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Moss Propagation

How do mosses grow and reproduce?

Mosses are incredibly slow growing and live in challenging environments. Mosses have many methods of dealing with such harsh living conditions. For example, their small size allows mosses to absorb a lot of water through capillary action and reduce the amount of energy use.

Another method of survival is fragmentation. Fragmentation is a form of asexual reproduction where a part of the moss can grow to form a new moss. This is used by mosses to help ensure their survival.  

Not all plants can reproduce from any part of their body, but moss is a great example of a plant with this unique ability. As a moss plant is ripped up, each new piece can grow into a new plant. This allows moss to propagate over a large space (like a forest, or a lawn) even with their slow growth.

Objectives

  • Study different aspects of the life cycle of plants.

Materials

  • Per Class:
    5-10 large clumps of moss that grew on concrete or rocks. (~1 1/2 cups)
    water
    blender
    250 g of buttermilk
    Optional: 1 tsp sodium polyacrylate (useful for its absorbing ability) Soak the sodium polyacrylate with 1 cup of warm water for 5-10 minutes.

  • Per Student:
    1 hand-sized rock
    1 wide paintbrush

Key Questions

  • Moss can reproduce just by breaking apart and having their fragments grow. How could this be useful to cover forests like they do?
  • How could this fragment growth help explain how moss can spread all over a lawn?

What To Do

Preparation

  1. Prepare the sample: Blend 1 1/2 cups of moss and the buttermilk for only 10-20 seconds on low in the blender.
  2. Add water until it becomes a thick soupy consistency (about 1 1/2-2 cups of water).
  3. Pulse to rip not to puree. (Optional: Add the soaked sodium polyacrylate at this time.)

Pre-Activity

  1. Discuss the ways in which plants can reproduce (i.e. pollination, seeds, cones, spores, etc.)
  2. Introduce fragmentation and why plants may use it to survive and grow.
  3. Give groups a container of the moss mixture.

Activity

  1. Have students paint the moss mixture on their rocks with any shape or design they choose.
    Optional: Create a stencil out of cardboard and use that to paint the moss in an interesting design.
  2. Have students take their rock home and spray it with water daily. Watch the moss grow!

Teacher Tips:

  • If the moss mixture is too moist, there is a possibility of growing mold on the rocks. Have students closely monitor the growth of their moss.
  • Moss propagation can take a long time. Please remind students to remain patient as they observe their moss grow.

Extensions

  • Make a moss terrarium.
  • Find moss that grows on branches and trees. Get the class to grow the moss on the pieces of bark. How does this moss differ from the moss growing on the rocks?