Moss is probably the best known natural navigation indicator in the world. It is also excellent at demonstrating how easy it is to go wrong if you take unnecessary shortcuts.
For many decades natural navigation has been treated as a skill that is only likely to be used in an emergency. Consequently it has too often been written about and taught as a series of ‘quick tricks’. There are two problems with this approach:
- Tricks are never totally accurate.
- Tricks are never as interesting as understanding why a method actually works.
If you learn the trick that moss grows on the north side of trees, rocks and buildings then it may help you sometimes, but it will hinder you on an equal number of occasions. If, however, you learn that moss does not care about north or south, but thrives on moist surfaces, then your chances of finding direction accurately shoot up. Moss needs moisture to reproduce.
The best technique is a two-step process. First you need to find some moss, next it is important to ask why that surface is moist. There are many reasons for a surface retaining moisture and only one of them will give an accurate clue to direction. What follows is an important process of elimination.
- If a surface gradient is shallow then rainwater will run slowly off it and moss will thrive, regardless of aspect.
- If a surface is coarse, a rough bark for example, then water is slowed on its descent and moss revels in this moisture.
- The air within 60 centimetres of the ground is moist because water is constantly evaporating from the ground – it is best to ignore mosses below knee height.
- If water is dripping from overhanging branches it will likely create a heavenly environment for mosses to thrive, even on a south-facing wall.
However, if you manage to find a near vertical smooth surface that is not too close to the ground and it has moss growing on it then there is likely to be only one reason for that surface staying moist: it is in shade in the middle part of the day when the sun is doing most of its drying. It is very likely to be on the northern side in northern latitudes.
This process of elimination is quick and painless with practice and leads to far greater confidence in your conclusion about direction. It is also a very good discipline that helps in improving accuracy in most other natural navigation methods. In fact the most common problem I encounter when teaching the subject is when people jump from observation to conclusion about direction, without going through the important middle step of analysing what their observation is really telling them.
This discipline is important when using other surface-dwellers like algae. And it becomes even more critical when trying to use more complex organisms like the lichens. Moss is probably the best place to start though.
Moss thriving near the ground, where moisture is always evaporating.
Broad flat branch tops or hollows gather water and moss thrives
Moss always grows where water gathers, even in south-facing spots.
Moss grows below forks in trees, even in south-facing sunny spots, because the forks channel rainwater. Image credit: Vaughan James.
Learn more about reading signs in nature in the books section.
- What should I look for when I inspect my trees for moss?
- Is moss harmful to the tree itself?
- Can moss be removed?
- What can I do to prevent future moss growth on my trees?
- Spanish Moss
- How to Kill Lawn Moss and Keep It Gone
- How to Get Rid of Lawn Moss
- Moss Control Treatments
- Timing and Preparation
- Prevention and Restoration
- How To Get Rid Of Moss In Your Lawn Naturally
- Long Term Solution: Prevent Moss From Growing Back
- What causes green moss on trees?
- Lichens On Trees – Treatment For Tree Lichen
- What are Tree Lichens?
- Treatment for Tree Lichen
- What Are These Green Spots on My Tree’s Trunk or Branches?
- Green “Fungus” on Tree Branches? Tree Bark “Fungus” Identification and Treatment
- How to Get Rid of Moss in your Lawn
- Lichen vs. Moss: What’s the Difference?
- Spanish Moss hanging from a great tree. – Picture of Mobile Botanical Gardens
- moss and lichen growth
- moss lichen north side trees buildings
- moss patterns
- mosses and lichens
- natural navigation
- north moss
Whether you notice it in the fall and spring or it’s year-round, moss growing on trees can look quaint or pastoral and give your home or yard a mature and majestic appearance. However, the moss growth could hide damage to the tree and could even spread to your home and other parts of the yard, which could then cause damage to your home. It could even take over your lawn!
But before you panic, here are four essential questions (and their answers!) about maintaining your trees when you find moss. Once you know what moss does and doesn’t like, figuring out how to influence it is all you need to do.
