Burned Out Bonfire-moss

Bonfire-moss Funaria hygrometrica

This is Bonfire-moss (Funaria hygrometrica) which has now come to its end leaving this deep red colour.

Rear garden, Staffordshire, England. June 2017.

Tropical Palm Trees In A Plant Pot II

Common Liverwort Marchantia polymorpha subsp ruderalis

Following on from a previous blog, these female reproductive structures of the Common Liverwort (Marchantia polymorpha subsp ruderalis) are now showing the white cotton candy-like sporophytes beneath the umbrella-like archegonial heads. These are the spore capsules which when released may germinate into new plants.

Common Liverwort Marchantia polymorpha subsp ruderalis

Common Liverwort Marchantia polymorpha subsp ruderalis

And all this going on in a small plant pot with only moss (those orange structures forming part of the background) and this liverwort.

Common Liverwort Marchantia polymorpha subsp ruderalis

Please click on the images for a larger more detailed view.

Rear garden, Staffordshire, England. May 2017.

Alien Forest In A Plant Pot

Bonfire-moss (Funaria hygrometrica)

Bonfire-moss Funaria hygrometrica

I have a small plant pot by my water butt which has some liverwort growing in it last time I looked. This time I looked it had something else growing in it, this rather untidy looking yet delightful moss. Note the long, swan-neck seta.

Bonfire-moss Funaria hygrometrica

Bonfire-moss Funaria hygrometrica

Bonfire-moss Funaria hygrometrica


Various Mosses

Back from the weekly shop and there has been a break in the clouds. Barely packed away and I have my camera in hand. I love seeing how the rain enlivens and refreshes everything, it is just my thing 🙂 An odd title for this post I know, but this patch of green just off my front driveway measures around 4×2 inches (100x50mm). I am like a little kid again seeing things for the first time, wide-eyed and full of amazement at how wonderful and beautiful nature is, and I hope I never lose this feeling of wonderment and magic.

At worm’s eye view I can see at least four different species of moss, and maybe two species of lichen (please click the image for higher quality). All this within about 8 square inches, and growing on concrete. We pass by so much each day of our lives without always seeing what is write under our noses, and I am as guilty as many for this. It is so nice just to be able to stop the wheel of modern living even just for a few revolutions, or even just to slow it down a little, and focus our senses and minds on something that has been there all along, and to enjoy it!

Grey-cushioned Grimmia II

Grey-cushioned Grimmia Grimmia pulvinata

This is a cushion moss which grows on a patch of concrete near my driveway. It is called Grey-cushioned Grimmia (Grimmia pulvinata). Note the grey-white hairy tips which gives this moss its name. Image taken February 2017, front drive, Staffordshire. Please click image for better resolution.

For further interest please see the previous post ‘Grey-cushioned Grimmia’.

Macro Forest

Wall Screw-moss (Tortula muralis)

In my back garden I have an old sundial which I bought over twenty years ago when I first moved in to my house. Most folk might scrape or scrub off the lichen and moss which grows on it, but I love the effect it gives. It gives it more of a rustic charm, and it kind of has its own micro ecosystem going on atop of it. This is Wall Screw-moss (Tortula muralis) in extreme close up at the limit of my macro lens, and it is often found growing on old walls, concrete and roof tiles, including base-rich rocks. It kind of reminds me of a miniature forest, with trees, shrubs and grasses. Please click images for higher quality resolution.

Wall Screw-moss (Tortula muralis)

Wall Screw-moss (Tortula muralis)

Wall Screw-moss (Tortula muralis)

January 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2017. Camera used Nikon D7200 with Sigma 105mm macro lens.


The Wet, The Dry And The New

Intermediate Screw-moss (Syntrichia intermedia)

These are all images of the same species of moss growing on my garage roof. In its hydrated form it is fresh and vibrant with its leaves open as in the above image.

Intermediate Screw-moss (Syntrichia intermedia)

In these images it is dry to getting hydrated. It is quite amazing to watch how moss instantly gathers water when but a few drops are sprinkled on a dry mat of it. Within seconds it plumps up and begins to green or yellow up.

