Moss, Pacific Northwest
Moss is an ancient plant that first appeared around 400 million years ago. It was one of the first pioneering plants to grow on land, today it is still one of the first plants to return to disturbed earth. It is non vascular and has no means to carry water throughout the plant. Instead, it grows where it is moist. It needs little or no soil, so it can grow on a rock or on tree bark.
Over a very long time, it can help create new soil by slowly breaking down rock. In addition, it holds water just like a sponge, so it so it retains moister that can be used by other plants.
A bed of moss is a miniature ecosystem within the forest. A carpet of moss is a habitat for many other types of plants, as well as insects, amphibians and even small mammals like mice, shrews or voles.
Worldwide there are more than 10,000 species of moss. Mosses are the most common plant found in the Arctic and Antarctic regions and live most everywhere, except in very dry conditions. It has the ability to absorb vast amounts of water and as such, it can help prevent flooding and also acts as a filter straining out pollutants and heavy metals.
In Medieval Europe, it served as an antiseptic packing for wounds. Many cultures used it to keep babies’ bottoms dry and comfortable. First Peoples boiled moss and used it as a light green dye.
It helped keep settlers warm. They stuffed moss and mud in the spaces between the logs of their log cabins to keep out the wind and rain. First Peoples mixed moss with the deer’s brains and rubbed into the deer hide to make soft tanned leather for clothes and shoes.