Streblotrichum convolutum / Barbula convoluta

Lesser Bird’s-claw Beard-moss

Tiny little mosses can be so difficult, but this one seems to stand out because of its bright yellow green colour and minute size. It used to be called Barbula convoluta but has recently been given an upgrade – Streblotrichum convolutum seems much grander.

When you get closer, you see that the little moss plants are all quite distinct and separate, and it has quite a clean, crisp look.

The leaves are held back from the stem and have a concave look. When the moss dries, the leaves become twisted.

Going as close as possible, I could see that the leaves run down on to the stem.

But despite its big name, Streblotrichum convolutum really is minute. Here’s some growing next to a (tiny) Bryum, with grains of sand for scale.

The book says it likes disturbed, open habitats such as paths, gardens, fields and walls. The pictures here are from my garden, a path at Dumbarnie links, and a bit of flat open ground at Dumbarnie. So it must be quite a tough wee thing, and not mind a bit of trampling.

Another close up, with Bryum and grains of sand for scale.

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Hypopterygium tamarisci

Something a bit different. A moss from the southern hemisphere. I saw a tweet about its presence on tree ferns in Glasgow Botanic Gardens (@AverisBen) and being along that way this weekend, had a look for myself.

It wasn’t hard to find! Most of the tree ferns were covered in it, and it’s also spread to surrounding rocks and earth.

I didn’t have time / space / handlens to look closely at it there, but was pleased to see that I captured some sporophytes in my photo.

I liked its pale green feathery delicacy.

I haven’t found out much about it apart from a few facts gleaned from Google.

Hypopterygium tamarisci is widely distributed in Africa, S and SE Asia, Australasia, Oceania, as well as South and Central America, where it extends into Mexico and the Caribbean. It is a species of mainly mountainous tropical and warm temperate areas. (1) It is a dendroid moss of wet forest with limited distribution. (2) And it can be densely gregarious or just isolated stems arising from rocks, tree ferns or tree trunks or less often logs or soil, up to 7 cm tall. (3)

I can’t even find whether it has a common name. Tree Fern Tamarisk Moss sounds like a good one to me.




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Dicranoweisia cirrata

Common Pincushion

Dicranoweisia cirrata pincushion

It’s so easy to see how this one gets its common name, in winter anyway when the capsules stick up like pins from a dense green cushion.

So far, I’ve usually found it on fence posts – probably because I now look out for it on fence posts! but Charles Howie found it in other situations, such as the trunk of an old pear tree, on top of an old wall, or on rocks above Craighall Den.  Hopefully I’ll become familiar with it in other habitats too – there are lots of records of it in Fife.

It seems to like the fence posts which are beginning to rot a little.  Or does the water-holding moss encourage the wood to rot?

The leaves are sturdy and fairly straight when damp, but they twist up tightly when dry.  This clump is just beginning to dry:

And these are the twisted dry leaves of summer:

Here’s the same clump looking fresh in January, then rather tired at the end of August (in contrast to the vegetation!)  It’s really shrunk back.

The winter capsules are wonderful, shiny brown with a papery calyptra.

Later, they develop red shades.

The moss also uses gemmae to propagate – multicellular gemmae, which are held in the axils of the leaves. Like a tiny beastie.

A nice moss, and definitely one to look out for this winter.

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Anomodon viticulosus

Rambling Tail-moss

Anomodon viticulosus general tree

This is a large, soft moss which I’ve only ever seen growing on one tree, a Field Maple.  The BBS Guide lists quite a number of typical habitats, but not tree trunks.  However, it’s well established on this old tree in Craighall Den, Ceres, along with Neckera complanata.

Anomodon viticulosus general

The trailing tails end in starry points, and when it’s damp, the leaves stand out from the stem so it has a bushy look.

Anomodon viticulosus closer

However, when it’s dry, it looks completely different.  The shoots shrivel up and look stringy.

Anomodon viticulosus dry2

The Guide say it’s “remarkable for its pronounced hydroscopic qualities” and certainly, this moss revives remarkably quickly when water is added.

Anomodon viticulosus revived 1 min

The leaves have a nerve which ends just below the blunt tip.

Often this seems to have a little wiggle near the top.

It’s a distinctive, handsome moss which I’d love to find elsewhere – I’ll keep looking.

Pictures taken November 2021 and April 2022, Craighall Den, Ceres.

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Pogonatum aloides

Aloe Haircap

This little moss was growing on a damp, shady bank, looking at first sight like a small version of Atrichum undulatum (which was also growing there).

The individual plants grow out of the green scummy looking stuff spread across the bare earth of the bank – this is the “persistent protonema” produced from the moss spores. No tight cushions for this moss as the young plants are well separated.

The first time I saw the moss, there were round structures in the centre of the plants. These are the male sexual structures.

Going back in January, I found some young capsules, with softly hairy calyptra.

Not a great picture of the capsules, but you can see why the moss is a haircap. The Atrichum undulatum on the right looks like its big brother, but Pogonatum aloides doesn’t have the wavy leaves, and has a stiffer appearance.

