They have no roots, bear neither flowers nor fruit, and yet manage it in 22,000 ways. They settle in almost every ecosystem, in polar regions, deserts, rainforests and cities. Yes, the greening of the planet has only just begun with mosses. The periodically wet plants, which developed from the green algae of the intertidal zone of the ocean 350 to 400 million years ago, were the first to venture onto dry land.
Robin Wall Kimmerer was taken with her pioneering qualities. In “The Gathering of Moss – A History of Nature and Culture”, the renowned plant ecologist and bryologist, i.e. moss scientist, draws attention to a microcosm that is otherwise usually trampled on on forest floors or between paving slabs.
And because the professor, who was born in 1953 and lives on an old farm in Upstate New York, comes from the Potawatomi bear clan, indigenous plant knowledge also plays a role in the moss almanac, which is published in the series “Naturkunden” edited by Judith Schalansky. appears. Bound in green, printed in green lettering and decorated with green-tinted moss photographs and drawings.
In good Anglo-Saxon non-fiction tradition, Kimmerer arouses interest in the most primitive of land plants by recounting her subjective experiences at the same time. The magnifying glass that a kindergarten teacher holds in front of the girl’s eye so that she can examine the crystalline structure of a snowflake becomes the “beginning of seeing”.
The more closely you look at the world, the more beautiful it becomes, believes Kimmerer. What applies to snow and the microstructure of leaves also applies to moss, the height of which varies between millimeter-high crusts and shoots up to ten centimeters high. Inventorying moss on rocks and tree trunks often requires a stooped posture and a focused gaze. The structure of the moss cushions, which are home to tardigrades and springtails, is only revealed under the microscope.
“For me, mosses are a way of creating intimacy with the landscape,” says the biologist. And when she tells of a swaying mat of sphagnum moss on a bog that she strides barefoot over, she feels her footsteps act as a testament to her existence, beating a “water drum of moss and peat.” Almost like that of the ancestors, who used a wooden bowl filled with holy water and covered with deerskin as a ceremonial drum in their rites invoking the unity of universe, creation and man.