Intermediate Screw-moss (Syntrichia intermedia)

I believe the image below shows newly formed growth.

Intermediate Screw-moss (Syntrichia intermedia)

Photograph of Intermediate Screw-moss (Syntrichia intermedia) taken October 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens. Manual setting ISO 800. 1/125 sec. f/6.3. No flash, hand-held.


Moss On The Roof

Intermediate Screw-moss (Syntrichia intermedia)

Intermediate Screw-moss (Syntrichia intermedia)

My garage roof has steadily succumbed to a covering of this wonderful moss over the years, which makes it look a lot more interesting than just covered in tiny white shards of gravel.  I decide to get the ladders out and have a close look-see, and amidst the open shoots which the recent rain has brought forth, are newer leaves ready to open up.

Photograph of Intermediate Screw-moss (Syntrichia intermedia) taken October 2016, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2016. Camera used Nikon D7200, with Sigma 105mm macro lens. Manual setting ISO 800. 1/125 sec. f/6.3. No flash, hand-held.

Redshank Moss

Ceratodon purpureus

Redshank Moss Ceratodon purpureus

A variable species of moss which form cushions or patches which vary in colouration from yellow to mid-green through red to purplish brown. The reddish-brown capsules are fairly common.

It occurs on a wide range of acidic and well-drained substrates. It is frequent in heathland and acidic grassland, on walls and roofs, and may even be found growing on rocks, fence posts, old bones and old boots. Common and widespread.

Photograph of Redshank Moss (Ceratodon purpureus) taken February 2014, nature reserve, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Great Hairy Screw-moss

Syntrichia ruralis subsp. ruralis

Great Hairy Screw-moss (Syntrichia ruralis subsp. ruralis)

This is a bright, golden green moss which forms loose cushions or extensive tufts which are 1-2cm high. The leaves are 4-6mm long, blunt-tipped with a long excurrent silvery hair-like point. When moist the leaves strongly curve away from the stem giving the shoot a star-like appearance. Capsules are rare.

Found on calcareous substrates on walls, rocks and sandy ground, and on old thatch. Common and widespread.

Photograph of Great Hairy Screw-moss (Syntrichia ruralis subsp. ruralis) taken February 2014, nature reserve, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Intermediate Screw-moss

Syntrichia intermedia

Intermediate Screw-moss (Syntrichia intermedia)

I have had this moss growing on my garage roof for years, and it has virtually covered all of it. It shrivels up to a brown crisp in very dry weather, and yet as soon as a drop of rain falls it immediately expands like a sponge and greens up.

Intermediate Screw-moss (Syntrichia intermedia)

A dull green to golden green moss which grows in tufts or loose cushions. The stems grow to a height of 1 to 4cm. The leaves are about 4mm long and are slightly narrowed at the halfway point, the lower margin having recurved margins. The tip is rounded and flat. The leaves spread out widely from the stem when wet, and when dry they are spirally twisted or incurved. Dry leaves may also appear pointed, making them seem tapered at the tip instead of rounded. The reddish-brown nerve projects from the leaf tip into a long, silvery white hair point which has small, coarse teeth. The capsules are cylindrical and erect, ripening to a reddish-brown colour. They appear in spring and summer, and are frequent.

Found on calcareous substrates such as roofs, calcareous rocks and walls. Also found on sunny, exposed stony ground. Common and widespread in most of lowland Britain, scarcer elsewhere.

Photographs of  Intermediate Screw-moss (Syntrichia intermedia) taken February 2014, on garage roof, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon D3200, with 18-15mm lens.

Lesser Bird’s-claw Beard-moss

Barbula convoluta

Lesser Bird’s-claw Beard-moss (Barbula convoluta)

This is a bright, yellow-green moss which forms cushions or tufts on substrates. The shoots are around 0.5-2cm high and have spreading leaves. The leaves are up to 1.5mm long and have a shortly tapered tip. Capsules are rare, but when they do occur they are usually in abundance. The leaves around the base of the seta (spore-bearing stem), enfold it, hence the scientific name ‘convoluta‘.

Lesser Bird’s-claw Beard-moss (Barbula convoluta)

Found on paths, in gardens, fields and on walls. Common and widespread.

