An ancient species, moss has existed on this planet for millions of years. Mosses exist in a range of countries and habitats - from arctic tundras to metropolitan cities. They play an important ecological role in absorbing enormous amounts of water relative to their biological mass, creating a humid environment for surrounding plant life. Moss can also create a microcosmic habitat for small creatures, such as rotifers, tardigrades and nematodes, as well as more familiar creatures found in the garden such as slugs and woodlice.
It is indeed a fascinating species, whether you view it as a hindrance or a pleasant aesthetical feature to your garden.
Some types of mosses are easily identifiable, whereas others you would need a microscope in order to spot biological differences in species. This blog explores 23 different types of moss in detail.
Juniper moss is a species that exists across the globe on every single continent.
23 types of moss
1. Common haircap (Polytrichum commune)
As one of the UK’s tallest types of mosses, this species can grow up to 40cm tall. It’s habitat tends to be acidic areas subject to high rainfall and humidity - including bogs, moorland and heaths.
2. Springy turf moss (Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus)
This moss is red-stemmed in appearance with tips that look like stars - earning it the alternative common nickname of ‘electrified cat’s tail moss. It is a common species most often found in areas or environments with damp turf such as lawns, woodland areas close to streams, and damp and boggy marshes.
3. Silky forklet moss (Dicranella heteromalla)
Dwelling in shaded areas, such as tree stumps, sheltered woodland, ditches and banks, this moss possesses narrow and long curly leaves, which are yellow-green in colour. The leaves all curl in the same direction.
4. Common Haircap Moss
Easily identifiable thanks to the long shoots it possesses with spiky foliage, this is a common moss species found throughout the western hemisphere, occupying a range of habitats. Its stems tend to be a reddish brown, with the accompanying leaves appearing in various shades of green. The leaves are arranged as such that they resemble a cluster of small stars.
5. Swan’s-neck thyme moss (Mnium hornum)
Usually found in clumps, Swan’s-neck thyme moss is a common moss that grows in places that range from rotting wood, tree bases, peat, and acidic rock ledges. It is particularly abundant in woodland areas.
6. Sphagnum moss
Sphagnum moss is typically found in areas which are incredibly damp and inhibit moisture, such as bogs, marshes and moors. It can also sometimes grow in damp woodland. Sphagnum moss itself has its own subspecies, with around 30 different types. Sphagnum moss can form peat, which once formed into a larger peatland becomes an important way of storing carbon from the atmosphere. Sphagnum moss has been used by humans for centuries to dress wounds and even as a nappy, thanks to its natural antiseptic properties and absorbent abilities.
7. Glittering wood moss (Hylocomium splendens)
Commonly found in woodland areas, as well as moors and heath, that are home to acidic soil or leached chalk grassland. It forms as brownish to yellowy-green carpets with red stems and shoots that can reach 10cm in length. It is, as the same would suggest, quite an aesthetically pleasing type of moss.
8. American Tree Moss
As the name suggests, this type of moss is native to North America, commonly found in the eastern United States and eastern Canada in a range of habitats - including woodlands, nature paths, riverbanks and alongside streams. Its primary stems are brown in colour, with its secondary ones possessing red colouring. This creates an almost Christmas tree effect when it grows in a dense habit.
9. Spoon Leaved Moss
Another moss found in North America, spoon leaved moss is quite commonly found through the United States, although it is rare (yet not impossible) to find in Canada. Forming in a dense blanket of cushion foliage, its stems can grow up to 1.5 inches. However, they are often hidden by the leaves covering them.
10. Heath Star Moss
A moss species native to South America, Heath Star moss can also be found in other countries, such as the UK, where it was introduced in 1941. Featuring stems that are dark red-brown in colour and foliage which starts out bright green but turns to black as the moss ages. The species tends to thrive in places with rotting wood, such as fence posts and logs, and even certain types of roofs, including thatched and shingle. Given sufficient conditions for its growth, the moss can become incredibly invasive and rapidly thrive.
11. Shiny Seductive Moss
A fast growing type of feather moss that spreads sideways when it begins to grow and thrive. Most commonly found in North America, its favoured habitat tends to be on rotting wood - whether that’s rotting old logs, felled trees or disintegrating fence posts. Shiny seductive moss differs from the majority of other mosses in that it thrives in the sun. It is often used by gardeners for aesthetic use thanks to its bright base - using it to fill in empty space in a rock garden or in between plants.
