Photo of snowy Sussex woodland trail Photo of snowy Sussex woodland trail

The Meaning of Missing Moss

Moss is important in natural navigation, but not the quick easy method that many seem to think. I’ve written about the challenge of using moss to find direction on another page.

Here, I’d like to take a look at a different clue in moss – what it reveals when it is absent.

If we see a long line of moss and then it breaks suddenly, there is always a good reason for that.

Take a look at the picture at the top. There is a long line of moss down the middle of the road. This is a clear sign that there is little footfall or vehicle wheels rarely touch middle of the road. This is quite common on narrow country lanes that are hemmed in on both sides – cars and people have to follow the same set path.

But if we look at the photo below, something different is going on.

There is a clear break – two breaks actually – in the moss line. This is a sign that the vehicles have deviated from the straight line they normally follow. If you look to the right of the breaks, you can see where cars have pulled over. It is an unofficial passing place. (It actually looks like the start of a smile path.)

Missing moss is a sign of wear. Moss does not tolerate any serious wear from vehicles or footfall.

On the log below we can see where the light scuffing from feet leaves a gap in the moss too. This is a bold example, but if you tune to this effect you can spot where animals like deer pass too.

You might also enjoy:

The Truth About Moss

How to Navigate with Lichens