What is moss? - The first kind of plant to leave the water
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

What is Moss?


During the Cambrian period, about 540 million years ago, some early plants evolved from earlier algae that could live on land, outside of the water. These plants were like modern moss. All of the animals were still living in the water, so on land there was only moss and mushrooms.

Moss close up
Moss close up

Because moss was just beginning to get used to being out of the water, it still needed a lot of water nearby, and it could only grow in very wet places, like right next to streams, or where it rained a lot. There wasn't much dirt yet on the land, because there were no plants to decay and turn into soil, or to break up the rocks with their roots, or to hold back the crumbled rock from falling into the ocean. So moss has very shallow roots, just enough to hold on to the bare rock it lives on. Moss gets most of its food from the water washing over it, instead of through its roots.

Like other plants, moss plants make their own food by photosynthesis. All of the cells in a moss plant can photosynthesize, thanks to their chloroplasts, so moss plants don't need a circulatory or vascular system.

To grow bigger, moss plants make new cells through mitosis. But when they want to reproduce, moss plants use meiosis to produce spores, which blow away in the wind. For more than a hundred million years, moss and mushrooms had the land to themselves, but then, about 400 million years ago, these early mosses evolved into the earliest ferns.

Learn by doing - Moss Gardens
Next kind of plant - ferns

Bibliography and further reading:


LIMITED TIME OFFER FOR TEACHERS: Using this article with your class? Show us your class page where you're using this article, and we'll send you a free subscription so all your students can use Quatr.us Study Guides with no distractions! (Not a teacher? Paid subscriptions are also available for just $16/year!)
Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Did you find what you needed? Ask your teacher to link to this page so other people can use it too! Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article

Does your class page honor diversity, celebrate feminism, and support people of color, LBGTQ people, and people with disabilities? Let us know, and we'll send you a Diversity Banner you can proudly display!
Looking for more?
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 29 April, 2017