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Mother Nature Monday: Rose Moss

There are many kinds of moss in our temperate rain forest. The most beautiful moss I have ever seen can be found all year round but is particularly noticeable in the winter months. This moss is so striking that I must declare it my favorite.

This particular moss appears to be a solid mass of green flowers, each flower about the size of a penny. Appropriately, it is called “Rose Moss.” Its Latin name is Rhodobryum ontariense. Rose Moss grows from Canada south all the way to northern Alabama. In fact, it is a moss that grows all over the world. It is a large moss and I am amazed I had never seen any in all the years I have been hiking in the woods and along creeks and draws. How could I have missed it!

This moss can be found near the base of trees, in humus and in humus over rocks. It is usually found in patches of 4 inches or greater. Once I noticed my first patch, I found several more in the vicinity.

At the time I first saw the moss, I identified it for myself in my moss guide and discovered that a very close relative of the Rose Moss has medicinal properties. The relative is called Rhodobryum rosacea. It has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries for its beneficial effects in the treatment for a wide range of cardiovascular diseases including hypertension and angina. Until 2012, the chemical composition of our species of Rhodobryum had not been investigated.

When it was examined, it was discovered that our moss contained the same components as the Asian species. This research is published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine/National Institute of Health on

More recent research indicates that the moss also has anti-microbial activity. Perhaps that is why Native Americans used it to diaper their babies.

Additionally, Yale University is now analyzing the moss as a component to add to a mix that would be used to treat Alzheimer’s Disease.

It took me years to “see” this beauty along our woodland trails. Sometimes you have to train your eyes to see what is right in front of you. Walking along a trail in the woods is almost a form of meditation. You quiet your mind and focus. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? It is fun to do and enlivens every walk you take.

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