What should I look for when I inspect my trees for moss?
Moss, lichen, and algae all fall under this category commonly referred to as just “moss.” These plants come in many variations, from Spanish moss (which hangs down off the branches of a tree) to lichens, which look more like crusty patches or what might remind you of fluffy troll doll hair. All of these plants prefer cool, wet, rainy conditions—easy to come by in the Pacific Northwest. They are versatile and can grow almost anywhere too—on trees, rocks, wood, clay, or the ground. Moss is a non-vascular plant, meaning that it has no roots and will cling to anything that sits still long enough. Remember the proverb “a rolling stone gathers no moss”?
Mosses also love dark areas, so make sure to prune back your trees seasonally and check your roof often if your overhanging tree branches tend to grow moss. If you let more light hit the trunk and major branches, you’ll see less moss because their favorite dark conditions will have been compromised.
Is moss harmful to the tree itself?
Nope. Moss, lichen, and algae all live on the tree and receive their nutrients from the sunlight and the water around them. Unlike English ivy, mosses aren’t parasitic, and unlike dry rot, mosses don’t eat into bark or exposed wood.
That being said, if a tree is covered in moss, it’s most likely that the tree is an older one that can’t fight off the encroaching moss, and it’s a good indicator that something else might be wrong with that tree. If you notice that a tree isn’t doing well and has moss growing on it, the moss isn’t causing the problem. Rather, the moss is just a symptom. Once you fix that other problem, it might even be easier to remove the moss and prevent it from coming back.
Moss can also hide damage or signs of disease that would otherwise be apparent. What is harmful to the tree would be the added weight of the moss, which is water heavy. Imagine if a windstorm came up and started tossing your tree around. With the extra weight, a tree could easily overbalance, and branches could be torn or broken off and cause some damage to itself and anything around it (such as your house!).
Can moss be removed?
Yes, and as an added bonus, it’s fairly easy to do. Moss in particular tends to grow in thick mats that you can pick or peel off of the branch or trunk of your tree. Make sure to wear work gloves. If it’s stubborn, you can use a bristle brush as well.
If the project is bigger than you think you can handle, you can also try power washing. Make sure to wear eye protection and stand back about five feet from the tree. You don’t want to damage the tree you’re trying to save.
Of course, Mr. Tree can help as well. Contact us to tell us all about your mossy trees.
What can I do to prevent future moss growth on my trees?
As referenced before, trimming your trees so that enough sunlight gets through is a good way to interrupt moss’s favorite growing conditions. Also, make sure to check out your lawn. Are there any regular standing puddles of water that appear during or after watering? You can aerate your lawn to disperse the puddles—that might be the source of excess moisture that moss likes best. Take a look as well at how shady your yard is. You don’t need to water a shady lawn as often as you do a sunny lawn.
If that isn’t a contributing factor, maybe check out your watering habits. Even in the middle of a hot, dry summer, it’s usually best to water deeply two or three times a week, rather than every day. Waiting between watering days ensures that the soil has enough time to dry out. This less frequent watering also helps promote strong root growth for trees, which will keep them robust. A mature tree will need an inch of water per week.
Young or newly planted trees shouldn’t have any problems with moss. Their roots haven’t spread out yet from the root ball either, so you can water the base of the tree until the soil is wet but not soggy. Make sure to note, though, that for older, more-established trees, watering only in this area could encourage disease and rotting. Instead, move farther out, past the canopy of the tree to the drip line, or where rain would drip off the leaves. This is where it’s best to water because the roots extend at least that far. Water until you start to see runoff; this means the soil is saturated. The water in the soil displaces the air, and a tree has to breathe too.
Once you’re sure the tree has received enough water, check back in a couple of days to see how the soil looks.
Make sure that you don’t have moss growing in the lawn as well. If you aren’t able to cut back or completely eliminate moss on a tree, it may be because the moss is still present in other places in the yard. It’s like trying to recover from your own flu while your family members all have it too.
