Help with identifying Moss/Bryophyte (photos)

topieJune 6, 2009

Just wondering if anyone can help identify this vegetation in our yard. I assume this a Bryophyte? If so, what kind is it? (Zone 6, Mid Atlantic region).


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P.S.: I just tentatively identified this vegetation as a large mass of Sphagnum moss (?)

The area this moss is in is on a gentle slope about 4 to 5 feet high and approximately 12-15 feet wide. It gets morning sun, and gets progressively shadier, until it's entirely shielded from any direct sunlight by 3:00pm.

The moss is mainly concentrated on the top 1/3 of the slope. In Mid-Atlantic region (Zone 6). There are no deciduous trees overhanging this area.

If it's Sphagnum, I've read that "the soil on which Sphagnum grows consists of peat which is saturated with rainwater and contains very few minerals, a pH between 4 and 4.5 and a very low concentration of Nitrogen." However, the soil on which our moss is growing is clay soil. Is this unusual, or do Sphagnums grow on clays as well?

We want to know more about this moss because we looking for the best companion plants (natives) to add near it, or within the patch of moss itself.

We're considering:
Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina)
Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Carolina springbeauty (Claytonia caroliniana) Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens)
Obediant plant (Physostegia virginian)
Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium reptans)

Would any of these do okay in the conditions that this moss is possibly growing in (moist to wet, very few minerals, a pH between 4 and 4.5 and a very low concentration of Nitrogen?

Here's a photo of the whole slope (there's lawn grass growing on the bottom 2/3rds of the slope).

Any help confirming the identity of this moss, and suggestions for companion plants would be greatly appreciated! Thank you.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 1:30AM
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lycopus(z5 NY)

Not sphagnum. More likely a Brachythecium sp. Would require a microscope to be certain.

If you have a local cooperative extension they might test the soil for a small fee. Would want a sample from the upper part of the slope and also the lower part, as I would suspect the upper part is either more acidic or nutrient depleted.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2009 at 3:44PM
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Thank you so much for the identification tip on this moss lycopus. I don't know a whole lot about Bryophytes, and wondering how it could be possible for Sphagnum to be growing in a clay soil area--the spot it's growing in is definitely not peat or a bog.

We'll follow up on the tip for getting the soil tested with our local cooperative extension.

I did some research on Brachythecium, and I think we need to envision the top of this slope as a giant rock, rather than a soil area.

The lower slope area is able to support grass, so perhaps we should focus our planting efforts on the bottom part of the slope.

For the top of the slope, we should probably just leave the moss as is.

Thanks again!!

    Bookmark   June 8, 2009 at 9:40AM
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milkweed2(zone 7)

I have this same moss, but I am farther south. Mine seems to thrive in spring and wither up during summer. I try to keep moist, but mostly let it do its own thing. I was gone for 3 weeks and completely covered up with weeds. I decided to lave the weeds until frost, but I am not so sure that was a good idea. I then tried to mow the seeding weeds.Any ideas?

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 2:11PM
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The plant of your image is not a Brachythecium species.
Reason why is: take a good look at the base of the moss. There you see a stem and the plant does look like a mini-tree. In checking the net the best option I see is Climacium americanum. Google images for more info.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 1:13AM
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lycopus(z5 NY)

I agree with Climacium. I did not notice that detail in the second image and assumed it was a Brachythecium sp. because it was covering a large area of the lawn. Could also be Climacium dendroides.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 4:05AM
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Thanks for everyone's help with identifying this moss! Couldn't entice our coop extension to come out, but I tested the soil in this moss area with one of the home tester kits, and the soil seems to be in the neutral to slightly alkaline range. Would that be normal for a Climacium moss?

I also noticed a medium-sized toad hanging out in the moss area on several occasions. Possibly a Bufo americanus? He/she seemed to be sort of burrowing under the moss at times, and other times was just sitting around or hopping a bit here and there. If that helps any as far as identification... I don't know.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 10:50PM
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Here is a cool site for your amphibian friend.

Here is a link that might be useful: Toads of America with links to images

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 2:39AM
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The second picture from the top does show a 'tree-like' growth form, which is characteristic of Climacium. However the habitat really does not look right for Climacium. It is usually found in swampy areas that have standing water to saturated soil most of the year.

A distinguishing characteristic that would help with this identification is to look for paraphyllia on the stem. These are small branching hairs that give the stem between the leaves a fuzzy appearance. You might be able to see the 'fuzziness' between the leaves with your eyes, but a 10X hand lens would make this observation easier. All Climacium have these paraphyllia. So if yours have them too you might be on the right track with a Climacium identification but if they don't then I would tend to lean toward your initial identification of a species in the Brachytheciaceae.

My most recent blog post discusses moss gardening and lists a book about gardening with native ferns and other plants that might help with your selection of ferns to plant around the mosses.

Here is a link that might be useful: Moss Plants and More

    Bookmark   August 13, 2009 at 4:23PM
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Can anyone identify this? How do I get rid of it, it is taking over my yard?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 8:23AM
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