Lichen and moss create attractive displays on tree branches.John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Lichen and moss commonly grow on tree branches, creating a green, brown or silvery coating on their bark. While a lichen- or moss-coated tree branch can be an aesthetically appealing decoration, it will deteriorate over time if you do not use a preservation method. Glycerin preserves lichen and moss, leaving them pliable rather than stiff or crunchy. To preserve lichen and moss on a tree branch, about five minutes of hands-on work is required. The supplies required to preserve lichen and moss on a tree branch are available from most craft or hobby stores.
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Collecting the Branch
Clip the branch from the tree with a pair of pruning shears, if you cannot find a suitable one on the ground. Make the cut no closer than 1/2 inch to the tree's trunk to avoid seriously damaging its structure. Pruning shears will create a clean wound on the tree, allowing it to heal quickly. In addition, the clean cut on the end of the branch makes it easier to work with. If possible, select a tree branch with soft lichen or moss, for the best preservation results.
Preparing for Preservation
Brush any dirt off the lichen, moss and branch gently with your fingers. Avoid shaking the branch, as this might dislodge moss growth. If you cannot get particles of dirt off the lichen, moss and branch, use a toothbrush to dislodge them gently. Blend a two-to-one mixture of glycerin and water in a bowl or shallow tray and place it in a well-ventilated area. The container needs to be big enough to hold the branch. Mix enough liquid to completely submerge the branch.
Preserving the Branch
Place the branch into the glycerin mixture and leave it submerged for 45 minutes. This allows the glycerin mixture time to penetrate the lichen, moss and branch, to ensure preservation. If you are working with a branch larger than 1 foot, increase the soaking time to about one hour, 30 minutes. Prepare folded paper towels or newspaper near the soaking location. Remove the branch with tongs and place it on the prepared surface. Allow it to dry for 12 to 24 hours. Place the glycerin mixture in an airtight container; you can reuse it for preserving lichen, moss and branches.
Handling the Preserved Branch
Handle the preserved branch carefully and infrequently to prevent damaging it. Keep the branch out of direct sunlight to prevent discoloration and brittleness. Ideally, you should set the branch in its display location, or in a box for storage, as soon as it has dried. Once you have placed it, move it only when necessary. Remove dust buildup with a soft brush. Wetting the brush with warm water helps pick up dust faster, but do not soak the preserved branch.