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Posts Tagged ‘Moss’

While playing with some moss in Wisconsin, I started to wonder about the lucky creatures that get to live in the plush green “moss forest” and I recalled reading about the tardigrade. The tardigrade, or more lovingly known as the water bear, is a fantastical creature that lumbers around on its four pairs of stumpy legs, transporting its barrel-shaped body to feed on bacteria and plant cells. Only about the size of 1 mm, these microscopic invertebrates are a force beyond belief, with adaptations that make it more indestructible than a NYC cockroach.

The stocky little organisms must have a film of water around their body to permit gas exchange, which explains why you find them in moist environments like moss. In order to survive when their environment becomes desiccated, tardigrades have developed the ability to revert to a hibernation and almost death-like state. This state, cryptobiosis, allows the creatures to reversibly suspend their metabolism to a hundredth percent of its normal rate and expel nearly all the water in its body. It can remain in this state, at which point the water bear is referred to as a tun, for up to 100 years. So not only does this creature get to roam around the fuzziest of green carpets, but it also drank from the fountain of everlasting life. Oh moss, how you intrigue me.

The twigster,

Josephine

PS: Some travel plan developments: We will be camping in the Channel Islands National Park off the coast of California for a week in March. Paradise.

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Whenever I see a rock or tree trunk covered in fuzzy, green moss I can’t help but stop, point it out to whomever I’m with, and touch the lush mini-carpet. Clearly then, moss, the most primitive of land plants, is by far my favorite plant. Over 350 million years old, mosses are a halfway point between algae and higher land plants. Since they have no roots and no vascular system, meaning no xylem or phloem to conduct water internally, they absorb water through their leaves. Their dependency on a water source helps explain why you often find moss in moist areas.

As a New Yorker, observing signs of life other than the grumpy pigeon, and the oversized subway rat can be pretty rare. Catching a glimpse of the furry bryophyte in a sidewalk crack or sewer drain, is enough to remind me that the city, too, is a part of the natural world. Others share my love of the plant and have spread the environmental art form of moss graffiti. As a natural art, the moss graffiti reintroduces the color green into our color palette, finally breaking the monotony of the gray and black cityscape.

The moss graffiti has the added bonus of helping us keep track of the air-quality in our cities. Different species of moss are tolerant of varying levels of pollution. The species present in the city or a certain area of the city will clue you in to the pollution levels. Only some mosses, like some people, can survive the hustle and bustle of city life.

Have I inspired you to vandalize some city streets with moss yet? One could only hope.

PS: Check out this tutorial to make your own moss graffiti.

PPS: If you like moss as much as I do, I highly recommend the book, Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

The twigster,

Josephine

London-based artist, Anna Garforth

You're so fuzzy.


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