Harvesting Moss from Stone

Dear David, can moss be taken from rocks, even if frozen during the winter?

Thanks for your help, Tom.


Dear Tom, your question is not so simple to answer. Mosses have a natural anti-freeze that allows them to survive extreme cold, they can however become encrusted in snow and ice, which would impede collection. In general, mosses can be collected year round, it is only the conditions and presence of ice that will complicate things. There are many species that can grow on stone, some of them may be easy to remove even when temperatures are below freezing.

If the moss growth on a stone is thick and you are able to peel it away from the stone without tearing, it is likely you will meet with success. Some species are specialized and grow only on stone, these species attach themselves firmly to the surface and are difficult at best to collect without shredding. The stone specific species like Grimmia’s are very slow growing and sensitive to changes in their environment. My advice is to collect a small amount and test to see the success of your technique and intended use. Remember to collect responsibly, leaving more behind than you remove. Be sure to have permission from the land owner before collecting and never collect from public property or protected areas.

Best wishes, David Spain a.k.a. Moss Rock

There are many species that will colonize a stone surface, if the environment is moist, your chances of successful collection and transplanting are high. If the climate is more arid, then tread carefully, mosses adapted to dry conditions can be very specialized and almost impossible to relocate. If the moss is rather easily removed from the stone surface intact, it is a good bet on a successful transplant. If the moss is strongly attached and comes apart when removed it is best to leave it be.


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Unless otherwise noted, all photos are credited to Ken Gergle.

5 thoughts on “Harvesting Moss from Stone

  1. J. Skuba

    Hello Moss Maven;
    It is always heartwarming to find other lovers of the humble ancient bryophytes. Moss propagation is the part I most enjoy. Growing very slow lichens on rock surfaces is a real challenge and liverworts are relatively simple. As you are well aware of, each type of moss requires certain environments. Propagation of bryophytes requires matching those same conditions.

  2. Lily

    Hello Moss Rocks,
    Your blog is very helpful and fun, I always enjoy reading through your articles and learning more about moss.
    But I have a question: Is there a way to get moss to grow ON rocks? I have always loved moss covered stones and boulders, but I haven’t the slightest idea of how to get a healthy patch of the stuff growing on stone.

    Thank you,

  3. Karen Kelley

    I would like to grow some moss under my greenhouse benches. Will the fertlized water dripping out of pots disturb the moss? I have moss that I’ve collected from a beech forest in CT and I’m bringing it back to my greenhouse in California. The moss was griwing on a large rock and was very easily detached. What could I tell you that would help ID the moss? Thank you for your help.

    1. David Spain Post author

      Karen, It depends on the type, frequency and strength of the fertilizer. The species of moss will also factor in. My experiences have been that most mosses will be burned by most fertilizers, so I would test a small piece for 30 days to check the outcome. I have seen mosses and liverwort growing in greenhouses and nursery’s that regularly apply fertilizers so it is possible. ~David


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