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. This is interesting on so many counts, Lloyd! The moss facts as well as how well you fare with your dyslexia — does it affect your photography? & what do you personally do with your moss?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you
      The dyslexia is because my brain tries to process too much information at once and that causes me to overlook the details. It not s vision issue, it’s a process issue. Think about what autocorrect does when it thinks it helping.

      I don’t really use the moss a lot. But in an upcoming project it’s going to cover up graffiti

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There’s not really a lot. Mostly kids painting their initials on the rocks. Which is something that I understand when it highway overpass etc but when it’s in a place that draws tourists to see nature it’s in the wrong place. One place where they like to tag is hopefully about to become a national park. There’s a grotto on Beauty Mountain that overlooks the New River Gorge.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Your area sounds like heaven! Especially compared to Los Angeles. Not the same as nature but on sort of related vein, I have a cousin in Italy who does restoration work on antiquities — & amuses me that saving graffitti is part of her work as it’s part of the history…

        Liked by 1 person

      3. There’s a reason why we call West Virginia “Almost Heaven” 😊
        Not far from the graffiti is an engraved stone in the river called The Captain. The local oral history is that the Italian stone cutters that did a lot of work in the area made it in the 1890s. I have not figured out how get my equipment to the spot to photograph it myself.

        Liked by 1 person

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