Field of Science

Mosses on the Walls

Many species of mosses grow on vertical surfaces. Rock walls, brick walls, trees. Unfortunately mosses on vertical surfaces are pretty scarce here in the central valley of California. Despite the scarcity, I now have some new mosses hanging on my wall at home.

From the Yale Peabody Museum
This is not a wall hanging but is a moss covered dishtowel! I decided to hang it in the kitchen instead of using it as a towel. Now that I see it up on the wall I think it could use a bit of ironing. 

The images on the towel are probably from an old German text illustrating the different parts of the mosses.

Above are sporophytes attached to some leafy gametophytes. But what is the moss species? The light pink and green circle in the middle left is the top of the capsule and looks like a moss in the Polytrichaceae. Nematodontous teeth with an epiphragm. Basically those are teeth around the opening of the capsule attached to a disc that combine to form a salt-shaker dispersal mechanism. However, the gametophyte leaves don't look like Polytrichaceae. The leaves are typically covered in lamellae and are significantly longer than wide. Anyone else have a guess about this species? There wasn't a reference for the images on the towel. It would have been super nerdy and helpful if they had included a citation. 

Some beautiful peristome teeth.
A Dicranum-type on the left and a Bryum-type on the right.
Thanks Rachel for this awesome present! A great combination of my love of mosses and my midwestern abundance of dishtowels!


  1. if the leaf bases meet, then Schistostega. But, if not, then my second guess is Fissidens.

  2. I agree that it looks like Schistostega. The leaf bases do meet and the wiry stems look just like the diagram in the BFNA. The disc that I interpreted as an epiphragm and nematodontous teeth is definitely a top-down view on the capsule. Maybe it is actually the operculum covering the capsule opening? And what I interpreted as teeth is the annulus? One problem is that the BFNA description of Schistostega says that it doesn't have an annulus. Maybe the artist/scientist was a little off in their painting/interpretation of the morphology.

    Have either of you ever seen Schistostega in the field? I am thinking of attending the Schofield Foray in the fall and the distribution map says it occurs in British Columbia. I will most certainly keep my eyes peeled for it.

    Thanks to you both for joining in the discussion!


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