Moss species for Phrag culture

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Mar 12, 2024
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Mendocino Coast, California
There are quite a few posts from folks who swear by the benefits of live moss growing on the top of the media for Phrags. A question: What species of moss have you found success with?

There are a few "wild" mosses growing in my greenhouse, but to test the effects of live moss I'll need to introduce it to some pots. I have been considering Cushion Moss, Leucobryum glaucum. I'm worried that many of the species that are culturally appropriate grow either too slowly or too large.

Suggestions are greatly appreciated.
ditto what Tyrone said. I once got a paph that had such a thick dense topgrowth of moss that I almost killed it by underwatering. (of course I didn't know I was underwatering until the leaves started falling off).

as an aside I like using sphagnum as the medium for the long petalled species, as for me they have generally been much more rot-prone.
Here ia a screen capture from the AOS seminar Jason Fischer did on Frags. He said this was like the conditions in the wild, where the roots are growing in and under mosses:

It makes sense to me to have moss like this. Not so dense that it blocks water though. I water like a raincloud and use a medium that allows for it, so drying out is not an issue.
You could try something like Java moss. I grow it in my aquariums but it does grow emersed and am growing some around my orchids. It does not grow densely and remains airy. I used to grow Masdevalias in thick mounds of the stuff. It will need high humidity. You can buy it as algae free tissue grown clumps online. I have some already grown emersed and could send you a little. Bye.
Much appreciated, Tyrone. I used to have a shade house for Masdevallia and had random mosses growing on the surface of the pots. Seems easy to find online so I'll give this a try. This may be just what I am looking for. Thank you for your kind offer.
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JAVA MOSS!! interesting..
While i have been in orchids quite a long time.. i too am an avid aquarist (just broke down 3 dozen tanks this past spring, so down to about 65 aquariums) yeah i am a tank hoarder.....
so I do play a lot with growing many many aquatic plants, emersed and immersed, and some may find it interesting but many of the so called "aquatic plants" grown and sold in aquarium stores, both brick and mortar and on line, are NOT true aquatic plants in that they do not grow 24/7 under water and most will need to be able to send their flower spikes above water to be pollinated. All that being said, there are quite a number of "mosses" that are sold in the aquarium trade, and java moss is just one or sometimes can be sold under that generic name.
I personally have about 20 species of aquatic moss, growing under water and above water... in my greenhouse, i have started a colony of moss in a shallow vessel and over time have it grown up the sides out of water and along the ridge of the dish... I have grown it as a "raft" where i set a portion on top of a cork or floating foam, and it will grow upwards as long as it is kept moist, or at least feet wet. As mentioned above, it does not grow as tight as some of the true terrestrial mosses, (they tend to grow denser and cushiony, with a thick mat underneath made up of dead moss, and the decaying objects they are actually growing on. They need moisture but not as critically as aquatic mosses, because they can handle drying up for short periods and still come back).
That being said I can see where there may be some beneficial use as an addition to some species base. I cannot remember who imparted the idea to me, of taking a failing plant and growing it in live sphagnum moss to help it come back around and for me this worked and i would notice new roots starting in reasonably short order. It is commonly known that there are some mycorrhizal fungi benefits in working with moss and orchids.
I will try to use some of my aquatic mosses, in a small experiment to see if it works as well as or better than my live sphagnum moss..



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It would be useful to create a list of moss species that have proved successful in orchid culture. Common names are just confusing. When researching Java Moss I came up with two names, Taxiphyllum barbieri and Vesicularia dubyana, the later being a possible misnomer. I bet there are other species that would work as well. Let's create a list. I'm going to experiment with a number of them myself.

Good observations, Any. I used to breed Discus and then went off on livebearers, which finally overwhelmed me. May be time to set up a tank for mosses to try on the Phrags.
As someone may have mentioned earlier, there are a few companies, selling Tissue cultured moss species, which are by far the way to go, unless you know someone that is actually growing "clean" plants. I have worked hard to start with properly named species, but so often in the aquarium world, what is named is not always a clean species, rather a mix of several... there are also many trade names or common names that people misidentify the actual moss.
Without a microscope and a load of knowledge, it is also very hard to properly identify species. I myself have been working on collecting books and keys to help identify the really hard ones. In fact, there are many many different species of sphagnum alone...
I think to keep it in the right context here though, is that some aquatic type mosses, do not grow as dense, as terrestrial strains, hence they may work better because one can still get air to the roots on an orchid., while still watering efficiantly.
I haven't tried any club mosses,,,, but i still maintain, if you can get live sphagnum that seems to work very well...
and has been proven by orchid people.... heck we have all used it dry just because of its properties...
What is called java moss in the aquarium trade is actually several species. The java moss grown in Singapore turned out to be Taxiphyllum barbieri -- according to a Singapore bryologist in 2003 or so when the moss craze was taking off. Vesicularia dubyana ad it turned out had just been introduced into the trade.

I can confirm that Masdevallia grew well in live java moss and that it is transitioning well to grow on lava rock around some of my paphs.

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