Lesser Bird’s-claw Beard-moss (Barbula convoluta)

Photographs of Lesser Bird’s-claw Beard-moss (Barbula convoluta) taken February 2014, on front driveway and stonework, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon D3200, with 18-15mm lens with added opteka magnifier.

Common Feather-moss

Kindbergia praelonga

Common Feather-moss (Kindbergia praelonga)

This moss has regularly branched, roughly triangular pinnate shoots 1-2cm long. Robust woodland forms have bi- to tripinnate patterns and are larger. Stem leaves are  1-5mm long, and differ in shape from branch leaves. The stem leaves are triangularly heart-shaped with a fine elongated tp which often turns outwards. Branch leaves are about 1mm long, egg-shaped with a shorter tip, and finely toothed with a single nerve. The capsules are fairly frequent and are about 2mm long with a beaked lid.

Common Feather-moss (Kindbergia praelonga)

It is found on banks, in turf, on soil in woodland, on logs and at the base of trees and on branches. It may also appear in lawns. Common and widespread throughout.

Photographs of Common Feather-moss (Kindbergia praelonga) taken February 2014, nature reserve, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Catherine’s Moss

Atrichum undulatum

Catherine’s Moss (Atrichum undulatum)

Also called ‘Common Smoothcap’, this is a robust and distinctive species of moss. It has dark green, narrow pointed leaves up to 1cm long on stems which can grow up to 7cm long. The leaf margins have paired teeth, and are distinctly undulate when moist, crisp when dry. Spore capsules are 3-4mm long with a very long pointed beak.

Catherine’s Moss (Atrichum undulatum)

It can form quite extensive patches in shaded woodland, heaths and on banks. Very common and widespread throughout Britain.

Photographs of Catherine’s Moss (Atrichum undulatum) taken February 2014, nature reserve, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

About Mosses And Liverworts

Log covered in mosses
An old log covered in several species of moss

Mosses and liverworts are plants which belong to a group called the Bryophytes, which are the oldest land plants on earth and have been around for some 400 million years. Bryophytes’ are tiny plants which are mainly green in colour and are flowerless, and which reproduce by spores and/or by asexual gemmae or tubers. There are three main taxonomic groups which are: Bryophyta (Mosses), Marchantiophyta (Liverworts) and Anthocerotophyta (Hornworts).

Rotting fence post covered in moss
Rotting fence rail covered in moss

All these plants have evolved separately, and worldwide there are around 10,000 species of moss, 7,000 species of liverwort, and 200 species of hornwort. In Britain there are 763 species of moss, 300 species of liverwort, and just 4 species of hornwort. Most bryophytes have erect or creeping stems and tiny leaves, but hornworts and some liverworts have only a flat thallus and no leaves. Bryophytes have a two-stage life cycle. The gametophyte generation is the green photosynthetic part, where we see the green leafy plant we are mainly familiar with. Then there is the sporophyte generation which consists of a stalk and capsule which are dependent on the gametophyte for support and nutrients. The capsule when ripe releases thousands of tiny spores. Sexual reproduction occurs on the gametophyte generation and requires water for fertilisation. Many bryophytes also produce ‘gemmae’: tiny buds, discs or leaf fragments which spread the plants vegetatively.

Capillary Thread-moss Bryum capillare
Capillary Thread-moss (Bryum capillare)

Most Bryophytes can be seen all year round, and are therefore quite noticeable during the winter months. Many thrive in damp conditions, which is why Britain and Ireland have around two-thirds of European species, and some of our rarer species are globally rare. These extraordinary plants are like miniature forests, and are very important in sustaining the natural balance of ecosystems, and as primary pioneer species they help other plants and animals gain a foothold in the colonisation of new ground.

Great Scented Liverwort (Conocephalum conicum)
Great Scented Liverwort (Conocephalum conicum)

Pointed Spear-moss

Calliergonella cuspidata

Pointed Spear-moss (Calliergonella cuspidata)

This is a medium-sized moss which may grow with other bryophytes, or may form patches of green, yellow-green, and occasionally orange-brown. The shoots are up to 3-8cm long or more. The main stem is usually erect with pinnately arranged branches. The leaves are closely rolled-up to form a smooth needle-like point. The stem leaves are 2-2.5mm long, bluntly rounded at the tip with a short double nerve.

