Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 11th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

Medicinal Plants Week Magnificent Moss
13 May 2013

Magnificent Moss

Using moss for wound dressings or babies’ nappies might sound a bit unhygienic. However, Sphagnum moss, which covers more of the Earth’s land surface than any other plant, is both superabsorbent and naturally antiseptic. These unique properties made Sphagnum the wound dressing of choice for over a 1000 years, and a shortage of bandages during the Great War (1914-1918) led to renewed interest in this remarkable plant. Sphagnum leaves (seen here using a light microscope) contain many dead, empty cells surrounded by a capillary-like network of living, green cells. The empty cells are dotted with tiny pores and can suck up and hold water, like a sponge. Sphagnum moss also lowers the pH of the surrounding environment, largely thanks to a cell-wall polysaccharide [carbohydrate] called sphagnan. This acidity inhibits the growth of microorganisms, reducing the chance of wound infection.

Written by Sarah McLusky

Search The Archive

Submit An Image

What is BPoD?

BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

Read More

BPoD is also available in Catalan at with translations by the University of Valencia.