And, of course, our experts are here to serve you! Contact us today to schedule a service and to ask any questions you might have—about mossy trees or anything else!
Tagged as: moss growing, moss on trees, removing moss, Tree Health
Q: I’m fairly new to the South and I have a question that none of the natives have been able to answer for me. I’m hoping you can. What causes Spanish moss to grow on one tree when the tree next to it has none? I know it sounds silly but this question is making me crazy! Thanks, Misty
A: Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is one of the signature plants of the Deep South. It is an epiphyte, meaning that it uses trees for support, but doesn’t draw moisture or nutrients from them, although rainwater running down the bark may supply it with both. You generally see it most often along the coast, because it needs high humidity and mild winter temperatures to survive.
Why do you see it certain trees and not others? It tends to favor: • Trees that have lots of large, well-spaced branches • Trees whose branches are more horizontal than vertical • Trees with rough bark that provide a good foothold Among its favorite hosts — live oak, bald cypress, red cedar, hackberry.
One additional factor is the willingness of the tree to be a happy host. Spanish moss can grow so profusely in a tree that it interferes with photosynthesis by blocking sunlight from reaching the leaves. So certain trees, such as camphor, release chemical substances that kill Spanish moss.
Hope this helps, The Grump
How to Kill Lawn Moss and Keep It Gone
The best time to treat moss is when it’s actively growing. That typically happens during the fall rains, warm winter rains and early spring. Lawn mosses don’t need much light or nutrition to live, but moisture is critical – both in its surroundings and in the plant itself.
Moss control products based on iron and naturally occurring iron substances, such as ferrous sulfate, are highly effective at killing lawn moss by drawing out moisture so mosses dry up, turn black and die. The Lilly Miller Moss Out! line of moss controls offers several iron-based products to kill lawn moss quickly and benefit your lawn:
- Liquid Lilly Miller Moss Out! 5 in 1 Broadleaf Weed & Moss Killer, available in a ready-to-spray and concentrate formula, kills lawn moss along with dandelions and other common broadleaf weeds. It even helps suppress fungal lawn diseases, including rust and snow mold. Treated as directed, mosses and weeds start turning black and dying within hours. The formula is rainfast within three hours as well.
- Lilly Miller Moss Out! For Lawns, available in liquid ready-to-spray and economical concentrate formulas, targets lawn moss with liquid iron for superior results. Used as directed, this product delivers results in hours and kills moss quickly and thoroughly.
- Granular Lilly Miller Moss Out! For Lawns, available in two convenient sizes to suit small or large lawns, contains 10 percent iron. An essential plant nutrient, iron kills mosses and promotes rich, green color in your lawn – without stimulating growth that translates to more mowing. When applied according to label instructions and watered in to release the moss-killing action, these granules yield visible results in hours.
- Lilly Miller Moss Out! For Lawns Plus Fertilizer 20-0-5 granules combine 10 percent iron with a nitrogen-rich, 20-0-5 lawn fertilizer to kill existing moss quickly and feed your lawn. Used as directed, you’ll see results with moss in hours. Plus, the extra plant nutrients promote thick grass and help combat moss growth.
Always follow product label instructions closely, and only use these products on lawns. Iron-based moss controls naturally cause rustlike stains, which can affect sidewalks and other hard surfaces.
How to Get Rid of Lawn Moss
Moss Control Treatments
Effective moss control treatments work by drying out mosses and exhausting their life-giving moisture. Iron-based products, which are based on naturally occurring ferrous sulfate and other iron sulfate substances, are highly effective. The Lilly Miller Moss Out! portfolio of iron-based products for lawns includes fast-acting liquids and granular formulas that control moss and green up grass at the same time. Lilly Miller Moss Out! Plus Fertilizer incorporates high-nitrogen lawn food into the formula. Iron-treated mosses usually turn black within hours and die within a few days. Always follow product label instructions closely, and keep all iron-based products away from concrete, brick and stone as iron can naturally leave rustlike stains on these and similar surfaces.
