Moss as Metaphor

moss 018A nearly manicured office building. Trimmed lawn, weeded garden, paved walkway. Not much chance for weeds to sneak in here.

Except for the moss.

What, you don’t see any moss?

Moss–soft, green, fuzzy. It’s a plant everyone can identify, and yet no one can identify it.  I once took a course on moss identification. And what you had to do to figure out which species of moss you were looking at was to detach one moss leaf. (One moss leaf. Do you know how incredibly small a single moss leaf is?) Then you had to use a razor blade to slice a cross-section of the moss leaf. Then you had to look at the cross-section through a microscope and count the number of chloroplasts. After three hours of slicing moss leaves I was cross-eyed and still wasn’t sure which of those little blobs were the chloroplasts. It’s no wonder that most species of moss don’t even have common names.moss 019

(Still can’t find the moss here?)

Yet everyone knows moss. If you say someone wore a dress the color of moss, you know what color it was, right? If you say the rug felt like moss you know it was fuzzy. “Green as moss, soft as moss.”

Oddly, no one ever uses the expression “as persistent as moss.” Or “as determined as moss.” Or as adaptable, aggressive and ubiquitous as moss.

moss 020See the moss yet?

Moss grows just about everywhere–as long as there’s even the tiniest bit of moisture present. And what better place to gather up stray drops of moisture than the cracks in the sidewalk?

There are twelve thousand species of moss, give or take a few. They’re an ancient form of plant life, evolved in dinosaur times.

Every cell in a moss plant can moss 024photosynthesize. Every single cell of these little tiny plants cranks out food. So moss plants don’t need roots to absorb nutrients from the soil. They don’t need soil. They don’t need a vascular system to pipe nutrients from the bottom of the plant to the top. They’re simplicity itself.

There it is! Moss: persistent, aggressive, determined, surviving in the cracks.

Just don’t ask me which species it is.

moss 029

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About unmowed

I'm a writer and a botanist who loves the weirdly weedy places of the world.
This entry was posted in leaves, plant parts, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Moss as Metaphor

  1. Sally Reckner says:

    l
    Love your blog! Just spent this snowey afternoon catching up on your posts – nice to see green again! Have been at a couple of your programs at the Landis Arboretum – always educational and fun. Thanks! Sally

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