Back when Earth turned green

Mosses were some of the first living things to make the Earth green more than 400 million years ago. In Denmark, there are about 650 species of moss, and the stories they tell are worth listening to.

An article by Kristine Kjørup Rasmussen (Head of biodiversity in SLA, Biologist, Ph.D. in vegetation ecology) and Irina Goldberg (biologist, Ph.D)
Originally brought in the journal Landskab (no. 3, 2020)

Mosses were some of the first living things to make the Earth green more than 400 million years ago. And still today, the marvelous mosses make the Earth green, especially in humid areas that Denmark is rich in. In winter, when herbs and grasses are brown and withered, the green color of the mosses is more clearly seen. But it is as if this million-year-old robust growth form is not really being respected for its beauty and its value by us geological babies, humans. We fight moss in lawns, we wash stones and roofs and clean cemetery dikes to keep the mosses away.

Why? Is moss ugly? Moss is a spore plant without roots, yet enormously effective at absorbing water in its simple and thin cell tissue. Thus, mosses can exploit habitats that they often only share with lichens (a flake-shaped symbiosis between algae and fungus).

Mosses are everywhere like a green backdrop. You have to bend your knees or find the magnifying glass to be able to see their small fine leaves and spore houses that sit on a short or long stem (seta). Typical habitats are bare soil, rocks and living and dead trees. In the countryside and in the cities. Why not invite them into our built world and let them decorate surfaces with their “shades of green” and feeling of a nature that is so much older and bigger than ourselves?


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