22 October 2015

Sphagnum Moss

There are approx 120 species of Sphagnum Moss; green, red and white. Green seems to be the most effective for our bushcraft and survival uses.

The photo shows a sphagnum moss called Fringed Bog Moss or Sphagnum Fimbriatum, which is generally pretty obvious.

Two good websites with more moss details are here and here.

Sphagnum Moss can hold up to 26 times its own body weight in water/blood. It contains iodine (or rather iodine type qualities), is naturally antiseptic and is mildly antibiotic.

Wound Dressing:

Dried (best done naturally outdoors) it makes a fantastic sponge and absorbent wound dressing. To fully make use of the antiseptic and antibiotic qualities the initial dressing of moss needs to be dried and ground, as the main medical goodness is stored within the plant. This can be then wrapped with an intact pad of moss and bound with some cordage, such as washed spruce root, which wont 'bite' into the wound area so much.

Moss is more absorbent than cotton wool and prepared moss can potentially hold double the fluid/last double the time of a conventional wound dressing.

Injured deer are known to drag their wounded limbs to beds of sphagnum moss to aid recovery.

Water Filter:
While it wont safely purify water, it makes a great water filter. Pour water through it to remove sediment, prior to boiling. Add some charcoal to the moss filter to aid even more.

Water Source:
If the moss is full of rain-water or dew-water this is clean water and good to drink directly.

Rain-water and dew-water are always good to drink without purifying, mindful of what you collect this water with though.

As well as naturally collecting moss full of rain-water or dew-water, it is also possible to depot bundles of dried moss around your camp in advance of rain or dew, ready for soakage.

Although not fully practical, in the absence of a water bottle, sphagnum moss can be soaked full of drinking water and then carried carefully on your journey, to drink as needed.

Food Cooking:
Most mosses, including sphagnum, are good for doing a moss bake on an open fire. I will leave that for a separate blog though.

Food Storage:
Clean sphagnum moss can be used to wrap food in and placed in a shady tree fork, above the ground. Length of food preservation will depend on food and environment.

Nathan Kingerlee - Outdoors Ireland

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