Common in base-rich habitats like marshes, grasslands and amongst rocks. It also frequently occurs in lawns and relatively dry habitats such as chalk and limestone grassland. One of our commonest mosses and widespread throughout.

Photographs of Pointed Spear-moss (Calliergonella cuspidata) taken February 2014, nature reserve, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Smaller Lattice-moss

Cinclidotus fontinaloides

Smaller Lattice-moss (Cinclidotus fontinaloides)

I came across this moss on a bank near my local river. Sadly, after some development work to the canal nearby, this has now all been buried. It is a dark green robust moss which branches little, has somewhat of a trailing nature, with 2-15cm long shoots which bear 4mm long leaves that are narrowly egg-shaped with a strong nerve ending in the tip. The leaf margins are heavily thickened, forming a distinct border from base to tip. When dry, the leaves are wavy or spirally twisted. Narrowly elliptical shaped capsules are frequent, but the seta is very short and often buried amongst the leaves.

Smaller Lattice-moss (Cinclidotus fontinaloides)

Found on the banks and shores of rivers and lakes attached to submerged rocks, tree roots and stonework. Also found on limestone and siliceous rocks. It is most abundant in places where it may be subject to frequent inundation, but it cannot tolerate prolonged submersion. Common and widespread, especially in upland Britain.

Smaller Lattice-moss (Cinclidotus fontinaloides)

Photographs of Smaller Lattice-moss (Cinclidotus fontinaloides) taken February 2014, near local river, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon D3200 with 18-55mm lens.

Thickpoint Grimmia

Schistidium crassipilum

Thickpoint Grimmia (Schistidium crassipilum)

Thickpoint Grimmia grows in rounded cushions or flat patches 1-3cm high. It usually looks quite hoary due to a hair point at the tip of the leaves. The capsules are largely hidden by the leaves that sheath them, but are reddish-brown, elongate and cylindrical.

Thickpoint Grimmia (Schistidium crassipilum)

This moss prefers calcareous walls, and can be found on blocks of limestone and base-rich sandstone. It can also be found on man-made substrates like tarmac, concrete and masonry in unshaded or partially shaded sites. Common and widespread throughout.

Thickpoint Grimmia (Schistidium crassipilum)

Photographs of Thickpoint Grimmia (Schistidium crassipilum) taken February 2014, nature reserve, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Grey-cushioned Grimmia

Grimmia pulvinata

Grey-cushioned Grimmia Grimmia pulvinata

Grey-cushioned Grimmia Grimmia pulvinata

Sometimes called ‘Hedgehog Moss’, this moss forms compact cushions 1-2cm high of tiny leaves 3-4mm long which are grey-green and narrow. The pointed, whitish hair-tips of the leaves can sometimes give the moss a silvery appearance, which is a characteristic of the species and is very noticeable in drier weather. The capsules are oval which usually bend back into the cushion, although in dry weather they straighten. The lid of the capsule has a long beak.

Grey-cushioned Grimmia Grimmia pulvinata

Grey-cushioned Grimmia Grimmia pulvinata

It does particularly well in limestone areas on boulders, but because of its tolerance to pollution it does well in urban areas, found growing on walls, roofs or paving, including concrete or tarmac. It is found all year round. The commonest Grimmia in the UK, and widespread.

Grey-cushioned Grimmia Grimmia pulvinata

Grey-cushioned Grimmia Grimmia pulvinata

Grey-cushioned Grimmia Grimmia pulvinata

Photographs of Grey-cushioned Grimmia (Grimmia pulvinata) taken January and February 2014, front driveway and nature reserve railway bridge, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500 and Nikon D3200, with 18-15mm lens with added opteka magnifier.

Away With The Fairies

Iodine Bonnet (Mycena filopes)

This is a glimpse into the microcosmic world of lichen, moss and fungi. There is an old willow on the bank of my local river, with large boughs covered in a thick coat of this twisting moss called Cypress-leaved Plait-moss (Hypnum cupressiforme). From across a field you can see the moss clinging to the fissured bark of the old willow, but it is not until you get closer, right up close and personal that you see there is more there than meets the eye.

