Field of Science

New Moss Gardening Book

A new book about moss gardening is out! The Secret Lives of Mosses: A Comprehensive Guide for Gardeners by Stephanie Stuber. The book is available in a variety of digital formats and in paperback. Stephanie recently finished her Master's degree in Public Garden Leadership at Cornell University and is now working as a Curatorial Fellow at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, Massachusetts.

Overall I think that is is a good book for people interested in integrating mosses into their home garden and learning more about moss biology. She covers the science, culturing, identification, curation, and interpretation of mosses. Stephanie does a nice job introducing readers to the life cycle and a variety of features that are useful for moss identification. Her habit images are vibrant and helpful, however, the photos of microscopic features are not the best quality and the details are difficult to see. The book includes descriptions of 12 common taxa with pronunciations for each genus, which is nice for folks new to moss scientific names. In the section on culturing, Stephanie highlights a variety of ecological components to think about when planting mosses, including light, moisture, and substrate, as well as more instructional topics such as transplanting, companion plants, and maintenance. The sections on curation and interpretation are more helpful for those working at a public garden rather than the at-home gardener, but it is a nice glimpse behind the scenes of a working botanical garden.

It is apparent that Stephanie is well read and knowledgeable about mosses, but I wish that the text would have included more citations to point the reader to the books she read to gain this expertise. She does cite a study that "...documented that beds of moss over soil provide favorable condition(s) for tree growth in the forest and that the removal of them adversely affects the succession of trees (Thieret 1956)." My general knowledge also is that mosses can serve as a moist nursery for seed germination, but having a scientific study that actually demonstrates and supports this idea is even better. I had not heard of Thieret before and will definitely check out his paper to see the details of the study.

A word of caution, the digital editions of this book are reader program specific. I bought a PDF of the book and missed the note that it will only open in the program Adobe Digital Editions. This file will not open in either Adobe Reader or Adobe Acrobat Professional. I know that digital formats for books are becoming more and more common, but I am suspect of the longevity of files that only open in one specialized program. I plan on studying mosses for a long time and I would like to be able to read and refer to Stephanie's book for the next 50 years. I am pretty sure that computers will continue to be able to access regular PDF files, but will this specific Adobe Digital Edition program still be around so that I can open up this program-specific file? I would have really liked the option to purchase a regular PDF so that the longevity of my access would be more likely. Maybe I will just buy the paperbook version too. I am pretty sure I will still be able to open and read a hard copy years into the future. 

DonorsChoose Science Blogger Challenge

This is my first year competing in the Science Blogger Challenge. The challenge: Compete against other science bloggers to raise money for science supplies for students.

At, teachers request donations for supplies to implement a particular project in their classroom. Then people like you or I make donations of a little or a lot to fund their supplies and make the project happen. Crowd-sourcing in action! 

There are hundreds of great projects to choose from on the site. I am especially excited about the projects that use plants! They range from science experiments that examine plant pigments to starting a garden to make basic observations about how plants grow. I think that plants are a great way to get students excited and interested in science. Botanical education is lacking in many schools and most people think of plants as only the green background where animals live. Instead of knowing that they are unique, diverse, and dynamic organisms in their own right. Connecting students to the natural world through plants is a great way to increase their thinking about and hopefully care for our planet. 

To this end, I have setup a page with a list of projects that Moss Plants and More is sponsoring. Check out the projects on the page and if you find one that resonates with you make a donation! I started the ball rolling with a small donation to each project on my page. Even if you don't make a donation please spread the word via your favorite technology or social media. The contest runs now through Nov 5th. The website for my page is 

My fellow Field of Science Bloggers, we are currently in 8th place. I bet that we can move up in the ranking and raise some money to put awesome science projects into classrooms! Anyone else interested in joining in?

October 2012 Desktop Calendar

The calendar for October is a blend of several different moss species occupying the crevice in a stone. The one in the center is Bryum argenteum, the silver sidewalk moss. As the common name suggests, this moss is regularly found growing in urban areas in between sidewalk tiles. 

I think that the color is really great, but now that I think of it I am not sure how it produces that color. Deposits in the cell walls? Papillae? Are they covered in hairs? Many questions with no answers. Maybe if I have time tomorrow I will look it up. Otherwise it is some great plant beauty to appreciate even without the scientific explanation.

1 - Single click on the image to open it up in a new window. (If you use the image directly from the blog post you will lose a lot of resolution.)

2 - Right-click (or ctrl-click) on the image, and chose the option that says, "Set as Desktop Background" or "Use as Desktop Picture". The wording may vary.

3 - If the image does not fit your desktop neatly, you may have to adjust the image (Mac: System Preferences - Desktop and Screen Saver - Desktop; Windows: Control Panel - Display - Desktop) and choose "Fill screen" as the display mode of your background image.

Any issues or suggestions please let me know. These calendars are an experiment in-progress.