Timing and Preparation
Moss controls are most effective during times of active moss growth. In most climates, mosses grow vigorously during the cool, wet spring and fall seasons. Mosses grow through winter in some moderate climates, but grow very little during summer weather.
Mow moss-covered areas slightly shorter than normal to expose moss fully before treatment. Increase your effectiveness by raking and removing moss as much as possible before treating. Dense moss inhibits control products from penetrating. Without roots, dense moss rolls up like a rug for easy removal. If moss gardens suit you, relocate moss pieces to shady rock gardens, or firmly place moss pieces at the base of shade-loving container plants for living mulch, and keep moist.
Prevention and Restoration
Control moss by correcting the conditions that invite it. Proper maintenance and nutrition invigorate lawn grasses and give them the competitive edge. Aerate compacted soil, correct drainage problems and fill low-lying areas. Examine irrigation for overwatering and puddling nearby. For heavily shaded lawn areas, adjust the surroundings, if possible, to let more sunlight in and let moss know it’s not welcome.
Lawn moss signals that soil pH may be too low for grasses, or that nutrients may be lacking. A soil test confirms any problems and recommends remedies. Pennington Fast Acting Lime corrects acidic soil conditions and raises pH to ranges that optimize grass growth. Restore nutrients with the Pennington UltraGreen lawn fertilizer products suited to your test results. With moss controlled and soil corrected, lawn bare spots are ready for restoration.
By tackling lawn moss with the right products as partners, control becomes simple. You can put moss in its place and enjoy a lush, healthy lawn instead.
How To Get Rid Of Moss In Your Lawn Naturally
If you’re looking for quick results, we recommend baking soda and water (explained above) followed by implementing the longer term solutions mentioned further down in this article.
Rake It Out (If You Have Minimal Moss)
If you don’t have much moss and/or for whatever reason you’re not eager to apply a liquid solution to the moss, you can start by raking it out using a garden rake and discard the raked up moss.
For incredibly dense and large patches of moss, you may actually find it helpful to rake out the majority of the moss first, and then apply a baking soda and water mixture to the remaining moss.
Long Term Solution: Prevent Moss From Growing Back
Regardless of what temporarily solution you choose to get rid of moss in your lawn naturally, you should also learn how to prevent the moss from growing back and plaguing your lawn again and coming back again and again.
Keep reading to learn about various aspects of your lawn’s environment that are conducive to proper grass growth (and thus naturally prevents the growth of moss or other weeds).
Increase Exposure To Sunlight
Since moss prefers minimal sunlight, you may notice the moss patches in your lawn are most severe in shady areas.
If that’s the case, then consider pruning or trimming any trees or other plants that could be causing excessive shade.
And if that’s not a possibility, we recommend consulting with a local landscaper to see if they recommend planting a different type of grass that would be more shade tolerant, such as St. Augustine grass.
The reason we recommend trimming as your first step is that no grass is 100% shade tolerant. It would be a shame to make a rash decision to replace your grass type only to find out that it wasn’t the root of the problem.
Don’t Water Lawn As Often
If you’re watering your lawn (whether manually or with a sprinkler), the growth of moss in your lawn is probably an indication that you’re watering too much. Decrease the quantity and/or frequency of watering and see if that stops the moss from spreading.
If that works, try the baking soda and water solution explained above to kill off the moss and continue to decrease the frequency of watering your lawn to keep the moss at bay.
If you’re not watering your lawn (i.e. the only water your lawn gets is what comes naturally with rain), and yet your lawn still seems to be unusually damp, then you may need to improve the drainage in the lawn.
In large lawns, especially commercial land, you may be able to create ditches or canals to direct the water into a larger ditch or a pond.
However, in most situations, the best way to improve drainage is to aerate or dethatch your lawn, which we’ll explain next.
Aerate or Dethatch Your Lawn
As odd it as it may sound at first, poking holes in your lawn can dramatically help water to drain properly, if done right.
