The Truth About Moss | Dispelling Moss Myths

There are many moss myths going around, and we often get questions about moss myths that we like to clear up. The first one will be the ‘moss buttermilk myth’.

After that, we explain on which side of a tree moss grows, followed by the question if moss causes allergies and if ticks like moss. The article ends with dispelling moss myths about moss lawns and mold.

The Moss Buttermilk Myth

Moss Buttermilk Myth

One of the most common myths is the moss buttermilk myth. It is often said that spreading or spraying buttermilk on moss will encourage moss to grow.

This is false! Do you want to know why?

The key here is not what substance will create moss in an area but what allows moss to develop. The most important things to allow mosses to grow are moisture and lack of competition.

Competition can be other plants, debris, or loose and irregular surfaces. Moisture is always needed to begin moss establishment. When mosses begin to colonize in an area, water allows the young mosses to perform photosynthesis, allowing growth.

Leaf litter, pine straw, twigs, loose stones, and such make it harder for moss to find a stable substrate to attach. Moss prefers to have direct contact with whatever it is spreading onto; therefore, a smooth substrate will allow the mosses easier contact.

Mosses do not draw nutrients or sustenance from the substrates they are attached to; therefore, the moss does not utilize anything you apply to the substrate since it does not have the root structure necessary to benefit from such applications.

The moss buttermilk myth is false because it does not have a root structure and therefore can’t take nutrients or sustenance from a milk substrate.

The best way to grow moss is by division of a colony or fragmentation, buttermilk is not needed.

What Side Of The Tree Does Moss Grow On?

What Side Of The Tree Does Moss Grow On

Another recurring myth is about moss growing on the north side of a tree.

This is false! Do you want to know why?

Moss does grow on the north side of trees, and it also grows on the south, east, and west sides of trees, as well.

Moss may grow only on a north side of a tree if that’s the shadiest location as the sun tracks the sky. If there is something else providing shade (or moisture), the moss will grow in those places just as well.

Moss is often found on the north side of a tree because it loves moisture and shade, but it will grow on all sides of a tree if the conditions are right. Rain often comes from the north on the northern hemisphere, and since the sun comes up in the east and sets in the west, the north side of a tree can often be in the shade.

But in the end, if there is shade and moisture, moss will thrive, regardless of the side of the tree.

Can Moss Cause Allergies?

Can Moss Cause Allergies

Another myth we hear often is that moss spores cause allergies.

This is also false! Do you want to know why you can’t be allergic to moss?

Moss spores may be as common as mold spores or pollen at times, but they are generally non-allergenic.

The cause of allergies is the pollen and, therefore, not the spores of mosses. Especially fungal spores can cause an allergy. There are exceptions, of course, but in general, the spores of mosses are non-allergenic.

You can be allergic to anything, but the likelihood that moss or its spores will give you allergies is extremely low.

Do Ticks Like Moss?

Do Ticks Like Moss

Another question we get asked often is about ticks. People often think that ticks like mosses.

This is also not true! Ticks do not like moss. Do you want to know why?

Ticks prefer tall plants, where they can perch to better position themselves to catch a ride on their next meal. The first reason ticks do not like mosses is that they are simply too short (on average). The second reason is that mosses often grow in dense clumps and can’t support ticks. Lastly, ticks don’t like the smell of most moss species.

So no, ticks do not like moss.

Does Moss Grow In Acidic Soil?

Does Moss Grow In Acidic Soil

Many of our customers tend to think that moss grows only in acidic or nutrient-poor soil

This is false! Mosses do not really mind acidic soil. Do you want to know why?

Most mosses are not particular about the pH or nutrients of the substrates they grow.

It would be more accurate to understand that mosses thrive where there is little or no competition, which often occurs in acidic and poor, compacted soils, or for that matter, on stone. Therefore they are often found in acidic soil but that is not the only type of soil they like.

Does Moss Need Shade?

Does Moss Need Shade

Moss loves shade, but that does not always mean it needs it to survive. Mosses have the greatest range of light exposure than any other land plant.

This doesn’t mean that all mosses can tolerate the sun; only certain species can. One of the most sun-tolerant moss species is Bryum Moss (also known as Sun Moss).

Mosses are found growing in all climates and exposures, from the full blazing desert sun to almost undetectable amounts of light found in caves. Mosses can also be found on all seven continents.

Can You Walk On A Moss Lawn?

Can You Walk On A Moss Lawn

Moss is often seen as a fragile plant that can’t deal with foot traffic.

This is false! You can walk on a moss lawn. Do you want to know why?

Most mosses tolerate foot traffic, but it’s a question of how much foot traffic. The best moss for moss lawns is Sheet Moss (also known as Hypnum Moss).

As a non-vascular system, mosses don’t need protection from being compressed. With some foot traffic, their cellulose remains flexible, allowing mosses to be compressed without the kind of damage that occurs when vascular plants are trodden on.

The key difference is that their flexible structure and small scale are susceptible to breaking if stretched. Walking flat-footed is greatly tolerated while running or shuffling isn’t.

Moss vs Mold

Another question we got asked often is that if you have moss growing on your property, it means you also have mold.

This is also false! If there is moss, there is rarely mold. Do you want to know why?

Moss and molds are rarely found together. Only when molds are attacking the moss as they might anything organic. With molds present, moss dies or decays, as does most anything else it attacks. If you have healthy moss, you do not have mold.

You can assume that there is no mold if there is healthy moss.

Is Moss Good For The Garden?

Is Moss Good For The Garden

Some gardeners are worried about moss in their garden. Some see it as a bad sign and want to get rid of the moss.

Moss is good for a garden! Do you want to know why?

Moss is a beneficial addition to the garden in many ways. Moss is good for a garden because:

  1. Moss retains moisture content, similar to mulching.
  2. It is superior to mulches in that it is a living layer that processes nutrients and contributes organic material.
  3. Moss does not become compacted, and doesn’t need replacing annually, and it provides a healthy habitat for beneficial insects and promotes the evolutionary symbiosis of mycelium and plant roots.

There you have it! Let us know if you want to learn the truth about moss missed here!

One thought on “The Truth About Moss | Dispelling Moss Myths

  1. Somya says:

    Thank you for this article I was thinking all those myths about my miss yard . I live in the country with lots of trees and with the Rainey weather there has been more moss. You have reassured me that I don’t have moldy yard?
    Thank you again

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