Posts Tagged ‘moss’

Photo: CNN
The CityTree is said to have the same environmental impact of up to 275 normal urban trees. Using moss cultures, it captures and filters toxic pollutants from the air.

Once again we face the question: is it best to focus our energies on removing pollutants, keep them from escaping in the first place, or piece together a variety of approaches?

Chris Giles writes at CNN about an intriguing air pollution initiative that addresses the first focus.

“Air pollution is one of the world’s invisible killers. It causes seven million premature deaths a year, making it the largest single environmental health risk, according to the World Health Organization. …

“One well-established way to reduce air pollutants is to plant trees, as their leaves catch and absorb harmful particulates. But planting new trees is not always a viable option. That’s why the ‘CityTree,’ a mobile installation which removes pollutants from the air, has been popping up in cities around the world, including Oslo, Paris, Brussels and Hong Kong. …

“The CityTree isn’t, in fact, a tree at all — it’s a moss culture.

” ‘Moss cultures have a much larger leaf surface area than any other plant. That means we can capture more pollutants,’ said Zhengliang Wu, co-founder of Green City Solutions.

“The huge surfaces of moss installed in each tree can remove dust, nitrogen dioxide and ozone gases from the air. The installation is autonomous and requires very little maintenance: solar panels provide electricity, while rainwater is collected into a reservoir and then pumped into the soil. …

“Its creators say that each CityTree is able to absorb around 250 grams of particulate matter a day and contributes to the capture of greenhouse gases by removing 240 metric tons of CO2 a year. …

“Gary Fuller, an expert on air pollution at King’s College London, thinks that the concept of an urban air purifier might be too ambitious. … Pollution from a car exhaust, for example, gets dispersed vertically a few kilometers into the air.

” ‘Efforts would be better put into stopping the pollution from forming in the first place, maybe cleaning up a city’s bus fleet,’ he added.

“The CityTree inventors say that they are aware of this and choose the location of each CityTree carefully.

” ‘We intentionally pick spots where pollution is heavy due to traffic and air flow is limited. We are also testing a ventilation system to create our own air flow that gets the pollution to the tree. …

” ‘We dream of creating a climate infrastructure so we can regulate what kind of air and also what kind of temperature we have in a city.’ ”

More here.

Hat Tip: Kate Colby on Facebook.

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Today I’m following up on my post about using moss in building design. KerryCan Googled around and found several recipes for getting moss to grow using buttermilk.

Then John sent me a cool article noting that photos of moss graffiti are becoming a bit of a meme on Instagram.

Tech Insider‘s Madison Malone Kircher writes, “People around the world are growing their own moss graffiti as innovative way to create living, breathing artwork. To do this, blend moss, yogurt, beer, and sugar into a liquid that will be used as ‘paint.’ From there, just apply the concoction to a wall in the design of your choosing and wait for the moss to grow in. For more detailed instructions, head here.

“If you’re looking for moss inspiration, Instagram is a great place to start. Just look up the hashtag #MossGraffiti for a look at some incredibly detailed, green artworks from around the world.” Kircher’s favorites are here.

WikiHow also has a recipe.

Photo: WikiHow

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John sent a link to an Atlantic article by Rose Eveleth on how mosses and lichens are being using in building design.

“For most architects,” she writes, “moss and lichen growing up the side of a structure is a bad sign. … But a new group is trying to change all that. Instead of developing surfaces resistant to moss and lichen, the BiotA lab wants to build facades that are ‘bioreceptive.’“BiotA lab, based in University College London’s Bartlett School of Architecture, was founded last year. The lab’s architects and engineers are working on making materials that can foster the growth of cryptograms, organisms like lichens and mosses. The idea is that ultimately they’ll be able to build buildings onto which a variety of these plants can grow. Right now, they’re particularly focused on designing a type of bioreceptive concrete.

“Marcos Cruz, one of the directors of the BiotA lab, says that he has long been interested in what he sees as a conflicted way of thinking about buildings and beauty: ‘We admire mosses growing on old buildings, we identify them with our romantic past, but we don’t like them on contemporary buildings because we see them as a pathology,’ he says. …

“Richard Beckett, another director of the BiotA lab, says that he’s interested in the project flipping the usual way that buildings are designed, at least in a small way. “Traditionally architecture is a top-down process, you decide what the building will look like, and then you build it. Here we’re designing for a specific species or group of species …

” ‘Every architect you speak to talks about the skin of the building,’ says Beckett. … Instead of skin, the lab wants people to think of the exterior of a building as bark. ‘Not just a protective thing, a host; it allows other things to grow on it, it integrates as well.’ ” More here.

