Moss, Ferns and Lichens



Ferns are about the oldest plant species still alive on Earth and have been around for at least 360 MILLION years which means they have adapted and evolved to survive just about any condition.

In the beginning ferns were more like algae but the first to develop an actual plant like system to deliver nutrients known as xylem and phloem. Ferns used to grow as big as trees which makes me think of old dinosaur movies where there were ferns the size of Palm Trees.

Ferns are some of my favorite plants and is one that brings me a lot of peace and I cannot see myself without at least 1 fern.  To me, they represent something so eloquent about Nature; the will to survive, the evolutionary changes, the reproduction system but also peace.

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Ferns were pretty much everywhere so there was always this mystical essence surrounding me and being around them was comforting.  Ferns, Lichens and Moss were always the most fascinating species to me and I spent a lot of “nerd” time scoping out different lichens, moss and ferns to add to my plant press collection.  Scroll down to the bottom if you want easy instructions on making a plant press.

It’s one of those things that I cannot fully explain my connection to and I never had a good answer when I was a kid either.  My answer was always “because they are cool!”  I still think they are.  I still take a second to snap pics of lichens and moss and feel super blessed where I live now when I see moss growing in my yard.

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What’s so interesting about moss and lichen is that they can be dormant for a long time and they always come back. And while lichens might look like moss, they are neither a moss or a plant and can grow on just about anything and in any condition and have so many varieties that range in colors and textures that it’s hard (at least for me) to not be fascinated by them.

There used to be this joke that my boyfriend in high school used to make.  I know he was making fun of me but he always thought it was hilarious.  Lichen is a fun-guy, kind of like a moss!”  But lichen is not a fungus, it comes from algae and/or Cyanobacteria that has a symbiotic relationship with its host which basically means they help each other out.

Moss is a plant but not a fern but does produce spores but die back in dry conditions.  While the moss plant itself isn’t exactly dormant, the spores remain and when the conditions are right for them, they grow.  I am sure it depends on the species as well but I do know that every year when the weather is still cold and moisture starts to accumulate in the late winter into spring before it really heats up, my dirt lawn turns becomes a carpet of moss and I LOVE it!

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“Recent research shows that ancient moss could explain why the Ordovician ice ages occurred. When the ancestors of today’s moss started to spread on land 470 million years ago, they absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere and extracted minerals by secreting organic acids that dissolved the rocks they were growing on. These chemically altered rocks in turn reacted with the atmospheric CO2 and formed new carbonate rocks in the ocean through the weathering of calcium and magnesium ions from silicate rocks. The weathered rocks also released a lot of phosphorus and iron which ended up in the oceans, where it caused massive algal blooms, resulting in organic carbon burial, extracting more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Small organisms feeding on the nutrients created large areas without oxygen, which caused a mass extinction of marine species, while the levels of CO2 dropped all over the world, allowing the formation of ice caps on the poles” -Wikipedia

While that is fascinating and scary, this cycle is important to the health of our oceans which we depend on to live in more ways than just food.  Rock erosion leaches important minerals into the ocean like calcium and magnesium which are important to reef growth.  Without a balance of nutrients, the reefs would die and so would our food supply.

So you can see why Ferns, Lichens and Moss are amongst my favorite flora species on Earth because the relationship they have with the entire lifecycle is invaluable but also because they are incredibly resourceful and determined which makes them the Queen/King of the plant kingdom even though Lichen is technically not a plant.

As we all already know, the plant kingdom is the root of our existence, without them we wouldn’t be able to breath and the planet would be a very different place.

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This fern is a rabbit tail fern that my husband got from his father that he got from his father so this very same fern has been in the family for a pretty long time.  I feel like it symbolic about the foundation of our families.

While I could write a novel on ferns, lichen and moss, if you are interested in the reproductive cycles and relationships, I encourage you to look them up, get some books.  They are incredibly fascinating.

Some can be foraged in the wild and are edible like the Fiddlehead Fern.  When I lived in Hawaii, the natives ate these quite often.

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Plant Press

Plant presses are great for cataloging and super easy to make.

All you need are a couple pieces of wood or even an old heavy book

some think coffee filters

rubber bands

When you collect your specimen, place it between two pieces of coffee filter and close the wood pieces and squish it down.  Make sure to place it just right so that when it’s pressed it looks like the specimen and not a mess.

Wrap the rubber bands around it so make sure it stays closed and leave it for a couple weeks.

This is a great project for kids as well as anyone who wants to add real species to their grimoire.

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