(Class: Bryopsida or Musci)

Physical Description:

There are more than 9,000 species of mosses.  Mosses are any of a variety of small, green, non flowering plants found throughout the world.  Common species include granite mosses and peat mosses.  Mosses tend to grow close together in large numbers.  Mosses form soft, dense mats on rocks, at the base of trees, or on soil.  Mosses differ from the familiar flowering plants in both structure and life cycle.  Unlike flowering plants mosses do not have true roots.  They do have structures called (rhizoids) that resemble roots.  Mosses reproduce by branching and fragmentation.  Peat mosses also called (sphagnum), grow in bogs and other marshy areas.  Peat mosses have a spongy texture and are very absorbent.  Mosses grow and reproduce in two phases.  These phases are as (sporophytes) and (gametophytes).  This kind of life cycle is called alternation of generations.            

Where Found:

Most mosses live on land in moist and shady places.  Some mosses are found in dry environments, and others grow in lakes, ponds, and rivers.  Most mosses measure less than 6 inches in height.  Mosses can range in size from microscopic forms to plants more than 40 inches long.  1,200 of the species live in the United States and Canada.

When Found and Conditions:

Mosses can be found all over the planet except within salt water environments.  Mosses usually live in damp and shady places.  Mosses have also been found in areas which lack large amounts of moisture.  Mosses have been found in prairies and other dry environments.  In extremely dry conditions their need for water changes.  Their need for water changes with the amount of available water in the environment.  During dry periods mosses may turn dull brown.  The moss will regain it's green color once it has been re-exposed to water.   

Source of Food:

Mosses use a green substance called chlorophyll to create food.  Mosses also use fresh water as their primary source of nutrients.  

Position in Ecological Chain/ Importance of mosses:

Mosses play an important part in the lives of many small animals.  Certain mites and spiders live in mosses.  Some birds use moss fibers to build or line their nests.  A creature in New Guinea named Weevils have been found with mosses growing on their backs.  Mosses serve as camouflage for insects.
Peat mosses can hold large quantities of water.  This helps prevent soil erosion and flooding.  Mosses also store minerals and nutrients.  Many gardeners use peat mosses to keep plants from drying out.  Peat mosses are also used in the cultivation of mushrooms and as packing material.  Peat mosses also contain chemicals that kill germs.  Some American Indians used peat mosses for diapers.  In World War I peat mosses were used as dressings for wounds.  

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