Field of Science

Another Moss Misnomer

I am always on the lookout for plants called mosses that are actually not. I visited the Missouri Botanical Garden with some friends while in St. Louis a few weeks back for the Botany 2011 conference.  There I spotted this plant labeled Moss Fern. It is Selaginella pallescens, which is a lycopod or more traditionally called a fern ally. It is distantly related to moss as they are both green plants, but is definitely not a true moss. It has both vasculature (internal plumbing of xylem and phloem) as well as true roots to anchor it into the soil and function in water uptake.

There is a lot of plant life going on in this photo. The Selaginella is located behind the sign-post and also directly to the left. A few other species made it into the shot including a palm in the upper left and some mosses in the lower left.

There were quite a few other spots around the garden where mosses were growing, however, none of them were labeled. It is a bit of a bummer that the mosses are so blatantly ignored at a botanical garden. Here are a few shots from mosses inside the Climatron.


In general the garden didn't seem to add any fake animals to add to the tropical ambiance, thus this frog below looked a little out of place.

Some additional photos of the garden plants and me constantly looking for mosses can be seen over at my friend Em's blog


  1. Feel free to pilfer those photos from my blog if you'd like. Perhaps you should write MoBot and let them know the mosses are feeling ignored without a little sign to let visitors know their identity. Oh! You could write it as if you WERE the moss!

  2. I like the idea of a Moss-fern, and nice pics by the way. I think the "frog" earned his place among the plants.


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