MARVELLOUS MOSS

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Moss - much overlooked but ever present, bridging the gap between worlds and beautiful in its own wonderful way. Moss is not like other plants. Occuring on every continent on this planet, these patient, non-vascular, flowerless plants reproduce with spores, much like mushrooms.

They belong to a group called Bryophytes in which liverworts and hornworts also live. They do not have roots and instead cling to rocks, branches and buildings using rhizoids, which are small hair-like structures whose main function is to anchor the plant in its chosen home.

Incredibly resistant, moss can be moved and rehoused easily. It can be revived with a little rainwater and with 15,000 to 25,000 known species it can be seen in many forms and hues of green, rust reds and acid yellows along with other colours.

Surviving extreme cold and blistering heat, moss is a true survivor. The first to venture out of the water and the first life form to resurface after fires or other natural disasters willingly encouraging other forms of life to follow and pioneering new and unusual landscapes.

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Their sponge-like qualities are not just pleasing to the eye and fun to squish but actually play a very important part in the environments they live in. They soak up rainfall and help keep moisture in the earth below them. They also create humidity, enabling other plants around them to thrive in areas such as marshland and woods.

 

The study of moss (and liverworts and hornworts) is called Bryology. These ancient plants have fascinated scientists for many years. They date back to 450 million years ago and are the second most diverse group of plants in the world.

 

Some mosses have adapted to very low light conditions and are even found growing in caves. One of the best-known cave mosses is Schistostega pennata, also known as Dragon's Gold. This perfectly named moss shines an emerald green colour. It has adapted to cope with the minimal light and it is these adaptations that create the luminescence.

 

Protonema are thread-like structures that grow from a moss spore. Inside the protonema, the chloroplasts gather together to receive the maximum amount of available light and the lens-shaped cells help to focus the light. The reflection of light from these chloroplasts is what causes the green luminous glow.

 

There is a natural monument to this amazing, glowing moss in Hokkaido, Japan, where you can visit and see it growing  and glowing in a cave.