Moss is not for picking

There are over 12,000 species of moss worldwide; some of these are indigenous to Zimbabwe and are found growing profusely in the Eastern Highlands and other wetter parts of the country. However, the moss in Zimbabwe should only be seen, and not picked!

Although Bryophytes, commonly  known as moss, are  not on Zimbabwe’s list of protected species, they are illegal to pick, collect and sell, as vast amounts have been ripped from their natural, fragile habitats in the last few decades. Some of our local ecosystems have been stripped of colonies of this special small, flowerless and seedless, spore-producing plant. These areas will take decades to return to their former mossy green carpets.

Moss has a superior absorptive quality and can soak up to twenty times their weight in liquids, which makes it a valuable commodity in the floral and horticultural industries. Most gardeners, awhile back, used it for its aesthetic appeal in hanging basket liners and floral arrangements. Nowadays, they are being used in the ever-increasing dried flower arrangements, sold in our local markets and on the street corners for funeral caskets. However useful it may be, please do not buy these products, as you will be encouraging more people to destroy the natural moss habitats.

Please note that Sphagnum moss, also known as bog or peat moss, is a moss we often hear about in international DIY projects and magazines, but it doesn’t occur in Zimbabwe. It grows mainly in the Northern hemisphere, in places like Scotland. In addition to its’ superior absorptive qualities, Sphagnum moss has a high acidity, which can be extremely useful when mixing them with soils in the gardening business to increase the acidity of the soil. It is especially appreciated by those acidic-condition-loving plants, such as azaleas, gardenia, ferns, tree ferns and tea bushes. It also helps to increase the water holding capacity of the soil medium, making it a very useful product.

Globally, moss has had a variety of uses throughout the centuries; it was a useful material to use as insulation in boots, coats and mittens in colder climates as well as to fill chinks in houses, or as bedding. Due to its antiseptic properties, it was used as a wound dressing in Scotland and the dressing was produced commercially during World War 1. These useful properties are due to moss being able to survive in extreme dry conditions for months on end, losing almost all of their water as well as appearing dead and dehydrated, but returning to life within a few hours of rehydration.

Besides their usefulness, mosses can also be troublesome in greenhouses, on paving stones and pathways, making it very slippery for passing pedestrians. To reduce the growth of the moss in these hazardous circumstances, the amount of water should be decreased or sunlight increased in that area, or the pH can be increased with an application of lime to reduce the acidity, which inhibits the favourable conditions in which they like to grow. To eradicate them completely apply bleach (Jik) into a bucket of water and scrub down the stone walls and pathways with a hard broom or wire brush.

We know that our 2015 gardening and environmental theme continues to be ‘Go green, plant indigenous’. However, some of our special indigenous plants must not be dug up from the bush and replanted in your suburban garden. Rather let them thrive where they occur naturally, like our green cushiony mass of moss. Leave our moss be and please do not buy from vendors selling them by the sack full!

By Sally Preston

Main Vumba Road, overlooking
Leopard Rock Hotel
Small retail nursery with large variety of tree
ferns – self-catering holiday cottages & horse riding
Contact: Sally & Stu Preston
0712 207 828 or 0717 519 600
Fb: visit-hivu

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