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Moss, Ferns and other natural plants of the bluff magnify the beauty of God’s creation

Botanists classify the 12,000 species of moss as bryophytes. These are primitive plants with their origins tracing back about 470 million years, making them one of the first land plants. They didn’t conceive photosynthesis but ancient moss ancestors were the species that brought it from the tidal pools on the edges of earth’s oceans to dry land. We will be looking at some of the varieties of plant life that exist naturally on the bluff and around the lake.

On the right you see Juniper Moss growing on a rock out on the bluff and on the left you see Reindeer Moss. Different varieties of moss with grow in the same space. Toward the top of this photo you can see a variety of Pin cushion moss.

Reindeer moss, also known as caribou moss, is a primary source of food for both of these animals. It is most prevalent in the boreal forests of Canada, and throughout the tundra. Normally you will find it on a thin layer of soil on top of rocks.

You can eat reindeer moss raw if needed, but the acids can upset your stomach. Natives typically boil it until soft.

You can then mix it with berries, fish eggs, or lard to give it a better flavor and texture. It can also be crushed and made into a medicinal tea.

Reindeer moss is used medicinally by natives to relieve kidney stones. It can also be used to help ease diarrhea. These mosses can be found in the southeastern United States.

This is a sample of Carpet Moss on the edge of the bluff. The moss and lichen do not get their moisture from a root system but from the humidity in the air or from rainfall. They will be green and lush during the wet spring and early winter seasons but will brown, dry and go dormant the rest of the year.

Juniper Moss Moss and Reindeer Moss rowing together.

Similar to the Juniper Moss in appearance but is more compact and smaller stems this is a Haircap Moss. Moss can be transplanted anywhere in the garden although it prefers shady moist areas. I am transplanting several varieties in the water feature and pond I have designed. We will see which one does best. It will be helpful that it only gets morning sun and will have water running around it most of the day.

The moss on the water feature will filter the water as it is fed up to the top through a series of hoses and then down through the moss. It should help keep the water clear.

A better image of a Reindeer Moss. Very fragile and brittle when dry and the entire west side of the bluff is covered with this. Deer will eat this when other food is unavailable and 200 years ago the local Indians would incorporate this into their diet by boiling it and eating it as a soup.

These are examples of Fern Moss, named that because they look like a fern plant.

The side of the bluff is covered with several varieties of fern plants but we just came out of a week of sub-zero temperatures and 12 inches of snow so the fern are just now recovering. I will circle back in about a month and revisit the ferns in about a month.

The small plants emerging from the spaces between the rocks are the Ozark Spring Beauty growing in ledges and crevices of the sandstone bluffs high above Greers Ferry Lake on Diamond Bluff. The plants are not only rare, occurring in just a few known populations in Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma, but their status as a species distinct from Carolina spring beauty was only recently appreciated: Claytonia ozarkensis was described as new to science in 2006.

In 4 weeks these plants will be in full bloom and I will update photos. You will understand why they are called Spring Beauty. This is a photo from last year and is easily accessible just over the edge of the bluff.

The beauty of nature is best when it is left to do what it does best…. flourish. We make every effort to keep the property as natural as possible and encourage it by respecting the space it grows. A close up view of any of these plants is worth the visit.

As spring comes on I will do another blog on these and the new flowering plants.

Stay tuned.

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