Starring…Lichen & Moss
Did you know that fragrances are made from lichen or that moss is also great in the garden? These, and other fascinating facts can be learned at the new exhibit at the Estonian Museum of Natural History.
The exhibit “The Bold and the Beautiful”, is an accurate description of lichen and moss. The main objective for the exhibit’s curators, Marja-Liisa Kämärä and Loore Ehrlich was to present the unique place that lichen and moss hold in the ecosystem and introduce their survival skills in extreme conditions.
Lichen and moss are not the same. Lichen is a fungi, moss is a plant and this is why the exhibit is split into two rooms. In the lichen room, you can touch different types of this fascinating fungi or look at them under the microscope.
“The lichen roulette is a favourite attraction among children”, explains Kämärä. Spin the roulette wheel and different lichen appear under the microscope.
According to Kämärä, lichen has been used for thousands of years. Few people know that the stomachs of mummies were filled with lichen in Egypt so that they would not collapse. Lichen that was sent into space came back alive.
“At first lichen that is common to Estonia was used in Chanel No5 perfume”, says Kämärä.
Lichen is used as food as well, in such things as teas, powders, and flours that are made into bread.
The moss room smells like the forest; the entire room is filled with different types of moss.
“Moss is quirky, it is a very unique plant”, explains Loore Erlich, an expert on moss. “Moss doesn’t have roots, it takes the water it needs from the air or dew. It can dry completely and when it gets water, it wakes up again”.
While moss doesn’t need soil, it produces soil and acts as a growing medium for many other plants.
Learn about the different animals, like squirrels and birds that use moss. Many animals like the soft moss to make their nests.
People also use moss for things like pillows, handicrafts, and insulation in log houses. A newer trend is the use of moss in sanitary napkins and diapers, because moss is known for its absorbency.
The different types of Japanese moss that have come to Estonia have become quite popular for gardens. “Moss is a great alternative to grass, as it requires little maintenance and stays green all year round”.
Be sure to visit the rest of the Museum of Natural History on the second and third floors. There, you will learn about Estonian forests, rivers, and seashores. Exhibit texts are in English, Estonian, and Russian.
Click on the address to see the location.
TEXT MIKKO VIRTA, PHOTOS ANDREI CHERTKOV