Moss is one of the most prevalent of woodland and forest plants, it covers almost all of the trees, living or dead. It green colour is one of the strongest to be found and when found in any patches of sun light breaking through the trees can be stunning.
Commercially there is a substantial market in mosses gathered from the wild. The uses for intact moss are principally in the florist trade and for home decoration. Decaying moss in the genus Sphagnum is also the major component of peat, which is “mined” for use as a fuel, as a horticultural soil additive, and in smoking malt in the production of Scotch whisky.
Sphagnum moss, generally the species S. cristatum and S. subnitens, is harvested while still growing and is dried out to be used in nurseries and horticulture as a plant growing medium.
The practice of harvesting peat moss should not be confused with the harvesting of moss peat. Peat moss can be harvested on a sustainable basis and managed so that regrowth is allowed, whereas the harvesting of moss peat is generally considered to cause significant environmental damage as the peat is stripped with little or no chance of recovery.
Some Sphagnum mosses can absorb up to 20 times their own weight in water. In World War I, Sphagnum mosses were used as first-aid dressings on soldiers’ wounds, as these mosses said to absorb liquids three times faster than cotton, retain liquids better, better distribute liquids uniformly throughout themselves, and are cooler, softer, and be less irritating. It is also claimed to have antibacterial properties. Native Americans were one of the peoples to use Sphagnum for diapers and napkins, which is still done in Canada.
In rural areas, types of moss were traditionally used to extinguish fires as it could be found in substantial quantities in slow-moving rivers and the moss retained large volumes of water which helped extinguish the flames. This historical use is reflected in its specific Latin/Greek name, the approximate meaning of which is “against fire”.
Preindustrial societies made use of the mosses growing in their areas.
Laplanders, North American tribes, and other circumpolar people used mosses for bedding. Mosses have also been used as insulation both for dwellings and in clothing. Traditionally, dried moss was used in some Nordic countries and Russia as an insulator between logs in log cabins, and tribes of the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada used moss to fill chinks in wooden longhouses. Circumpolar and alpine peoples have used mosses for insulation in boots and mittens. Ötzi the Iceman had moss-packed boots.
The capacity of dried mosses to absorb fluids has made their use practical in both medical and culinary uses. North American tribal people used mosses for diapers, wound dressing, and menstrual fluid absorption. Tribes of the Pacific Northwest in the United States and Canada used mosses to clean salmon prior to drying it, and packed wet moss into pit ovens for steaming camas bulbs. Food storage baskets and boiling baskets were also packed with mosses.
A Noiseless Patient Spider – Poem by Walt Whitman
A noiseless, patient spider,
I mark’d, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
Mark’d how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,—seeking the spheres, to connect them;
Till the bridge you will need, be form’d—till the ductile anchor hold;
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul.
A little more detailed this post than my usual Friday posts but I found this articular very interesting, if only for the fact that its amazing just how much there is to be found in our local woodlands and just how much study is being carried ou,t even after so many years to revival the hidden secrets to the life that surrounds us on our daily walks along a forest path …..
Most people know lichens, such as this wolf lichen, as those flaky, light green things that grow on tree bark. You probably learned in school that they’re a mutually beneficial partnership or “symbiosis” between fungi and algae, but many lichens have now been found to include a third partner, a yeast. (Tim Wheeler Photography)
Most people know lichens as those flaky, light green things that grow on tree bark, and learned in school that they’re a mutually beneficial partnership or “symbiosis” between fungi and algae.
But lichen scientists have made the shocking new discovery that many lichens are also made up of a previously undiscovered third partner — a new kind of yeast.
Not only does that potentially alter the fundamental definition of what a lichen is, but it “should change expectations about the diversity and ubiquity” of the organisms that form them, says a new study published Thursday in Science.
University of Montana researcher Toby Spribille samples Bryoria or horsehair lichens. He first started studying lichens 15 years ago in British Columbia. His new study was inspired by a mystery flagged by B.C. lichenologist Trevor Goward. (Christoph Rosche)
The new yeast has apparently gone undetected in lichens for more than a century, despite the fact that scientists all over the world have devoted entire careers to studying lichens closely with microscopes and genetic testing.
That seemed so unlikely that the scientists working on the project had trouble believing it themselves.
“It’s so surprising that you kind of doubt yourself for a long time,” said John McCutcheon, a microbiologist at the University of Montana and a research fellow with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research who co-authored the new study published today in Science.
“We had to check our data more than 10 times,” recalled Toby Spribille, lead author of the paper. “It seemed to me so unlikely that so many people would have missed that.”
Spribille, a University of Montana botanist who first started studying lichens in British Columbia 15 years ago, was inspired by a mystery flagged by B.C. lichenologist Trevor Goward in a series of essays.
Wila or edible horsehair lichen, also known by the scientific name Bryoria fremontii, is a brown-coloured lichen that was an important traditional food for many First Nations in northwestern North America. (Toby Spribille)
It concerned two lichens that grow in B.C. and Montana and considered separate species for 100 years. One called wila or edible horsehair lichen, also known by the scientific name Bryoria fremontii, is a brown-coloured lichen that was an important traditional food for many First Nations in northwestern North America.
The other, called tortured horsehair lichen or Bryoria tortuosa, is yellow and poisonous. However, a recent genetic analysis showed that they were genetically identical — they were made up of exactly the same species of fungus and the same species of algae.
“There’s something really weird about that,” Spribille said.
