Mosses are very common all over Harris, particularly in wet moorland and mountain areas. There are many species of Moss but they can be difficult to tell apart and some are so similar that they can only be identified by examining them under a microscope. However, there are some groups of mosses that are very common and can easily be recognised. These include Bog Mosses and Woolly Fringe Moss which can form carpets cover large areas of the ground on our moorlands and hill sides.
Mosses are very different to other plants. They don’t have flowers and they don’t take up water or nutrients through their roots - they absorb water and nutrients through their leaves instead. This means that they can easily dry out and are usually found in wet or shaded places. The Harris climate is perfect for mosses because it rains a little bit most days which gives mosses a good supply of water. On the higher hills there is often a damp mist which keeps mosses wet and shaded.
Mosses don’t really have a root system so don’t have a strong hold on the soil or rocks that they grow on. Because of this they can easily be dislodges by the hooves of sheep and deer or shoes of walkers. They are also susceptible to fire which dries them out. Mosses grow slowly so once lost it takes a long time for them to re-colonise an area.
by Robin Reid