Landscape and Urban Forestry: Dealing with Moss and Lichen

By City Landscape Staff03-lichen

Moss and Lichen are similar in some ways but are completely different species. Moss is considered a plant while lichen is a symbiotic relationship between fungus and algae. Both moss and lichen are beneficial to the environment as they produce important nitrogen and are also a great food source for animals, and used to make nests. Both moss and lichen are found all over the world with 14,500 different species of moss and four different types/forms of lichen. Some lichen even have the name moss (such as the reindeer moss) which is not a moss at all.

Moss and lichen reproduce by spores or by parts of the plant breaking off, which makes them hard to control sometimes. Even though they can be beneficial to your yard, both can be unsightly in lawns, on rocks or in your tree in landscapes. Depending on what your personal preference is, some like the natural look of moss or lichen growing in their yards. If you are looking to control either of these it is important to weigh in the benefits of using chemicals or manually removing them. If you are ok with scraping them off by hand, or dethatching your lawn that would be ideal. If not, chemicals such as iron, zinc sulfate, zinc chloride, and zinc and copper sulfate can be used (be mindful of approved chemicals for concrete as they will stain them)

Brought to you by the City of Beaverton’s Landscape and Urban Forestry Department. For more information, visit: