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About Moss

The shapes of mosses

Mosses come in many different shapes but can be sorted into two main types.

The kind of moss that grows upright and bears capsules on the tip of the moss stems or branches is termed "Acrocarpous". Many acrocarpous mosses grow in small cushions or clumps.

Mosses that bear their capsules on short side branches are termed "Pleurocarpous" These mosses often have a creeping, branched appearance.

The next sections give examples of these two broad divisions of habit.

George Square Gardens fence
Acrocarpous mosses

The moss shown here, Funaria hygrometrica, is a typical acrocarpous moss.

Each plant bears a capsule at the tip of its main stem.

The drawing shows the rhizoids, which draw nourishment from the soil, at the lower end of the stems. The radial arrangement of the  leaves give this moss a characteristic appearance which aids in identifying the plant when capsules are absent.

The three drawings,( upper left on the diagram) show capsules without an operculum (a lid), with a calyptra (a protective cover) and with a calyptra (immature capsule)
A typical acrocarpous moss.

This is single stem of a moss from the genus Orthotricum.

The upright stem bears leaves in a radial arrangement and the capsule, growing on a short seta can be seen growing on the end of the leafy stem.


Pleurocarpous mosses

The branching, creeping nature of a typical pleurocarpous moss is shown in the drawing.

The capsules can be seen to growing from the side branches of the moss.

This moss has the distinction of possessing leaves of different shape on its main stem and branches which provides a useful identification aid.
A typical Pleurocarpous moss

The creeping, branching habit of this pleurocarpous moss can be clearly seen  in the image.

This particular specimen was found growing on a brick wall in St Leonards.

There only capsules present on this moss, at the time of taking its photograph, were old ones from the previous year.

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This project was funded by the RIAS Millennium Awards Scheme