Appalachia Christmas Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

Gathering Moss for Christmas

moss in western nc

We never knew about Gallackin but we did gather moss and boxwood cuttings to sell to florists. Way back in the woods, in deep dark damp hollers where the sun never shines, the thick moss on big rocks can be peeled off like taking covers off a bed. I have seen pieces as big as 4 to 5 feet square. We would roll them up and put them in a tow sack. Boxwood is a domestic plant so we found it around homes and old house sites. One year in November we waded across the Little Tennessee above Loudermilk to get to an old homestead. I wasn’t being careful about where I was putting my feet and stepped into a hole that put me completely under. I got out, shook off and kept going. Coming back across we had to put our tow sacks on our heads to keep them dry but we made it unscathed.

Ed Ammons

Ed’s comment sent my mind on a whirlwind of memories. I’ve never gathered moss to sell like Ed, but I did gather it to furnish my playhouses with. I didn’t know the correct names for the different types (I still don’t), but I did know what worked best for my needs in the pretend world I created in Granny and Pap’s backyard.

The moss like in the photo above worked best for chairs. It has the texture of an ancient worn out carpet in an old house. At least that’s how I always thought of it.

Then there is the lush deep thick green stuff Ed was talking about. A blanket indeed. It grows in abundance at the edges of Pap and Granny’s yard. It only takes a small tug to lift entire pieces from the ground. Underneath you’ll see a wrinkled shriveled looking area and perhaps a few scurrying bugs as they head for the nearest moss blanket that hasn’t been disturbed by a small skinny girl. Or by a skinny young mother.

When The Deer Hunter and I first moved into our humble abode we had no landscaping-in all actuality we didn’t even know what landscaping was. Wanting to make my backyard look neater I gathered small creek rocks and made a flower bed bordering the edge of the house. Being impatient for green plants that I didn’t have, I climbed the ridge and threw down pieces of moss that grew under the towering pines. I laid the moss along the rocks and in no time my little flower bed looked as old as the hills-which is exactly what I wanted.

using moss to decorate

My kitchen table has been a Christmas crafting frenzy mess for the last few weeks. Once we start crafting we don’t even clean it up until we’re totally sure we’re finished with every little thing we want to make. An old sheet from one of Paul and Steve’s twin beds is thrown across it and there are so many crafting materials on the table that there’s hardly room to craft.

I’ve been trying to make a snow globe out of a mason jar, but I couldn’t get anything to look right. Ed gave me the exact inspiration I needed. I ran down the hill to Pap’s and carried a handful of thick moss back up the hill. I loved how it looked immediately. Just the green moss alone looked lovely captured in the upside down jar.

moss christmas decorations

Once I knew the idea was going to work I added a small amount of cotton for snow, an Angel that fell off an old Christmas ornament, and a piece of dried lichen I stuck in my coat pocket on a recent hike with friends.

Christmas snow globe from mason jar

I am so pleased with how the project turned out. It was made from items I had on hand; I can use the jar for it’s intended purpose again come canning season; and every time I see it sitting in my kitchen I’ll think of mine and Ed’s childhood memories and the magic of moss.


You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 14, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    I think Ken Roper is a bit of a rolling stone. That’s why he gathered no moss. ha!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 14, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    When I started reading this post, I glanced over to my old jar of moss on the kitchen window sill. It has been growing there for years. I love it and take care of it. If the sun gets too hot in the summer, I close the blinds a bit but for the most part the Kwanzan Cherry tree outside casts shade on the window so only an hour or two sun shines thru the window. It is growing in a bail pint jar. I am going to send you a picture of it as I can’t figure out how to get it on this post. My Little Red Riding Hood sits by the jar as do a couple of old milk bottles and gold finch figurines.
    When I want to smell the woodland, all I have to do is open the jar! Whiff a bit and the memories come back in a flash. I think it has basically now reached its pinnacle of growth. When I feel that it need a bit of moisture, as I am sure some leaks out the screwed on zinc lid over the months, I give it a very light meaning a few drops of moisture.
    I loved using moss for just about anything in the garden or on top of flower pots thru the years and of course crafts. I used to make lichen trees, shrubs glue on rocks and add miniature clay houses I made and mushroom men. I sold these for years.
    There are folks these days picking up our Appalachian woodland entertainment as children, and actually growing different mosses in their gardens.
    I loved this post Tipper, and love your crafts. Your jar of moss is similar to mine except mine is right side upards! ha
    Thanks Tipper,
    You may post my picture if you want to!

