Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer


"The plant's purpose can be read through its place. I remember this when I'm tromping through the woods and mistakenly grab a vine of poison ivy to haul myself up a steep bank. I look immediately for its companion. Remarkable in its fidelity, jewelweed is growing in the same moist soil as the poison ivy. I crush the succulent stem between my palms with a satisfying crunch and a rush of juice, and wipe the antidote all over my hands. It detoxifies the poison ivy and prevents the rash from ever developing.

So, if plants show us their uses by where they live, what is the message from mosses? I think of where they live, in bogs, along streambanks, and in the spray of the waterfalls where salmon jump. And if this weren't sign enough, they reveal gifts every time it rains. Mosses have a natural affinity for water. Watch a moss, dry and crisp, swell with water after a thunderstorm. It's teaching its role, in language more direct and graceful that anything I've found in the library."

* * *

"It seems as if the entire forest is stitched together with threads of moss. Sometimes as a subtle background weave and sometimes with a striking ribbon of color, a brilliant fern green. The ferns which decorate the trunks and branches of the old-growth trees are never rooted in bare bark, always in moss. Ferns give thanks for mosses."