You may have heard this method called by a variety of names, including aeration, dethatching, or spiking. Each method varies slightly and things can get complicated quickly, so we recommend sending a sampling of your lawn soil to local diagnostics lab to get some hints as to why your lawn soil isn’t optimal for grass growth.
But in short, dethatching your lawn involves poking holes in the lawn to give water a place to go. You may even consider filling in the holes with sand to make the soil more absorbant.
Hopefully you’ve learned a bit more about how to get rid of moss in your lawn naturally by reading this article.
In conclusion, we recommend evaluating what about your yard or soil could be preventing grass from growing properly. Once you find a long-term solution, use one of the short-term solutions described above to get a head start on moss removal.
Got any tips from personal experience that you’d like to share about getting rid of moss? Please let us know in the comments below! Or feel free to ask specific questions that you may still have.
Finding moss growth on trees is highly common in Washington and Oregon because of our rainy, wet climate. A common question that homeowners ask us is whether moss on trees is dangerous to tree health. While the short answer is no, the extra weight moss lays upon on older trees can weaken their stability in windy storms and hide potential tree diseases from view.
What causes green moss on trees?
Collectively known as lichens, algae and moss, this green growth arises because the environmental conditions allowed for it. Moss thrives in damp, dark areas, so regions covered by shadows or consistent cloud cover are more susceptible to moss growth. In addition, moss tends to prefer to grow on older trees with less vitality than younger trees.
While green moss on trees isn’t necessarily harmful, it can contribute to a myriad of potential problems. Thick moss growth on trees is heavy and can throw trees off balance. This may make for dangerous conditions during windy storms and other inclement weather. In addition, because moss grows more thickly on older trees, this can make it difficult to notice potential health problems like disease and tree death.
Green moss on trees: Prevention tips
So, what is there to do when there’s green growth covering your beloved trees? To prevent an excess amount of moss growing on your trees in the Pacific Northwest, there are a number of do-it-yourself strategies you can try:
- More direct sunlight: Pruning your trees to focus more direct sunlight to the trunk and major branches can help keep moss growth under control. Your goal is to aim for those leafy branches that are covering the base of the tree in shadow.
- Avoid standing water in the yard: You can aerate your lawn to remove large puddles of water around the base of the tree. This will discourage moss growth by cutting off its supply of readily available water.
- How to remove moss: You can either remove moss from trees by hand, which can be time-consuming, or you can powerwash it off during certain times of the year. Read more about how to remove moss here.
Inexpensive Tree Care is committed to providing quality tree services, from tree trimming to improving tree health and stump removal. Contact us to learn straight from the experts about how to improve the long-term health of your trees in the Pacific Northwest.
Lichens On Trees – Treatment For Tree Lichen
Tree lichens appear on many trees. They tend to be considered either a fortunate blessing or a frustrating pest. Lichens on trees are unique and harmless but some may consider them unsightly. Let’s look at what lichen on tree bark means and what the treatment for tree lichen is.
What are Tree Lichens?
Lichens on trees are a unique organism because they are actually a symbiotic relationship between two organisms — fungus and algae. The fungus grows on the tree and can collect moisture, which the algae needs. The algae, in return, can create food from the energy of the sun, which feeds the fungus.
Lichen on tree bark is completely harmless to the tree itself. The rhizines (similar to roots) allow them to attach to the but do not go deep enough to harm the tree in any way. Many people believe when a tree becomes sick and has lichen, that the tree lichens are the cause of the illness. This is impossible and most likely the lichen was there long before the tree became ill.
Treatment for Tree Lichen
While lichen on tree bark is harmless, some people find it not very pretty to look at and would like to learn how to kill tree lichen.
One way is to gently scrub the bark of the tree with a soapy solution. Since lichen on tree bark is only lightly attached, it should come off easily. Be careful not to scrub too hard, as this can damage the bark of the tree which will open the tree to disease or pests.
