Bryophytes and Embryophytes are the botanical names given to mosses, lichen, liverworts, hornworts, molds, algae and slime.
These are primate plant-like forms which were the first land type plants on the planet, millions of years ago.
It was as a result of these primitive plant forms that began the process of building soils from rocks splitting and powdered by the action of water and ice.
Members of this diverse plant family are found all over the world, many growing in places where no other types of plants could grow, so in a sense they are still creating growing conditions for higher plant forms to grow.
Many bryophytes are very attractive with feather or fern like structures where others look more like something from a alien landscape.
When bryophytes grow in places we do not want them to grow they become a nuisance just like weeds.
Lichen and liverworts appear to be able to grow on most surfaces including glass, public footpaths, fences and roof tiles which are favorite spots for them.
Vertical glass is difficult for them but glass roofs of glasshouses are not.
Algae and mosses growing on paths make for a slippery condition when wet and dangerous to us and can occur serious injury if we slip and fall.
Lichens that colonise on the trunks and branches of plants and trees look unsightly and can lead to rots and losses.
Mosses growing in lawns are another problem, not only making the lawn unsightly but also suffocating our preferred grasses.
More often than not, wherever bryophytes appear, it means a war to eradicate and control.
When action is not taken they prolificate, spreading out to cause more harm.
Bryophytes cannot be controlled easily by scrapping off, as residues will be left that allow them to re-establish.
In lawns many gardeners use sulphate of iron to burn off mosses, which is only a very temporary fix as the acidity of the iron only burns off the top of the moss, allowing it to re-establish again fairly quickly.
There are various products advertised to clean up bryophytes such as ones that are sprayed on, then left for weathering to remove. Many of these are fairly expensive and bryophytes are like ants, you can never eradicate them as they will always come back .
Bryophytes multiply by spores of which they create vast numbers, carried by water and air they will always return.
Some years back a chemical called benzalkonium chloride, which was used in the medical industry for sterilizing instruments, was discovered to be a boon in the control of bryophytes without harming other plants.
Benzalkonium chloride is an interesting chemical been an aqueous solution and used as a detergent, fungicide, bactericide, and spermicide.
The first product to use benzalkonium for the control of mosses etc was branded, Surrender and the writer picked up on this many years ago and introduced its use to gardeners in Palmerston North though the garden centre I was operating at that time.
It became very popular but was then only available in the commercial pack of one litre.
The product is formulated at 500g / litre benzalkonium chloride in the form of a soluble concentrate and used at the rates of 25 to 50 mls per litres of water.
Many mosses and liverworts need the 50 mls per litre dosage to have effective control where some other bryophytes such as lichen and algae can be controlled successfully at 25 mls per litre.
A product is available from some garden centres or by mail order using the same formulation and called Wallys Moss and Liverwort Control.
Available in both 500 ml and one litre containers making it more affordable in comparison to the previous brands.
When using on moss and liverwort it is very important that you adjust the sprayer’s nozzle so it is a bit of a jet not a spray mist as the product has to be driven into the target plant.
In recent times I have had the thought that as the chemical is used as a fungicide in some commercial preparations then there is an off label use for in for gardeners in helping to control some fungal diseases.
One that comes to mind is the devastating rust that decimated many gardeners garlic crops over the last two seasons.
A spray over the foliage at the very first sign of rust at say 25mls per litre to start with and then upping to 50mils if the lessor rate does not appear to be doing the job adequately.
As we know that the product does not affect plants when sprayed over them while treating lichen and liverworts so I dont see that it would damage the leaves of garlic either. Besides the leaves are being severely damaged by the rust colonies.
In regards to Garlic Rust last season I used Wallys Cell Strengthening products with great success.
The soil drench was applied after the bulbs sprouted and again two weeks later.
When the foliage was showing I did a weekly spray of the Cell silicon Strengthening spray that had the Super Spreader added. I also added some MBL (Magic Botanical Liquid) and molasses to the spray for good measure.
No sign of any rust and a good crop of garlic.
In the meantime with the wet weather times arriving ensure your walkways are kept clear of slippery moss and algae.
I have mentioned several times in past articles about a world wide famine add to that hyper inflation and a energy crisis we have a perfect storm.
My advive is keep the vegetable gardens going and stock up on non perishable food items while you can as they are disappearing from the shelves and replacements are much more expensive.
Happy Gardening and if you email me there are a few bits of other things.