Tortured horsehair lichen or Bryoria tortuosa, is yellow and poisonous. However, a recent genetic analysis showed that its fungus species and algae species are genetically identical to those in edible horsehair lichen. (Tim Wheeler)
He brought the problem up with McCutcheon, an expert in new, sophisticated genetic techniques that he typically uses to study insects.
Traditional DNA analysis relies on probes or lures to fish out certain characteristic regions of genetic material, partly based on what scientists expect to find — like calling out names in a dark room to see who’s there, Spribille said.
Newer techniques instead look for all genes that are in the process of being translated into proteins via “messenger” molecules called RNA. Spribille likens the technique to turning on the lights.
McCutcheon says that gives a sense of what an organism is doing at any given time.
To the researchers’ surprise, the RNA they found came not just from the fungus and the alga known to be associated with the lichens, but a mysterious third organism.
Further analysis showed it to be a new kind of yeast, belonging to the taxonomic group Basidiomycota, the same one that button mushrooms belong to. It was not at all related to the yeasts used to brew beer or bake bread. Yeast cells and DNA were extremely common in the yellow, poisonous lichen, but rare in the edible brown lichen.
A fluorescent microscope image shows the location of different cell types in a bryoria lichen, cut at the ends and lengthwise through the middle. Green are the yeasts, blue are the fungi, red are the algae. (Toby Spribille)
After running the experiment enough times to convince themselves the signal wasn’t due to contamination and pinpointing the yeast cells in the outer skin of the lichen, the researchers decided to see whether other lichens from around the world also contained the yeast. Sure enough, many did.
“Each lichen has a specific strain of the yeast,” McCutcheon said. “These form several new fungal families.”
DNA analysis suggests the yeast has been part of lichens for more than 100 million years — since the end of the Early Cretaceous, when dinosaurs like spinosaurus and allosaurus roamed the Earth, and flowering plants first appeared.
Spribille said the discovery “seriously challenges” a lot of assumptions that have been held by lichenologists for a century.
“At the next level up, it gives us insight into how one of the most fascinating symbioses works.”
‘Really major finding’
Goward, whose essay inspired the research, said he was delighted by the discovery.
“It’s all very exciting to me,” he added. “If Toby’s idea proves to be correct, this is the second really major finding that changes how we see these organisms” — after the 1860s discovery that lichens weren’t one organism, but made of two separate organisms, an alga and a fungus.
Irwin Brodo, an emeritus scientist at the Canadian Museum of Nature in Ottawa who has devoted himself to the study of lichens for decades, said the discovery was “plausible” but “not proven yet.”
Brodo, who first gave the horsehair lichens the name Bryoria, said he was surprised that the new yeast cells were discovered in a part of the lichen that a lot of lichenologists, including himself, have examined carefully.
“I never saw them,” he said.
But he added that the presence of the yeast might also explain other longstanding mysteries about other lichens that look very different but have been found to be genetically identical.
O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stainèd
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.
`The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.
`The spirits of the air live on the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.’
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat;
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.
Working with Trees and Tree Spirits
Trees are probably the most evolved of all plants. There is a special relationship between trees and humans, as trees produce the oxygen that we need to breathe, while we exhale carbon dioxide which trees thrive on. You could say that our exhalation is their inhalation and vice versa! Trees are multidimensional beings. They have their roots deep down in the earth which signifies their connection to the Underworld. Their trunks and lower branches are in our world, the world of men, which in shamanic terms is called the Middle World. The branches of tall trees reach high in the sky which makes them a bridge into the Upper World. In fact, in many cultures shamans journey into the Upper World by visualizing themselves climbing a tall tree to the very top and then flying up into the sky! Trees also connect us to other realms, such as the Faerie Realm, which is in a parallel dimension to ours.
The cutting down of forests and trees in our reality gradually destroys the Faerie Realm as well. Tree spirits are only loosely connected with their physical bodies, the actual visible tree. Because they are multidimensional and enjoy great freedom on the astral, and because of their connection to other realms, they can help us in journeying and inter-dimensional travel. Besides, meditating with a tree can be very relaxing and helps us to get grounded. Trees are great energy converters as well. They can transmute our negative energies and help us heal. This is shown by the very fact that they thrive on our metabolic waste products (carbon dioxide). For this reason we can draw energy from a tree without depleting it simply by giving it some of our unwanted energy in exchange.
Out there walking round, looking out for food,
a rootstock, a birdcall, a seed that you can crack
plucking, digging, snaring, snagging,
barely getting by,
no food out there on dusty slopes of scree—
carry some—look for some,
go for a hungry dream.
Deer bone, Dall sheep,
bones hunger home.
Out there somewhere
a shrine for the old ones,
the dust of the old bones,
old songs and tales.
What we ate—who ate what—
how we all prevailed.
Spring, days lengthening and warming slowly
green shoots daffodils and gambolling lambs.
Summer, sunny and hot lazing in deckchairs
rambling roses blooming strawberries and cream.
Autumn, wind blustering with nights drawing in
dying leaves changing to red/gold before falling
Winter, cold and bringing frosts, snow, ice,
dark brown trees stark and bare animals hibernate.
Seasons whirling in a revolving cycle,
marking the endless passage of time.
I was once;
the Spring child
the Summer teenager
the Autumn adult,
now, I am approaching
the Winter of old age.
Oh, that I could go back and return
like the Seasons
to the Spring again.