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When is a Moss not a Moss?

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A fine specimen of a 'club moss' Huperzia squarrosa growing in the Display Glasshouse at the Australian National Botanic Gardens.
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A Sphagnum-dominated bog at Lake Dobson in Tasmania with emergent plants of Richea pandanifolia.
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Close up of Sphagnum plants.

Cases of Moss-taken Identity?

Sometimes the word moss turns up in places where no moss is involved! For example, many of the ‘mossy rocks’ sold in gardening centres are in fact lichen-covered rocks. Here are a few more examples.

Club Moss

Club Moss is a general name applied to fern relatives in the family Lycopodiaceae, such as Lycopodium, Huperzia or Selaginella species.

Iceland Moss

Iceland Moss is a fruticose lichen, Cetraria islandica.

Irish Moss

Irish Moss is a purplish-brown edible seaweed, Chondrus crispus, also known as carrageen. This seaweed is dried and bleached to produce a commercial thickening agent which is used as a substitute for gelatine.

Peat Moss

Peat Moss is a confusing expression. It is often used to mean live or dead Sphagnum, which is definitely a moss. However it is also used to refer to the dead, half-decomposed contents of peat bogs that are harvested and sold for use in potting mix. Peat may contain the remains of mosses, sedges or other water plants, depending on the type of bog it came from.

Reindeer Moss

Reindeer Moss is the fruticose lichen Cladina rangifera, eaten by reindeer and caribou during winter.

Spanish Moss

Spanish Moss is a flowering plant, Tillandsia usneoides, belonging to the pineapple family, the Bromeliaceae. Spanish Moss hangs from tree branches in long, grey-green strands and is common in the southeastern states of the USA, where it is also known as Florida Moss. When dried, it was used as stuffing in upholstery and was called Black Moss.

White Moss

White Moss is a term that has been used for a number of lichen species.


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