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.
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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