Plant Guide > Mosses and Lichens > Mosses > Genus Polytrichum > Common Hairy Cap Moss

Common Hairy Cap Moss

Common Hairy Cap MossThe Common Hairy-cap, Poly trichum commune, L.

Habit and habitat.-This moss is widely distributed and attains its largest size in peat-bogs where it may usually be recognised by the long stems covered below by the silvery bases of the leaves and by the angular spore-case which bears a flat disk at the base. It has the distinction of being one of a few mosses which have served in the economy of the household.

In the north of England the plants are made into small dusting brooms and mats. Withering states that the plants are used for bedding by bears, and Carolus Linnaeus, the renowned Swedish botanist, is said, while on a trip in the North, to have used the dry plants as stuffing for his pillow and mattress and to have recommended it as not harbouring fleas and infectious diseases.

Name.-The specific name commune, common, describes the general distribution of this moss.

Plant (gametophyte).-Tall, 6 to 18 inches high; dark-green or red-brown. The male plants often with the flower-heads in an ascending series of five to six, marking the age of the plant; stems simple, rarely forking; below, leafless, with the basal portions of old leaves adhering; growth erect from the centre of the male heads or directly from the ground.

Leaves.-Crowded above, about 3/4 of an inch long; apex spreading and recurved, lance-shaped and pointed, base enlarged, white, glossy, sheathing; vein rough on the back and bearing from 50-60 lamellae on the upper surface; margin inrolled when dry, serrate; lamellae 5 to 6 cells deep, the terminal the largest, semilunar or concave in section.

Leaves at the base of the pedicel (perichaetial leaves).-White, 3/4 of an inch long, without lamellae; awn long and horny.

Habit of flowering.-Male and female flowers on separate plants, (dioicous).

Veil (calyptra). -Covered with long silky hairs, concealing the spore-case.

Spore-case.-Erect, finally horizontal, 4-angled; apophysis distinct, disk-like.

Pedicel (seta).-Stout, 2 1/2 to 4 inches long.

Lid (operculum).-Flattened with an acute point at the centre.

Teeth (peristome).-Sixty-four, blunt at the apex, continuous at the base. United at the tips with a thin disk (epiphragm).

Spores.-Red-brown, ripe in summer.