The forest’s ground level vegetation is made up of mosses and lichens. In moist woodland, moss coverage of can reach 100%, but there are also many mosses in the ridge areas. There are about 20,000 mosses in the world and almost 900 in Finland. In woodland where soil has less nutrients, the moss coverage is low and moss coverage is usually not uniform.

Sammalet ylhäältä alas: kangaskynsisammal, metsäkerrossammal, seinäsammal


Mosses From top to bottom: rugose fork-moss, red-stemmed feathermoss, glittering woodmoss

Below cowberry shrubbery you will generally find a tapestry of rugose fork-moss and red-stemmed feathermoss. Rugose fork-moss is identified in its transverse, narrow, talon-like leaves. Red-stemmed feathermoss is the most common moss in our forests and it is easy to distinguish in the terrain as a glossy, yellow-brown moss with a reddish brown stem. Both mosses have adapted to growing in dryish habitats as they receive their required moisture mostly through rainwater.

In spruce stands with bilberry undergrowth, the dominant moss is glittering woodmoss. Easily recognisable  due to its olive green, yellow or reddish green colours and reddish stems, that grow on the previous year’s growth, using the airy space created to help preserve spring’s moisture throughout summer.

Mosses also affect the success of other plants, for example, a layer of moss is disadvantageous to the germination of tree seedlings. It also competes with other plants for space and nutrients. A thick mossy layer efficiently absorbs nutrients from rainwater and keeps the moss thriving. Moss growth particularly flourishes in the autumn when there is sufficient water. They remain photosynthetic after the first snow covers the ground while over the winter the younger parts remain green, but the oldest part loses its leafy greenness and begins to decompose.

Photos: Jyrki Oja