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The ancient Order of Moss

Bryophyte property rights and pressure-washers

By Liza Rognas

A caution to those planning their annual trip to the chemically noisome, noxious, aisles of the nearest box-store to buy the stuff that kills-the-moss-in-lawn-grass:

Don’t do it!

Anti-moss chemicals poison humans, aquifers, and soil. They harm critters we see, and those we don’t. Besides, these chemicals don’t work—hence the annual trip to spend too much money on them. Give it up, lawn addicts. Moss is more powerful than you can ever be. Moss has enormous strength. It can leap tall buildings in a single bound. That’s why it also grows on your roof.** Moss , verdant and spongy, was sprouting elderly whiskers eons before our human ancestors were asking each other if anyone would be embarrassed if they stood-up on their hind legs and took a look around during the next new moon.

Most of us living west of the Cascade Mountains reside on what was once, and still remains, a mighty, primordial, coastal, forest floor where mossy Brachytheciaceae, a Bryophyte, has dwelled for millennia. The soil knows that Moss is supposed to grow here. Trees know that Moss is supposed to grow here. Moss knows it’s supposed to grow here. It’s traditional. It’s got rights, Moss does! It holds thousands, perhaps millions—of years in property rights to this place that are deeper in the soil than any puny title certificate of human ownership, with taxes due, can claim. Somewhere there’s an ancient contract about Bryophyte right-of-way enforced by a judiciary of slugs, and militias of ferns and Cedars. Here’s where Moss grows! Every human effort to create a perfect lawn (a new tradition, even in human time) only enriches chemical companies while irritating and disrespecting the ancient ecosystems and plant folkways of this place. There’s beauty in Moss. Accept it. Gaudy, nouveau-riche, Kentucky Blue Grass lawn seed mix, with weed-b-gone & fertilizer added, just looks silly. Let the grass grow in Kentucky where it won’t get confused. You live in the South Sound. Take pride in your Moss!

About that Moss on your roof . . .

As it turns out, I asked my roofer about moss a few years ago during a conversation about his estimate. He gets a lot of business during the fall/winter rainy season from homeowners who send their teenagers up on the roof in spring to spray-off the moss using a pressure washer. Sure, the moss is stripped off, but the immense pressure also rips away composition particles coating the shingles, forcing water into and under areas of the roof that would normally remain dry, fixed, and overlapping. Roofs are meant to shed water, not collect it. Once a pressure washer strips away the pebbled texture affixed to the composition tiles, and they begin to absorb—not repel—moisture, all bets are off. The roof has been compromised. Those high-pressured streams force open overlapping shingles and widen punctures around nail holes.  Later, gutter-gushing fall/winter rainstorms can and will result in roof leaks that would not have manifested if the spring-cleaning homeowner, and the reluctant teenage laborer, had done this instead:

Use a sturdy push broom! Start at the roof crown and push-sweep down while firmly agitating the broom’s brush back and forth to loosen and then dislodge the moss. It takes longer, but it works.

Pay the kid, and let her keep the cool old Frisbee she found up there.

Liza Rognas is an academic librarian and a research professional, and has been a community food security activist and researcher for 20 years in Washington State.

One Comment

  1. Betty May 22, 2016

    Helpful and inspired info that I’ll take to my local slumlord. Thanks for writing.

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