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Right Plant, Right Place

One of the guiding principles of horticulture is right place, right plant. It stands to reason that we should apply this guideline when moss gardening. Because mosses are generally piled into one big category called MOSS, it can be a challenge to figure out which moss (bryophyte) will be the right moss for your landscape needs. First, you need to know how to recognize the various types of bryophytes. Next, determine the bryophyte-specific considerations for preferred substrate, sun exposure, humidity requirements, appropriate pH, and other factors contributing to the overall microclimate of your intended moss location. So far, this seems pretty straightforward BUT... The first barrier to knowledgable moss gardening, beyond haphazard success, is identification of the appropriate mosses. Since there is a field guide for every other plant, rock, lichen, mushroom, etc., my first inclination was to get a moss ID book BUT... NO comprehensive bryophyte (moss) ID guide exists in print that features color photographs. However, I have found Internet resources and several regional guides prepared by bryologists to be excellent references for learning about mosses. I use Crum and Anderson's
    Mosses of Eastern North America
as my primary botanical reference bible. It is definitely comprehensive providing pen and ink illustrations of thousands of mosses (but no color photographs.) BUT... mosses can look drastically different in wet vs. dry states. In books, journals and Web image galleries, the available photographs rarely illustrate both extremes. To further complicate the challenge of identification, some mosses require an “up close and personal” look using a loupe (at least 10x). Some of the tiniest mosses require an even closer inspection by examining the cell arrangement of the leaf through a microscope. Some species can best be distinguished only during sporophytic stage. Resources to assist you in this identification process will be addressed in more detail in subsequent posts. Assuming you know which moss is appropriate, the next step is to determine under which conditions it will survive and thrive. Once again, my research instincts led me to print and Internet resources. There are limited references out there but I recommend reading all you can. Please note: Some of the “best” resources perpetuate moss myths and speak in generalizations. Networking with other moss gardeners and mutually sharing experiences has been most beneficial. It is good to have mossin' buddies with whom to discuss both successes and failures. Our body of knowledge continues to grow with new books, Web sites and image galleries providing valuable information as we all cooperate and collaborate on our moss journeys. If this quest for extensive bryophyte knowledge is beyond your desires and you'd like to just find out the right place, right plant answers, eventually this Blog will address a full range of specific topics valuable in starting and maintaining a successful moss landscape. Also, please check out bryophyte types in my image gallery at Today's blog provides food for thought. The main point is that moss is not just moss. There over 20,000 bryophytes worldwide, so, a right moss exists for the right place in your garden. Rather than generalizations about "MOSS", specific guidelines will be provided in future that will answer many of your questions. To other moss gardeners, what insights can you provide about the right places you've found for featuring specific mosses in your landscape design?

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