How Does Moss Grow On Trees? And Why?

Moss is a type of plant that grows on trees and other surfaces and is a classic example of an epiphyte, which means moss doesn’t need to have roots in the ground to grow and expand.

Moss lives off water and nutrients from rainwater that collects on leaves or the bark of the tree. It can also grow when there are small amounts of moisture, such as condensation dripping down tree trunks covered with moss.

Your find that moss tends to grow on trees in forests and woodlands where there’s plenty of moisture. It’s a good indicator that there are high levels of water, humidity.

They typically prefer habitats with high humidity, but can also be found growing in dry areas if they have access to a water source such as rainfall or groundwater seepage.

There are three types of moss: Bryophytes – moss-like organisms, Hepaticae – liverworts like ferns called hepatics, Musci, the true type which includes many species including Sphagnum.

All these types of moss can typically be found on trees, patios, driveways, and roofs.

How Does Moss Grow On Trees?

Moss can be found growing on trees because they need a moist environment to survive and the tree’s bark can be very humid and at the same time moist making it the ideal place for moss to thrive.

Moss also uses some of its leaves for photosynthesis, which is how it gets food from sunlight.

Moss is able to grow on trees and other surfaces because it has spores that can attach themselves to the tree bark and can grow in any direction.

But the main reason moss grows on trees is that it has water and nutrients that are collected from the leaves and bark of a tree.

Why moss Likes To Grow On Trees:

  • Forests and woodlands have plenty of moisture
  • There are high levels of water, humidity
  • There’s plenty of water on the leaves and bark of the tree
  • Water that drips from overhanging branches will create an environment for mosses to thrive.

Will A Tree Die If Its Covered In Moss?

Moss is fairly common on tree trunks and can develop when the trunk becomes wet and moss spores are present where water seeping down from above feeding the moss.

Moss appears as light green sheets over clumps around trees which means they’re getting plenty of moisture. If it is growing on the tree trunk, then there may be moisture around.

However, It does not mean that a forest with moss-covered trees will die but in some cases, moss will continue to grow even if the tree roots are rotting out.

So to some people, this may look like the tree is dying because of the moss when in fact it’s not due to the moss at all

Why Does Moss Grow On Dead Trees?

Why does moss grow on dead trees well, for starters, dead trees are the best place to grow moss because their bark is already damp, and is easier for the moss to burrow in.

Ideally, the tree has already collapsed to ground level, but with dead trees, moss doesn’t have to worry about the tree sap which can make it difficult for moss to spread.

Your most likely find that the sappier the tree the less moss you will find growing.

Moss can’t grow well when there is a lot of sap on the truck this is because the sap would damage its tiny hairs (Rhizoids) on the moss which are like (anchoring structures) helping it climb and spread.

Where Does Moss Usually Grow On Trees?

Now some say the moss grows on the north side of trees while others say it grows on the south side of them.

Which is right? Well, it’s hard to definitively answer “this one for sure” but most think that moss tends to grow more often- at least in higher concentrations -on whichever way a tree gets its water and nutrients from.

For example, if the tree is collecting most of the water and nutrients from the north side then that’s where the moss will grow and the same goes with the south side. Moss will grow wherever the water and moister is.

Can Moss Damage Trees?

Moss is actually a good form of protection for trees. As it grows, the moss releases water vapor which helps to keep tree bark moist and resist insect damage as well.

Although moss can grow in huge masses on a tree, covering it with their spores it doesn’t harm the tree and there’s no clear evidence to show that moss can damage trees.

However, if there is a lot of moss in one place, for example, a weak tree branch then the moss it can get quite heavy especially if it’s wet or damp and as a result can cause the tree arm to break.

Should It be removed?

Moss does look unsightly on trees for many people, however, as before, moss can actually improve the health of the tree and avoid trees getting infected by insects.

However, to some people, moss can be a nuisance and they will want to remove it, typically because of how it looks.

Removing it shouldn’t be that hard to do but you should avoid damaging the bark of the tree and you should do this when the condition is dry this way the moss will be much easier to remove.


We hope you’ve enjoyed this post on why moss grows on trees including what side they grow on, We also looked at how it can damage trees but as before there’s no clear evidence to prove this.

However, if you want to remove the moss from a tree on your property then you should do this with care and when it’s dry preferably in the summer using a scraper and hot soapy water.

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