The delightfully named Trumpet Lichen (Cladonia fimbriata) is just poking through the twisting blanket of moss, and standing proudly above the moss and the lichen is a tiny, delicate and rather beautiful mushroom I believe is called the Iodine Bonnet (Mycena filopes), which is just opening up to the dappled light of the world.

Photograph taken November 2011, by local river, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2011. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.


Funaria hygrometrica

This can be quite an untidy-looking plant, especially when in abundance with long, 3-5cm swan-neck setae. The short 3-10mm green shoots form loose carpets. The egg-shaped leaves vary in size from 2-4mm long, and are translucent.

It is a colonist of bare, disturbed ground enriched with nutrients, and is particularly characteristic of old bonfire sites, hence its common name. Frequent and widespread throughout Britain.

Photograph taken of Bonfire-moss (Funaria hygrometrica) in February 2014, nature reserve, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Common Pincushion

Dicranoweisia cirrata

This small to medium-sized moss forms neat yellow to green cushions up to 3cm high. The erect leaves are quite wavy when moist, and are about 2.5mm long. The leaf margins are narrowly recurved and it gradually tapers to a fine tip. Capsules are common, and are cylindrical and erect.

Occurs on trees, fences, thatch and on a variety of other organic substrates. Found on exposed rocks and old stone walls in hilly areas. Common and widespread throughout most of Britain.

Photographs  taken of Common Pincushion (Dicranoweisia cirrata) in February 2014, nature reserve, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon Coolpix P500.

Bank Haircap Moss

Polytrichum formosum

A fairly distinctive medium-sized moss with bright green leaves which are 1cm long with a pointed tip which are arranged around the stems in a spiral fashion.

Found all year round in deciduous woodland, heaths and moorland. Frequent and widespread throughout.

Photographs taken January and March 2014, local wood, Staffordshire.

Wall Screw-moss

Tortula muralis

This familiar moss forms neat, low spreading cushions and tufts up to 1cm high. It has oval, round-tipped leaves 2-3.5mm long, which end in a fine, silvery hair-like excurrent nerve. The spore capsules are narrow and held upright, borne on 1-2cm long, thin stalks. They are yellow when young and turn reddish-brown as they ripen.

It can also tolerate some shade, and can be found growing on old brick walls and base-rich rocks. It also grows on concrete, roof tiles, and other man-made structures. It is less seldom seen growing on trees and wood. A very common and widespread species.

Photographs taken  January and February 2014, front garden wall, Staffordshire.

White-tipped Bristle-moss

Orthotrichum diaphanum

I photogrpahed this moss on a railway bridge at the entrance to a nature reserve. The white leaf tips make this moss quite distinctive. It grows in small tufts of narrow, upright shoots up to 1cm high, usually with abundant capsules. The leaves are 2.5-4mm long, and the capsules are 1.5mm long. Ripe capsules are light brown and slightly furrowed when old and dry.

Found on trees and shrubs, but also on rocks, concrete, brick walls and other inorganic structures. Very common and widespread throughout Britain.

Photographs February 2014, nature reserve, Staffordshire.

Lyell’s Bristle-moss

Orthotrichum lyellii

Moist and dry forms of the moss photographed on a nature reserve. Quite a distinctive moss forming small balled tufts on trees, growing up to 4cm tall. It has narrow leaves which carry tiny vegetative propagation structures called gemmea. Fruiting capsules tend to be very rare.

Found all year round growing on a wide range of trees. Uncommon but widespread.

Photographs taken January and February 2014, nature reserve, Staffordshire.

Capillary Thread-moss

Bryum capillare

The leaves of this moss are tipped with a fine point. The drooping spore capsules are elongate-ovoid on long stalks. They are green ripening to brown. Height 3cm.

It grows in tufts or patches on walls, roofs and paving in urban areas, but also on rocks, woodland rides and grassland in the wild. It is found all year round. Common and widespread throughout Britain.

Photographs taken January 2014 and 2016, front driveway and local canal.