Step Moss

Step Moss, Vancouver Island, BC
Step Moss, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

Step moss is 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 in all the BC coastal regions.

It comes in olive green, yellowish or reddish-green color, with reddish stems and branches. These often form branches up to 20 cm. long, with the current year’s growth starting from near the middle of the previous year’s branch. This produces feathery fronds in steps. You can calculate its age 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.

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

Step Moss, Vancouver Island, BC
Step Moss, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

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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