India’s first moss garden developed near Nainital

India’s first moss garden has been developed at Khurpatal in Nainital district, officials said on Saturday. Approved in July last year under the CAMPA scheme by the Research Advisory Committee of Uttarakhand Forest Department, the moss garden, the first in the country, was inaugurated on Friday by renowned water conservation activist Rajendra Singh, Chief Conservator of Forest Sanjiv Chaturvedi said.

The main aim behind developing the garden was to conserve the various species of moss and other bryophytes and to make people aware of its significance in the environment besides creating a recreation centre for tourists, Chaturvedi who heads the research wing of the state forest department, said.

Moss Garden, Khurpatal houses around 30 different species of moss and certain other bryophyte species. Two of the moss species found here i.e. Hyophila involuta (Cement Moss) and Brachythecium Buchanani figure in International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) red list, Chaturvedi said. It has a moss trail of 1.2 km on which different moss species and scientific information about them is displayed, he said.

It has an interpretation centre in which different aspects of moss are displayed through models including a First World War painting showing use of Sphagnum moss as a dressing for wounds as it absorbs liquids about three times more quickly than cotton, is cooler, softer, and less irritating than cotton, besides having antiseptic properties. It also produces sterile environment by keeping the pH level around wounds low and thus inhibiting the growth of bacteria, the CCF said. The garden also boasts of a dinosaur model showing existence of moss since the Jurassic era, ornaments made of live moss which are very popular in Japan, moss terrarium depicting live moss ecosystem and nest of birds using moss for temperature regulation and antibacterial purposes.

Poems and caricatures related to moss are also displayed at the garden.

Moss are one of the most ancient flora on the planet, existing since Jurassic era. They are the first plants to grow on rocky land and by breaking down the rocks and the soil. They help create a suitable environment for other plants to grow.

Surfaces such as bare rock and thick volcanic ash are initially barren, nutrient-poor and often exposed to the sun and wind. Such surfaces are inimical to the growth of seeds of vascular plants but are readily colonized by moss species, Chaturvedi said.

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