Another method to kill tree lichen is to spray the tree with copper-sulfate. Copper-sulfate sprayed on lichens on trees will kill the fungus side of the organism. Only use copper-sulfate as a treatment for tree lichen in late spring through early fall. It will not be effective in cool weather.
You can also remove tree lichen with lime sulfur. Lime sulfur is also used to kill the fungus that makes up half of the lichen. Be careful that the lime sulfur is not applied to either the roots or the leaves of the tree, as this can damage the tree.
Perhaps the best treatment for tree lichen is to change the environment where the tree lichens are growing. Lichens on trees grow best in cool, partly sunny, moist locations. Thinning out tree branches overhead to allow more sun and air flow will help. Also, if you use a sprinkler system, make sure that it does not routinely spray the place where the lichen is growing, as you are essentially “watering” the tree lichen and helping it to survive.
What Are These Green Spots on My Tree’s Trunk or Branches?
We’re used to shades of green growing all around us in a healthy landscape. Our yards beam with Kelly green grass and tree leaves dazzle in every shade of green.
But something about swathes of green on tree trunks and branches doesn’t seem right.
Find out why frothy green growth is speckling your tree’s branches and what you should do about it.
Green “Fungus” on Tree Branches? Tree Bark “Fungus” Identification and Treatment
Algae, moss and lichens are the three main types of green growth that can appear on tree branches and trunks. All look similar at first glance but have a few subtle distinctions. See which your tree has below.
Tree Bark “Fungus” Identification
Algae, moss and lichens aren’t harmful to trees, so don’t fret if you spot any of their green growth. They’re all-natural organisms, that are not actually fungi, that crop up on trees and lots of other plants.
Here’s how to tell them apart:
- Algae appear in moist weather and look like a dusty powder on tree wood.
- Moss pops up no matter the weather and feels thick and coarse.
- Lichens are a cross between algae and fungi. They’re crusty, circular patches (pictured right).
Why You Have a Green “Fungus” on Tree Branches
Algae, moss and lichen growth don’t tell us much about our trees. . They’ll generally grow anywhere the conditions are right.
But while you’re out there, give your tree a closer look. See if your tree is getting enough water, has enough mulch and even see if there are any other signs of a pest/disease on your tree.
Every tree benefits from regular health check-ups to make sure its healthy!
How to treat fungus on tree bark
Because lichens, moss and algae don’t do any harm, the best thing you can do is let them be! That’s what our arborists at Davey do because they’re just another addition to the natural landscape that we get to enjoy!
But if you really want to remove them because they bring down the look of your tree, do so carefully because you can harm the tree in the process. Try carefully peeling them off by hand or lightly scraping the green off. You want to avoid removing too many layers of the tree’s bark.
How to Get Rid of Moss in your Lawn
To keep your lawn strong and healthy it’s important to remove moss from your lawn. Even though your mossy lawn might look green and healthy, if left untreated the moss will take over making your lawn unattractive.
Moss is easier to get rid of than what you think! Here’s our step by step guide on how to get rid of moss in your lawn:
When to Remove Moss
The best time to get rid of moss is during the spring and autumn months. During autumn, your lawn is still recovering from the wear and tear of the summer months but its health needs to be maintained to help survive the cold frosts of winter. Removing moss at this stage prevents a bigger problem later on. Removing moss in spring helps to prepare the lawn for the growing season, whilst making it more resilient for summer.
How to get Rid of Moss
To help you get rid of moss in your lawn we recommend using the following products:
Aftercut Ultra Green Plus
Aftercut Ultra Green Plus prevents moss in your lawn without scorching it, giving your lawn a better chance to achieve beautiful results. The fertiliser includes a water management technology that when watered, moisture is released and drawn deep into the soil. As moss roots do not grow deep into the soil, water is unavailable to the moss, therefore causing the moss to dry out. That’s why Moss can easily be pulled out of the ground.
Furthermore, the feed that is contained within Aftercut Ultra Green plus helps to strengthen and encourage the grass to grow stronger and thicker and promises to achieve greener grass in just 3 days (providing the instructions on the pack are followed). If a lawn is full and thick it creates a hostile environment and crowds out the moss eliminating its chance to grow.