After waiting patiently until the end of February, I was rewarded with the mature capsules – white cylinders with a red rim and a flat “drum top”, in the bottom left of this picture.

The leaves are toothed and overall the moss does look slightly like an Aloe plant.

The earthy bank seems to be a typical habitat.

I was a bit concerned to see that many of the plants were almost overwhelmed with Kindbergia praelonga. Will they win through?

Pictures taken on the Ceres Moor path, Cupar, in March 2021, Jan and Feb 2022.

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Plenogemma phyllantha (Ulota phyllantha)

Frizzled Pincushion

This pale green cushion of curly moss was growing on a willow branch in damp woodland. The dark clumps of gemmae at the tips were very distinctive and it didn’t take long to discover that this is Ulota phyllantha, or, as it’s been renamed, Plenogemma phyllantha. I suppose the name makes sense, and I’ll try to get used to it.

When it’s dry, it becomes very curly and crisp. The dark gemmae are still visible.

Under the microscope, the gemmae clusters are just like little loo brushes.

The leaves without gemmae often have a brown tip where the nerve protrudes slightly.

But thankfully this is one moss which doesn’t need a microscope for identification.

Pictures taken at Kilconquhar loch, Feb 2022

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Dicranum majus

Greater Fork-moss

An elegant, soft, upright moss which stands out because of its relatively large size and the curved leaves all swept to one side.

The book warns of confusion with robust Dicranum scoparium, and certainly there have been a few times when I’ve been unsure whether I’m looking at majus or scoparium. However, the book confidently asserts: “…if you are in doubt, it is not D.majus.” Which makes me smile.

I’ve found Dicranum majus mainly on woodland banks, growing in decent sized clumps.

The setae are yellowish, and an odd thing is that there may be two or three (Mr Watson says up to six) coming from the tip of each plant, instead of the usual single seta.

The nerve goes into the long fine tip of the leaf. The leaf tip is toothed all round, with teeth on the nerve as well as the edges.

The other end of the leave has curved dark patches.

A handsome moss which I’m glad I’ve got to know.

Pictures taken at Rumbling Bridge (Kinross), Tentsmuir, and near Dunkeld.

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Ptilidium ciliare

Ciliated Fringewort

This little brown liverwort usually has a stumpy, furry look, thanks to the fringe round each leaf and the arrangement of the shoots.

However, the shoots can also be quite long and stringy.

It’s an amazing one up close.  This is a shoot under the microscope, showing the fringe (cilia) round each leaf. (A bit blurry.)

And even more dramatic when looking at a single leaf, or leaf fragment.

It’s quite widespread. I found it on top of Drumcarrow hill under a sheen of ice. (What was I doing looking at mosses on a day like that?)

Then recently I found it among the club mosses on the slope just behind Glen Shee ski centre.

According to the book, it likes well drained situations. It has a cousin, Ptilidium pulcherrimum, which prefers tree roots and branches.

Just a couple more pictures. First, hiding among the Dicranum scoparium (I think).

Detail of the shoots.

Pictures taken April 2018 and February 2020, Drumcarrow, Fife and August 2021 at Glen Shee.

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Hookeria lucens

Shining Hookeria

I was so pleased to find this moss in Kenley den, just where Charles Howie recorded it in the 19th century. It was half hidden in a dip in the banking, quite overgrown with ivy, but the pale colour caught my eye.

Up close, it’s quite amazing. The large cells are easy to see, and the whole leaf has a shiny, translucent appearance.

In the shade of the banking, the leaves seemed almost transparent, lying in soft, overlapping layers.

I found another little patch in a more open location, but very crowded with other mosses. It will be interesting to see if it can survive the competition.

It was difficult to photograph the Hookeria lucens in its dark hollow, but here’s another couple of photos.

Pictures taken Nov 2020 and March 2021, Kenley Den.

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Orthodontium lineare

Cape Thread-moss

This moss is all about the capsules. At this time of year (March), it stands out. But…I’m not sure I would recognise it without the distinctive drooping capsules (I’ll have to go back in summer and have a look).

It seems to like growing on vertical surfaces, often old logs. Always in woodland, as far as I know. The seta arcs outwards then the capsule hangs its head. (Although sometimes the little beak points up.)

The leaves are thin and grassy, with a hint of a curve.

It forms thick patches and clumps, but I also found smaller clumps and single plants spreading over the log surface.

The name Cape Thread-moss reflects the fact that this little moss comes from other parts. I’ve read that it first arrived in England in 1910, and has spread northwards ever since. Certainly, Charles Howie doesn’t mention it in his 1889 guide “The Moss Flora of Fife and Kinross”. But it’s now very much at home.

The real challenge will be to recognise it without those capsules…

Pictures taken March 2020 and March 2021, Hill of Tarvit grounds and Kemback woods.

Posted in Bryales, Tree stump, Tree trunk (fallen), Woods | Leave a comment