Critical information about vendors of wild-collected Bryophytes (and other plants and products)
In many cases (probably the majority), harvesting of Bryophytes is done illegally and unsustainably, without regard to detrimental impacts on the species’ populations and habitats. This will negatively affect the other plants, animals, and ecosystem in which the mosses and liverworts were growing.
Wild harvesting also hurts other people who would otherwise have enjoyed seeing a beautiful, natural area. It’s not fun going to a forest and seeing giant blank spots where moss was obviously stripped from trees, rocks, and soil. Unfortunately it’s a common and widespread practice.
Some legitimate businesses that collect wild bryophytes have obtained permits to legally do so, and their harvesting methods are done responsibly and sustainably. Some of them also participate in “rescuing” these plants from areas which are slated to be destroyed and developed.
Before buying Bryophytes online from a vendor:
I recommend that you contact the vendor and ask if they have the appropriate legal permits to do wild collecting, or if their distributor or source has those permits. You can ask to see a copy of that paperwork to confirm that they’re telling the truth. By refusing to purchase from companies who are unethically obtaining Bryophytes and plants, you can play a part in helping the environment, and in supporting the companies that are doing things the right way.
Quick tips and things to know about moss and liverworts
Most mosses and liverworts need brighter light than many people are led to believe.
Not all Bryophytes are shade lovers. Even more importantly, not all “shade” is as dark as people imagine. There are dramatically varying levels of shade, from “deep shade” to “indirect light.” The amount of light needed will depend on the species, and other conditions in your growing container. That said, lighting is beyond the scope of this article.
Not all Bryophytes grow well in the same conditions.
They may require different substrates, pH, lighting, moisture, humidity, air flow, and so on. One of the pieces of advice that I give in my free “30 Tips for Terrarium plants” is to “Know the plant.” That applies to Bryophytes just as much as other plants. When you understand the plant, its growth patterns, its natural habitat, and so forth, you can make informed decisions about the conditions in which to grow it.
Mosses and liverworts will often show up as groups of multiple species.
Especially in small, nano tanks, or around miniature and micro plants, it is recommended that you cull large and aggressive moss species, and keep fine and compact species. The desirable species will not overtake your tiny plants, and will look more aesthetically pleasing due to having the correct size scale in relation to those plants’ stature.
Notes on disinfecting Bryophytes
There isn’t a guaranteed method for completely disinfecting mosses and liverworts (usually with the intent of killing Chytrid and pests), without killing them in the proces. 10% bleach dips are common for disinfecting plants, but most Bryophytes will not survive the treatment, probably due to their Poikilohydric physiologies which result in the bleach being easily absorbed, and because they have soft and thin tissue with little to no protective structures.
Carbon Dioxide fumigation may kill some insects, but isn’t 100% effective, particularly on insect eggs, and smaller insects which can survive in crevices with small pockets of Oxygen. CO2 will not be effective at killing Chytrid.
Desiccation (drying the plants out completely) will also kill some insects (not all), but may result in the death of some Bryophytes, and also in mold growth due the the dried tissue that has died, providing a food source for fungi.
It’s advisable, at a minimum, to thoroughly clean and then quarantine wild-collected mosses and liverworts. Soak them in distilled water and then remove as much substrate as possible. Split open thick cushions to remove larger pests with tweezers. Then rinse thoroughly with distilled water. Finally, put them in a separate quarantine tank for at least 3 months and check every few days for pests. Again, note that washing and quarantining will not have any effect on Chytrid.