Finally, Ultra Green will make your lawn more stress resistant so it becomes more durable during spring & summer, helping the grass to withstand drought.
Westland Lawn Master
Westland Lawn Master is a no raking, no staining and no blackening formula that naturally removes moss whilst feeding your lawn. The bacteria in the product transforms dead moss and thatch into feed which in turn strengthens your lawn. The feed provides essential nutrients needed for a strong, thick and healthy lawn for up to 3 months. The product is safe for children, pets & wildlife, making it an attractive product for many families.
Westland Lawn Sand
Westland Lawn Sand is a traditional and alternative moss treatment. It can be applied to lawns whenever moss is actively growing and will kill moss in days. The combination of Iron and Nitrogen will also green up and strengthen your lawn.
How to Repair your Lawn
It’s important to understand and consider that if you kill the moss in your lawn you could be left with brown and bare looking patches. You will need to re-seed your lawn with lawn seed to bring it back to life. It is essential that you grow new healthy grass over these patches to avoid them being overgrown by moss again.
Gro-Sure Smart Patch Lawn Seed
If your lawn has suffered from a high infestation of moss, use Gro-Sure Smart Patch spreader to fill in any bare patches. Its aqua gel technology and water retaining granules locks in nutrients and water for guaranteed germination results.
For more information, read our article on how to repair patches in your lawn.
How to Prevent Moss from Re-appearing
Moss is caused by a combination of moisture in your lawn and weak grass. Moss needs moisture to spread, so you are more likely to suffer from a moss problem in shady areas or in wetter seasons like spring or autumn.
The following steps will help you to prevent moss from appearing in the future:
- To keep your lawn in tip top condition, feed your lawn once a month with Westland SafeLawn for beautiful results
- Thin out over-hanging trees to prevent shade on your lawn
- Re-seed any bare patches using Gro-Sure Smart Patch Lawn Seed
(This post contains links to my business website, Shining Dawn Books.)
Lichen vs. Moss: What’s the Difference?
Through the course of our nature clubs and writing the NaturExplorers studies, the following question has come up several times. “What’s the difference between a lichen and a moss?”
The answer is really quite simple. Lichens are not a plant, while mosses are.
In the NaturExplorers study A Fungus Among Us, we dive into the topic of lichens because they’re a type of fungus. However, they are unlike a “normal” fungus because a lichen can’t exist without algae or cyanobacteria. In other words, lichens and algae (or the bacteria) have a symbiotic relationship – the algae provide the lichens with photosynthetic energy, while the lichens provide protection for the algae.
Lichens reproduce either through the production of spores like most other fungi, or can sometimes reproduce when fragments of the tough, bark-like structure break off and fall on an appropriate surface.
Lichens grow in all sorts of climates and on all sorts of things from trees to gravestones to metal poles. Normally, finding a fungus growing on a tree is a bad sign for the tree since the mycelia from the fungus grow into the tree and compromise its health. However, many naturalists believe that lichens are actually a good thing for most trees and can provide them with healthful nutrients!
Lichens don’t always look alike, but a general description is a dull, flat, leafy, crusty growth. You can view some of my recent lichen photographs below.
Mosses are plants. They’re typically soft and grow in dark, damp places like a rock in an intermittent stream or on the floor of a damp wooded area. One good way to describe a moss is like a green mat that you might place on your porch.
Even though mosses make their own food through photosynthesis like other plants, they do not have flowers or seeds. Instead, they send out spores or can reproduce when one part of the moss breaks off and lands in an appropriate place for growth.
Below are pictures of moss we found on a recent nature walk.
I hope this helps answer your questions about lichen vs. moss!
Spanish Moss hanging from a great tree. – Picture of Mobile Botanical Gardens
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- Hotels near GulfQuest – National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico
- Hotels near The Fort of Colonial Mobile
- Hotels near History Museum of Mobile