Field of Science

Moss Gardening Book

This is the book to have if you are interested in using moss in your garden. There is not another book quite like it or any alternatives. Overall I really like this book. There are great photographs throughout the book. It begins by introducing you to mosses in a biological manner and points out what things are and aren't moss. That is where I usually start when giving a presentation about moss and I think that it is a good approach. He transitions into the history of moss gardening both in Japan and in Western countries. Good locations for growing moss are discusses as well as propagation techniques. My favorite chapter is Chapter 14, entitled Portraits. This chapter introduces the reader to 70 different species of moss, lichen, and liverwort. There are brief descriptions of the species and the habitats in which they grow. Fun facts and antidotes about some of the species are also included.

The main thing that this book is missing is a section on conservation. Encouraging people to garden with moss is great! But it is also important to encourage people to be good stewards of the moss that grows wild on their property or in surrounding areas. Removal of small pieces of mosses (think the size of a quarter or dime) from an area will most likely not damage the moss community. However large patches of mosses should not be removed from any surface, either tree bark, stone, decaying wood or soil. Basically large patch removal (saucer to dinner plate size) is the equivalent of strip mining in the moss world. If more moss than a small patch is needed to transplant or make a moss slurry (see pg 158 in the book), I would recommend collecting patches from several different places across a larger area. That way there is moss close to the open patches that can grow to fill the space. I think that conservation and stewardship are important topics to think about in the context of gardening with moss. I hope that everyone who gardens with moss or enjoys them in the out of doors will also think of what they can do to protect and care for these great little plants.

Moss Gardening: Including Lichens, Liverworts and Other Miniatures By George Schenk


  1. Hello,
    I'm not sure if you are aware of this, but lately in certain circles having a moss terrarium has been all the rage.
    you can find alot of them for example on here:

    I'm a sort of amateur moss enthousiast myself, having always found it quite beautiful to look at it. I was wondering what your opinion as a bryologist is on this, as it appears to me (although I am not certain) that certain people are collecting large patches of various types of moss and then shipping them all across the country.

    I have tried to cultivate my own moss terrarium from a tiny patch I once found outside after it rained down from a roof but I failed miserably. I am uncertain about buying a moss terrarium ready made even though they look beautiful, because I live in europe, and these are non native plants which I'm pretty sure are illegal to import even though they would probably go through customs easily..

    I would love to hear your thoughts on this,

  2. Hi Ariane,
    I have heard from some readers about interest in moss terrariums and I know a gal who has a blog about them they I keep up on.

    I think about the issue of over-collection whenever I get questions about moss gardening. I have to admit that I am torn and thus have not addressed the topic in a full blog post. I try to encourage people to move mosses around in their local landscape, from their neighbor's yard or their own property. That way you know the mosses are good for your climate and are local.

    Harvesting mosses from the wild is most likely not sustainable. It seems low impact on an individual level, but if everyone is collecting then there will be little left in the wild. I do know of a few landscaping companies that are actively cultivating them for sale. I think that cultivation instead of wild collection would be sustainable.

    As to importing, in the US mosses do not count as plants since they have neither true roots or internal plumbing (Vasculature), so you can bring them in without any paperwork. However in the US you do need to have a permit to import any soil attached to the mosses. I am guessing that the regulations would vary depending on which european country you are located within.

    I think that your concern about plants ordered online being non-native is real. Some moss species do occur across the globe however there are probably local differences even within a species. There really aren't any invasive mosses that I know of, but there are many other invasive plants, so this may become a moss concern in the future. However if you were to keep the mosses inside and not allow them to escape that risk would be low. If you did want to toss out non-native plants I would kill them up in an oven or campfire so that the invasive risk would be avoided.

    As to personal experiences I grow mosses in the lab, but do not have a terrarium at home. But here are some thoughts. I would think of it as your own experiment. Try a bunch of different kinds from your yard or locally and experiment with water, aeration, lighting, different containers until you find a good balance. After looking at the terrariums on etsy, I have to say that they look appealing, but I bet a majority of them may be just as hard to keep alive as your little roof moss.

    As a professional bryologist I want to encourage excitement and interest in these great plants. However I often try to caution and temper people to think of the broader picture and many of the ideas you have brought up. Ideas of non-native plants, invasive species and over-harvesting, are topics that all people interested in nature should have in the back of their mind.

    So definitely not an easy question or topic. As a scientist, I see our job as trying to present all the options and to discuss the consequences of the possible choices. I think that a lot of it comes down to the level of impact on the surrounding world that you are comfortable with.

    I hope that helps and I would be happy to continue the discussion if you have any additional questions. Considering how long my answer turned out, I guess I should consider writing up my comments for a wider blog post.

    Thanks for the question - Jessica

  3. Thanks for the update. I really appreciate the efforts you have made for this blog.


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