Oakmoss is not a moss?
or Evernia prunastri, is actually the lichen that grows on the body of an oak tree. Contrary to its name, it is not a moss at all. Oakmoss is in fact a lichen that grows in bushes or clumps on an oak’s trunk. It grows branched, resembling the form of deer antlers or dense tree roots. When found in the forests of Northern Europe, oakmoss is a whitened pastel green and is rough to the touch, but it transforms to a rubbery dark olive green or yellow green when wet.
Lichens make up an important part of every ecosystem and are estimated to make up 6–8% of Earth's land surface. There are about 20,000 known species! They are considered very complex life forms as they are composed by a symbiotic partnership of two separate organisms; a fungus and an alga. Not a moss in sight! The dominant partner is the fungus which makes up their outer skin in a dense compacted thread structure. The ‘fungal skin’ gives the lichen the majority of its characteristics, from its thallus shape, its fruiting bodies to it’s magical fragrance when distilled. Lichens are completely different to mosses in the way that they do not have any roots, stems or leaves and their chloroplasts are contained only in their algae partner. They have perfected the art of water retention and have their own protection against UV radiation. Clever and hardy but also shy and sensitive creatures, they avoid populated areas and big city pollution. Thus, they have come to be indicative of a healthy, thriving natural environment, but also of good air quality in the EU (fun fact!)
In the fragrance world, oakmoss is the essential oil extracted from this lichen after it is collected in winter and spring. The oil is generally reserved for perfumery but its power and potential is being discovered in soaps, hair products and of course in candles and diffusers too! We are able to use oakmoss at less concentrated distillations to achieve the coveted aroma that oakmoss has been famous for in perfumery for decades.
Oakmoss has a distinct and complex aroma. It has been described as woody, sharp and slightly sweet, imparting the atmosphere of a wet forest floor. It adds an organically rich, earthy, damp and creamy undercurrent to our scents. What's more, the oakmoss lichen can also grow on pines, which adds a pronounced turpentine twing to the fragrance.
Aside from its aromatic advantages, oakmoss works fantastically as a ‘fixative’. This helps give the scent a longer life as it fixes itself to our agents- for example, the organic soy wax in our candles. This unique trait also allows oakmoss to anchor the more volatile notes in the mix and ground our scents for wholesome, balanced fragrant experiences. Like a morning walk in the forest!