Field of Science

Bumping into Bryophytes in Literature

It always amuses me when I bump into bryophytes when reading, especially when it is my recreational fiction reading. It is pretty common for mosses to be described as part of the background scenery, such as 'The lush verdant forest was covered in a layer of soft moss'. Mosses are also used as part of a survival strategy either as an insulating layer to keep warm or an absorptive padding to pack a wound. Using mosses for wound care is not a fictional idea, but was actually a practice in World War I. Sphagnum mosses are highly absorptive and have antimicrobial properties, which make them ideal for this purpose. But I digress.

Recently I finished reading Margaret Atwood's MaddAdam trilogy and came across the passage pictured here. The Festival of Bryophyta-the-Moss! I was super excited, because The Festival of Cnidaria (jellyfish) was described in such amazing detail with the costumes, games, and even a play about the jellyfish lifecycle! It is a biologist's dream to have festivals focused around different lineages of organisms! Unfortunately I don't think that Atwood consulted with a bryophyte expert, because the above quote is it. A shout out to bryophytes without additional elaboration. No play of the moss lifecycle regaling us with the alternation of phases. I can see it now, in interpretive dance format. The moss emerging from a little spore to begin its life on the moist soil...

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Taking the moss life cycle into a visual format using people could have made for some great imagery. Instead you can check out the video here for a take on the life cycle with all the stages explained. If you are in to post-apocalyptic tales I would highly recommend the MaddAdam trilogy for your next literary adventure. 


  1. Was the MaddAdam trilogy a good read otherwise? Should I add it to my list?

    1. I was thinking that I would send the copies that I have along for you to read. One less thing I have to pack up when leaving CA.


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