Foxtail Moss family (Brachytheciaceae)
This evergreen perennial moss has a pleurocarpous growth habit, forming
either a sprawling mat of overlapping leafy stems, or a low cushion of
ascending to erect leafy stems. These leafy stems are up to 4 cm. (1½")
long, irregularly branched, more or less terete, and blunt-tipped.
The stems are hidden by the abundant overlapping leaves; the leaves
occur all around the stems, providing them with a worm-like appearance.
When they are moist, the leaves are ascending and spread slightly from
each other, while dry leaves are more appressed together. However, the
difference in appearance between moist and dry leafy stems is minor.
Individual leaves are 1.5–2 mm. long, ovate to broadly ovate in
shape, and largely toothless along their margins, although under
microscopic examination minute teeth can be observed along the margins
at the leaf tips. The leaves have a shallow cup-shape because they
convex along the outer surface and convex along the inner surface. Leaf
coloration can be highly variable, even on the same leafy stems;
younger leaves are light green to yellowish green, while older leaves
are golden brown to dark brown. The leaves strongly clasp the stems at
their bases, while their tips are slender and often twisted.
of secondary stems (branches) taper more abruptly at their tips than
those of primary stems, otherwise they are very similar in appearance.
The midribs of the leaves are slender, a slightly darker shade of
green, and relatively inconspicuous; they extend outward to about
67-80% of the leaf length, falling short of the leaf tips. Across most
of the leaf surface, individual leaf cells are narrowly oblong-angular
in shape and flat. This moss is dioicous, forming inconspicuous male
sexual organs and female sexual organs on separate plants
(gametophytes). As a result, spore-bearing capsules on slender setae
(stalks) are uncommonly produced. When they occur, the setae of these
capsules are 12-25 mm. (½–1") long, reddish at maturity, and more
or less erect. Mature capsule bodies are about 1.5 mm. long,
short-cylindrical in shape with a tapering base, and slightly curved.
The lids (operacula) of the capsule bodies are about 1.0 mm. in length
and long-beaked. Both the capsules bodies and lids are reddish to
reddish brown at maturity.
Hairless and membranous hoods (calyptrae)
initially cover the capsule bodies and lids, but they soon split apart
and fall to the ground. After the lids of the capsule bodies fall off,
a ring of narrowly triangular outer teeth and inner teeth is revealed,
and the spores are dispersed by the wind. Individual spores are 13-17
micrometers across and nearly smooth. At the base of leafy
stems, or wherever they establish contact with moist ground, there are
fibrous rhizoids that anchor them to the substrate. This moss does not
reproduce asexually, except by the fragmentation of leafy stems as a
result of disturbance. Fragments of leafy stems are also capable of
developing fibrous rhizoids when they establish contact with moist
The preference is partial
sun to medium shade, moist conditions, and a substrate consisting of
ordinary soil, humus, rotting bark, or rocky ground with a
of soil over it. At favorable sites, this moss can be long-lived.
& Habitat: The native Spoon-leaved Moss (Bryoandersonia
is occasional in east-central and southern Illinois, while in the rest
of the state it is uncommon or absent (see Distribution
lies along the NW range-limit of this moss; it is widely distributed in
eastern United States, while in Canada it occurs in southern Ontario as
a rare plant. In Illinois, habitats include rocky soil in woodlands,
moist soil in sandy woodlands, wooded slopes, ground soil of wooded
ridges and bluff tops, areas adjacent to woodland springs and streams,
moist rocky slopes along waterfalls, wet sandstone cliffs and boulders,
and shaded creek banks. In neighboring states, this
moss has been found in moist tallgrass prairies, overgrown shrubby
meadows, earthen banks in woods, lower trunks of trees in wet areas,
and shaded lawns. In Illinois, this moss seems to prefer higher quality
natural areas that have hilly woodlands.
When this moss forms sizable cushions of plants, it provides protective
cover for many small invertebrate animals. The Four-toed Salamander
(Hemidactylium scutatum) takes advantage of such
cover to lay and protect its eggs
when this moss occurs near streams or other bodies of water (Wood,
1955). Leafy stems of this moss are a minor source of construction
material for the nests of the Carolina Chickadee (Poecile
carolinensis); see Andreas (2010).
Location: Indoors using nursery-cultivated
plants. Close-up photos were taken with a microscope.
An older scientific name of this moss is Cirriphyllum boscii.
common names of this moss include Spoon Moss and Worm Moss. Unlike most
mosses in Illinois, it is endemic to eastern North America. At
favorable sites, Spoon-leaved Moss (Bryoandersonia illecebra)
attractive cushions of plants. Sometimes its leafy stems have abrupt
transitions of color from light green to brown, whereas in most
pleurocarpous mosses such color transitions are more gradual and less
conspicuous. Spoon-leaved Moss can be distinguished from the more
common Brachythecium spp. (Foxtail Mosses) by the
arrangement of its leaves along its stems. As a result, its leafy stems
often have a worm-like appearance, especially when they are
dry. This moss superficially resembles another
moss, Entodon seductrix, but the leaves of this
latter species lack
solitary midribs and its spore-bearing capsule bodies are straight,
rather than slightly curved.