Step Moss

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Moss, Pacific Northwest

Step Moss, Pacific Northwest
Step Moss, Photo By Bud Logan

Step moss commonly known as glittering wood moss, stair step moss or mountain fern moss, is a moss with a widespread distribution in northern hemisphere boreal forests. It is commonly found in Europe, Russia, Alaska and Canada, where it is often the most abundant moss species. It also grows in the Arctic tundra and it can be found growing on all of the BC coastal region.

It comes in an olive green, yellowish or reddish green color, with reddish stems and branches. These often form branches up to 20 cm. long, with current year’s growth starting from near the middle of the previous year’s branch. This produces feathery fronds in steps. You can calculate the age of step moss by counting the steps of the plant, one step per year. This form of growth enables the species to get above other mosses, logs and plants.

It is shade loving, grows in soil, humus and on decaying wood, often forms mats with living parts growing on top of older, dead or dying sections.

Step Moss, Pacific Northwest
Step Moss, Photo By Bud Logan

Occurring widely in the boreal forests, Step Moss is often found on forest floors even in relatively harsh northern latitudes.

The species has a commercial use in floral exhibitions and for lining fruit and vegetable storage boxes. In the past it was utilized as a floor covering for dirt floors. In northern Canada it is still used for filling the gaps between the logs in log cabins. It also has anti bacterial qualities and may also contain cancer fighting agents.

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