  • Reply
    December 14, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    I waiting on Donna Lynn to play “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” by Chitter and Chatter. She said “I played that the other day, but forgot where I found it.” I told her it was the first song on the Playlist on the Blind Pig and the Acorn sight. She’s playing it right now. Woopie! …Ken

  • Reply
    December 14, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    I enjoyed Ed’s story of crossing the Little Tennessee on an adventure to get moss for Christmas. I ain’t never gathered any moss, but the last time I was up the branch on our property, I noticed where someone had pulled large blankets of that cushiony moss to sell.
    One year I cut some Birch trees in sections 28 to 30 inches long and fixed centerpieces that go on a table for Christmas. I think I gave you one. The Dollar General Store had little lights (battery powered) that I set in counterbored holes I bored. Then I got pine tree small pieces with baby pine cones to go around it. My youngest daughter sent me a picture of hers all lit up and it’s pretty. …Ken

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    December 14, 2016 at 10:15 am

    Odd, I never thought of gathering moss for Christmas greenery, yet it is a very good fit. It is lovely. I have it over much of my ‘yard’ but the kind I have is very short and not very durable if walked on. It seems to be the only thing that will grow in the most shaded parts of the yard.
    You all are evidently a very talented family. I can’t seem to come up with good ideas and the few I have just won’t come together into a whole. Your moss idea would be a good beginning for a home made Christmas centerpiece. But, as usual, that is about as far as my inventiveness takes me. I think your canning jar ‘terrarium’ idea is genius, up to and including the re-use of the jar by and by.

  • Reply
    December 14, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Hello Tipper,
    Thank you for this, I just loved it and I love your jar. I often bring home moss and lichen from my walks around the old farm place. I’ll also pick up large pieces of bark that has fallen off the ancient trees to make little arrangements, or plop a nice lush looking mound of moss in a jar for an instant terrarium.
    On our walks my husband will look at me a little strangely and ask me what I am going to do with that, I usually say I don’t know, but it makes me happy. Looking at a jar full of lush green moss makes me especially happy in the dead of winter in Missouri and so does your little angel jar.
    You have inspired me to make one my self. Tell Corie I received the soap and face scrub I ordered, it is lovely and will make my niece, who has everything, a very special and perfect gift.
    God Bless and Wishing you and yours a Very Merry Christmas.

  • Reply
    December 14, 2016 at 9:59 am

    I had posted before, but will do a rerun. I knew a little lady that almost any time you visited she would tell you her husband was mossin’. As a matter of fact, she looked forward to going to nearby Beckley where there was a buyer for the moss. These retired folks enjoyed their trip and eating out for the day. I had not heard of gathering the moss until then, but it was a great way to keep him active. Mossin’ really gave these folks something to look forward to.
    Reminds me how my Mom would mention her little patch of yellow root with a longing after she had to move. We have so many blessings in these hills. Tipper, I enjoy the way you take the simple things around you and make unique items for the holidays.

  • Reply
    December 14, 2016 at 9:36 am

    Moss played a big part in decorating my palace when I was a little girl. I actually never pulled it up and moved it. I chose a flat rock that had moss growing on it and enclosed it with whatever fabric, pasteboard or vegetation that might be available. Oh how I remember my mansions around the creek banks with their lush, thick carpet that was as slick as a ribbon. I had never heard of expensive waterfront property back then, but mine was priceless and the memories still are.

  • Reply
    roger fingar
    December 14, 2016 at 8:46 am

    I would recommend a book, by native American author and botanist, Robin Kimmerer called “Gathering Moss”. It is a fascinating study in the life and reproductive cycle of mosses, but mixes in life stories and metaphor to break up a steady dose of science. She is a gifted and entertaining writer who will take you into the tiny world of mosses, in a way to make you see their them in a lasting new way. Her research on mosses was the inspiration for the central premise of “The Signature of all Things” Elizabeth Gilbert’s popular novel from a couple years ago.
    Merry Christmas to all Blind Pig readers!

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    December 14, 2016 at 8:33 am

    i think Ed was wading over to the “Old Tom Hampton Place” which was across the Little Tennessee River from “High Lonesome” just above my Great Grandpa Andy Dehart’s Place where my Dad was born in 1923. There used to be Boxwood around so many of the of the deserted homeplaces which reminds me of the many families who once lived, worked and raised many children before the power company bought them out under threat of building a Dam which never happened, then instead of giving the heirs a chance to purchase their old homeplaces they sold the land to Nature Conservancy who turned it over to the NC Wildlife Commission in Swain County where 83% of the land was already in Federal Ownership. Now all we see on so much of this land is Kudzu which has overgrown these places where so many mountain families had their roots. Ed’s letter takes me back to where I was raised and brings bac.k so many memories.

  • Leave a Reply