Saiho-ji

Japanese Gardens

In the Western world, we often consider mosses a type of weed that we try to eliminate from our lawns and scrape off our driveways. In previous posts we mentioned some of the useful applications of mosses throughout history.

In an urban context it’s important to note that mosses actually preserve artefacts, they also filter water, muffle noises and even work as insulators. Mosses don’t have a vascular system – in other words, they don’t have roots which you might perceive as “eating” into your lawn or your roof tops – they simply form a kind of protective layer, just holding onto the surface with so-called rhizoids.

And other great qualities are their desiccation resistance, temperature tolerance, and little need for soil (none for some species), which means it takes very little to keep them happy.

Eastern cultures have long revered mosses. A great example is Japanese Gardens, where mosses have been grown under aesthetic principles for centuries. In the mini landscapes of those gardens, bryophytes represent foliage and symbolise long life, as they are not ephemeral like flowers.

The Saiho-ji Kokedera (moss temple) in Kyoto is a famous representative of this appreciation and a true sense of age and stillness emanates from it.

Photo credits:
1. http://reinedesflans.blogspot.fr/2008/02/jardins-japonais.html
2. http://voyagista.com/2013/07/21/kokedera/
3. http://500px.com/photo/18156891

Further reading:

Nitschke, G. (2003) Japanese Gardens – Right Angle and Natural Form, Taschen

Glime, J.M. (2007), Bryophyte Ecology, Volume 1, Ebook sponsored by Michigan Technological University and the International Association of Bryologist. Available at: http://www.bryoecol.mtu.edu/

British Bryological Society: http://www.britishbryologicalsociety.org.uk/

British Natural History Museum, Bryophyte Collection and Bryophyte Research

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