The na­ture of things

Moss

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country Notebook - Edited by Vic­to­ria Marston

LOVERS of per­fect bowl­ing-green lawns de­spise it, but, to ro­man­tic souls, moss is a thing of beauty and cel­e­bra­tion. Now, in these cooler and wet­ter months, mosses’ rich store of vi­brant greens come to the fore, look­ing fresh among the mor­bid­ity of fallen leaves and bare branches.

Un­der the aes­thetic prin­ci­ples of Ja­panese gar­den­ing, moss is ven­er­ated, con­vey­ing a sense of calm, age and still­ness to the over­all gar­den pic­ture. Those qual­i­ties also ap­ply in the broader land­scape: a sec­tion of moss-draped dry-stone walling can look as if it has been there for­ever. The big old oak tree at the way­side, laden with moss along its branches, looks the pic­ture of pa­tient still­ness, although traf­fic may race past close by.

Folk­lore tells us that, with­out a com­pass, we can find north by look­ing for the mossi­est side of a tree trunk. Although this is often true—as the sun­less north side suits them—mosses flour­ish on the dampest side, which could be fac­ing other di­rec­tions, par­tic­u­larly if the tree is on a steep slope or be­side water.

Nearly 800 species of moss grow in the UK. Seen close to, they can be sur­pris­ingly var­ied.

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