(Class: Bryopsida or Musci)
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.
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.