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Sunday, 18 March 2012

Moss capsules and their spores

Moss mat with spore capsules sticking up above.
Sometimes when you look closely at a moss, instead of the usual velvety green, you can see little stalks poking up with what look like wind socks or tiny turnips on the end.

These are called capsules or sporangia, and they release spores. Each sporangium has a neat structure called the peristome teeth that it uses to push out spores when the air is damp and humid.

My camera skills are not as advanced as they might be, but I managed to crop out the capsule on the right.  For scale, the whole is about 3 mm long.

I have never been able to grow mosses from spores successfully, though mosses seem to do it all the time, producing spores and releasing them into the wind.

On the other hand, I have been able to establish successful plantations of mosses on the sloping sandy surface of a terrarium tank. I just take a small sample of a moss, break it into several even smaller parts, and embed each at a different level down the slope. After that, it's up to the mosses to slug it out in the best Darwinian way.

Growing mosses on rocks
I haven't tried this method because we don't have a blender that works, and my wife says that even if we did, it probably wouldn't work after I tried this (she said this not long after I dried the sand for my angle of rest measurer in the microwave and got sand all over the 'roof' inside—you can see the result of my work, though not the messy microwave, in So while I was writing the book, I am keeping an eye out for a cheap blender in an op shop. So far, no good, and in the end, it went in the discard pile, as there was just too much stuff in the book, but it's worth trying.

Most moss-growing seems to be done by obsessive gardeners who want an antique look on statues or stonework.  Other obsessive gardeners spend all their time trying to wipe out the mosses in their gardens, so it takes all kinds and all that.

Anyhow, the experts say to take some healthy moss and crumble it into your blender. Then add 2 cups of buttermilk and 2 cups of water and blend at the lowest speed until it is completely mixed. It needs to have the consistency of a thin milk shake, so add more water if necessary. Then paint this slurry on rocks, pots or statuary, or just pour it on the ground where you want moss to grow.

Other writers say you can replace the buttermilk with a can of light beer and a half teaspoon of sugar. Another recipe that I found calls for about 2 cups of yogurt, and about 4 ounces of potter's clay to make the moss mixture stick better to the rocks.

The experts also recommend regular 'misting' of the stones. I know that if I find a cheap blender, I will be getting rid of most of the soil from the moss sample by washing it first.

In my next entry, I will talk about something I have done, and which also got cut from the book, but before I got around to taking any photos of fern cultivation.  So I'll tell you about the methods instead.

Finally, here's a shot to show a bit of the set-up I used for the moss shots:

I lifted a small clump of moss and placed it on one of my collecting containers, on a wall. Then, with a dark folder behind it and bright sunlight on it, I took a series of shots with a tripod mounted camera. One thing I miss with modern digital cameras is that you can't use a mechanical cable-release to reduce camera shake.  I have my camera set to take four photos after a time-delay of ten seconds, but because of the mix of light and dark, I mess with the f stops a bit, and delete what I don't need



    You would probably like this little moss art project.



    This is e kind of thing I was making though without the building. White river sand made a fine mountain stream though now and then you would have to replace the top layer as algae and moss grew over it.

  3. Kymmaree, have you a blog of your own? You should be blogging this. In the process of trying to find and follow you, I seem to have managed to follow myself. (I am blaming overwork until I think of a better excuse :-)