A couple of weeks ago, when I was speaking at the Philadelphia Flower show, I picked up some Aegagropila linnaei – also known as Torasampe or Morimo, from City Planter’s show booth.  Morimo are an algae that naturally forms into round ball shapes and though they are not related to moss at all, it is easy to understand why they are commonly called ‘Japanese Moss Balls’.  Native to fresh water lakes in Japan, Iceland and the Baltics, they are a threatened species and, specifically in Japan, are celebrated for their charm and uniqueness.  Admittedly, their novelty is what loosened my purse strings – plus I wanted to see if I could make something interesting with them — this is the result (I’m not sure I succeeded).

These guys live in water, so I gathered together a reasonably interesting container, my collection of sea glass, and some metal sculptures that I had about.  My plan was to create an interesting underwater vignette.

Learning about and Experiments with Torasampe - Aegagropila linnaei - also called Marimo  Japanese moss balls by rochellegreayer www.pithandvigor.com

Easy assembly here – sea glass in the bottom (or whatever decorative gravel or sand you want to use), next go the morimo (try not to dump water directly on them – it can damage their shape), and then the water.

Learning about and Experiments with Torasampe - Aegagropila linnaei - also called Marimo  Japanese moss balls by rochellegreayer www.pithandvigor.com

I fooled around with all sorts of ideas with the little metal lamas — but I don’t know what I was thinking — little llamas don’t belong in water filled glass jars with relatively giant green moss balls (duh).  The only thing that sort of made sense was that perhaps the llama uses the ball to escape the container….but that seemed sort of messed up too….

Learning about and Experiments with Torasampe - Aegagropila linnaei - also called Marimo  Japanese moss balls by rochellegreayer www.pithandvigor.com

So this is it.  Kinda interesting – I guess.  These are sitting on my desk – I’ll give them some time to see if I fall in love with them.

Learning about and Experiments with Torasampe - Aegagropila linnaei - also called Marimo  Japanese moss balls by rochellegreayer www.pithandvigor.com

Learning about and Experiments with Torasampe - Aegagropila linnaei - also called Marimo  Japanese moss balls by rochellegreayer www.pithandvigor.comBut here is what is interesting (links to Marimo stuff): 

  • Here is the Marimo Wikipedia page which is always a good start for a bit of the basics.
  • This is an in depth look at the reason why they are round and how they move around and photosynthesize -it is good for the science geeks among us. (Here are the crib notes for everyone else: they roll with water currents and rise and fall with air bubbles making sure that all sides see the light)
  • I’m saving the best for last – This is Marimokkori – a beloved mascot of the Hokkaido region of Japan (where the ‘moss balls’ famously grow in Lake Akan).  Is he a moss ball with an erection? Or is he a moss ball with a giant belly button?  I guess the idea is to pretend it is the later when everyone knows is it the former. Apparently his name is a pun that combines the word marimo with the word mokkori. Mokkori (モッコリ) is a Japanese onomatopoeia for something rising under cloth.  Yes, it has risen.

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Marimokkori is used to talk about environmental causes (of course right? given his origin story as a moss ball that is threatened by climate destruction).  But what I don’t get is why the girl versions also have prominent bulges. I assume something is being lost in translation.  Personally, I think that Marimokkori might turn out to be more exciting than my marimo…but I’ll give it some time.

images: rochelle greayer, quora, and disqus

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