I love the concept, but the story left me wondering what the designers’ main motivation might be. They say it’s not about green and sustainable buildings. It seems to be about aesthetics, being “attractive.” They do want the mosses to be self-sustaining and the look to be purposeful.

Photo: Dinodia/Corbis

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You know that Adam named the animals and T.S. Eliot the cats. Now Maria Popova at Brain Pickings delves into a Native American author’s book on the naming of mosses and other aspects of the natural environment.

“To name a thing is to acknowledge its existence as separate from everything else that has a name,” says Popova, “to confer upon it the dignity of autonomy while at the same time affirming its belonging with the rest of the nameable world; to transform its strangeness into familiarity, which is the root of empathy. …

“And yet names are words, and words have a way of obscuring or warping the true meanings of their objects. ‘Words belong to each other,’ Virginia Woolf observed in the only surviving recording of her voice, and so they are more accountable to other words than to the often unnameable essences of the things they signify.

“That duality of naming is what Robin Wall Kimmerer, a Thoreau of botany, explores with extraordinary elegance in Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses (public library) — her beautiful meditation on the art of attentiveness to life at all scales.

“As a scientist who studies the 22,000 known species of moss — so diverse yet so unfamiliar to the general public that most are known solely by their Latin names rather than the colloquial names we have for trees and flowers — Kimmerer sees the power of naming as an intimate mode of knowing. As the progeny of a long lineage of Native American storytellers, she sees the power of naming as a mode of sacramental communion with the world. …

“Drawing on her heritage — her family comes from the Bear Clan of the Potawatomi — Kimmerer adds:

In indigenous ways of knowing, all beings are recognized as non-human persons, and all have their own names. It is a sign of respect to call a being by its name, and a sign of disrespect to ignore it. Words and names are the ways we humans build relationships, not only with each other, but also with plants.


Intimate connection allows recognition in an all-too-often anonymous world… Intimacy gives us a different way of seeing.

More at Brain Pickings.

At the suggestion of Brain Pickings, I am deep into a biography of Beatrix Potter and her scientific work drawing and learning the names of mushrooms. Like mosses, they are multitudinous but generally lacking common names.

Photo: Robin Wall Kimmerer

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At Public Radio International’s “The World,” David Leveille has a story on research at Ellesmere Island in northern Canada.  There, University of Alberta biologist Catherine La Farge is finding that some frozen plants are able to begin growing again after 400 years on ice.

“Cold as it may be during the winter,” writes Leveille, “it’s a part of the world where glaciers are melting and ice sheets are breaking up due to climate change.

“One glacier there is called the Tear Drop glacier. As it has melted, some interesting plant life was exposed.”

La Farge’s results, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences “suggest that bryophytes, representing the earliest lineages of land plants, may be far more resilient than previously thought, and likely contribute to the establishment, colonization, and maintenance of polar ecosystems.” Who knows what else is under the glacier and about to be thawed out.


Photo: Catherine La Farge
In vitro culture of Aulacomnium turgidum regenerated from emergent Little Ice Age plants beneath the Tear Drop Glacier, Sverdrup Pass, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut.


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Suzanne has found us two “vacation rentals by owner ” in the last six months: one on the West Coast and one on the East. Other than being just right in their own ways, they had little in common. Except for one curious thing.

They both featured trees covered with some kind of moss or lichen. What should we make of this coincidence?

In my West Coast post, I did a little research and found a site suggesting that the mosses and lichens in California had a symbiotic relationship with trees. Another site said, “Tree decline is often not a simple cause and effect relationship but sometimes a complex web of interacting factors.” So I still have no idea if lichens are good, bad, or indifferent.

Today I offer some pictures from Little Compton, Rhode Island, where one of the seven of us celebrated a special birthday this weekend.

BTW, if you are looking for sweet seaside towns that time forgot, try the Rhode Island Farm Coast.

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