12. Baby Tooth Moss
This type of moss spans continents, as it can be found in North America, Asia and Africa - preferring moist, cool habitats out of the way of the sun and away from high temperatures. With a short life span, it is an easily identifiable moss, as it possesses tall stalks that are produced from nodding spore-capsules that sit on top of slim brown-orange stalks. Its foliage has heavily toothed margins and is medium green in colour.
13. Pincushion Moss
This moss derives its name from the cushions it forms as dome-shaped mounds. Each ‘cushion’ can measure up to five inches tall and two feet in diameter. It is smooth and feathery in appearance, which suggests to the naked eye it is soft and plump. Preferring moist conditions for its growth, it does still possess a fair amount of tolerance compared to other mosses to dry conditions. The moss tends to spread in the autumn and winter seasons, where the wind catches its spores and spreads them.
14. Plume Moss
Also known as ‘ostrich-plume feather moss’ due its appearance, this moss species can be found across northern Europe and throughout Canada. Possessing feathery foliage that appears mid-green in colour, the moss tends to cover wide areas of forest floor due to its spreading growth nature.
15. Mood Moss
A moss species native to North America, mood moss typically grows in clumps reaching up to five inches in height. It forms into mounds that resemble cushion-like patches and its stems are upright and slender. Its habitat tends to be in woodland areas, and it likes to grow on tree trunks, rocks and logs that possess an element of moisture. However, it doesn’t grow well in overly soggy conditions or in places that receive full sunshine.
16. Ribbed Bog Moss
Forming extensive tufts that merge together and form a dense, matted carpet - this moss is also known by the name of ‘bog groove moss’. Its habitat is in its name, as it is typically found in boggy environments, especially wetlands where it tends to be the most dominant moss species. Bearing orange-brown stalks, its foliage has a yellow-green hue. It is commonly found throughout Canada and thrives best in cool climates.
17. Juniper Moss
Some mosses can only be found in one place. Others may frequent a few different countries. Juniper moss is a species that exists across the globe on every single continent. Not only that, it prefers dry habitats, which is strange for moss as a species as it tends to thrive best in moist environments. It also grows in the open, in full view of the sun, which again is unconventional as mosses generally opt for sheltered habitats. It is found on all continents in a range of environmental domains, such as forest footpaths, quarries, grasslands, and gravel. Its foliage is spiky, possessing patterns that resemble rosettes.
18. Water Screw Moss
This moss’s leaves can be deceiving in that they look like a carpet of tiny green flowers, however this is an effect courtesy of the leaves packed around the stems. This gives the moss a somewhat decorative appearance, It can be found growing on a range of surfaces, including trees, moist walls, rocks and shaded roads.
19. Common Tamarisk Moss
Resembling the fern plant due its bright yellow-green foliage and lacy appearance, common tamarisk moss’s stems contrast with its leaves, as the latter are bright and the former are dark. In contradiction to most species of moss, it prefers to reside and grow in neutral soils rather than acidic ones. It tends to grow on damp ground and rotting logs, forming in thick tufts.
20. Shaggy Moss
This moss derives its name from its appearance, which is messy and unkempt. Growing on long tail-like stems, its foliage ranges from brown to green in colour, the former applying to older foliage and the latter to younger foliage. Opting for a habitat rich in fertile soil and plenty of moisture, it is commonly found in the Pacific Midwest. It can also grow on trees, as well as along riverbanks and streams.
21. Dwarf Haircap Moss
An attractive moss, this species has short red stems which triangular foliage grows from in a rosette pattern, similar to an aloe plant. It grows in areas that experience plenty of shade and shelter, particularly rotting logs.
22. Catherine’s Moss
The leaves on this moss spreads from its stems creating a wide star shape, which is why it’s also known as ‘big star moss’. It can tolerate sunlight although, like most mosses, it favours growing somewhere that is shaded. Its stiff textured leaves are bright green, and they have the tendency to become crisp and stiff when the plant dries out. It’s typically found growing in grasslands and on rocks.
23. Rigid Beard Moss
Most commonly found in crevices and haps, such as in between concrete, slabs, rocks, and bricks in old walls. It consists of an abundance of small leaves which grow tightly together to form dense mats. Favouring a moist and shaded environment, it is dark emerald green in colour.