MadSci Network: Botany

Re: On which types of playground material would moss be most likely to grow on?

Date: Thu Dec 16 18:21:17 2004
Posted By: David Hershey, Faculty, Botany, NA
Area of science: Botany
ID: 1103136355.Bt

Moss needs two main things for growth that it often gets from the surface it
grows on, water and anchorage. Plastic is not good at providing either. Most
plastics don't hold water well, and they have smooth surfaces that do not
provide good anchorage. However, if the environment was very moist and the
plastic surface was flat, moss would probably be able to grow on it if provided
with adequate mineral nutrients and light. 

Wood is usually rough and holds water because it has cracks and its dead cells
absorb water. Wood used in playground equipment might be treated with
preservatives that will prevent moss growth however.  

Rubber is a natural product from plants. If the rubber was cracked so it
provided water and anchorage, it should be able to support moss growth.

Some metals are toxic to plant growth, such as copper and zinc. Moss on roof
shingles is a common homeowner concern but that is usually wood and asphalt
shingles. I think I have seen moss growing on iron railings however.

Moss often grows on standing tree trunks. One factor there is the stability of
the bark. Some tree barks, such as birch and sycamore, peel off. That would
displace the moss every so often. Trees with nonpeeling barks might be better
for long term moss growth. 

I'm not aware of any experiments to test what kinds of wood moss grows best on
but you probably can find differences because different mosses have different
growth requirements, particularly soil pH. Perhaps you can do some experiments. 

Mosses are considered pioneer species because they can grow on bare rocks and
help form soil. I often see moss growing in sidewalk cracks, even in fairly
sunny places. Many mosses are quite resistant to drying out.  

There are many fascinating websites on mosses you may wish to consult. The study
of mosses is called bryology. Scientists who study mosses are called bryologists.


Roof Moss Problems

Mosses as pioneer species and indicators


The Bryophytes

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