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A Squirrel-tail Moss - Sciuro-hypnum hylotapetum
Other Names:  Brachythecium hylotapetum

Native Species

Global Rank: GU
State Rank: SNR

Agency Status


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General Description
Plants: Growing in open interwoven mats (Lawton1971) or open upright clumps, very shiny, pale green or with yellow tinges to whitish. Stems prostrate to upwardly inclined, or upright in crowded conditions, erratically pinnately branched, circular to flattened in X-section, to 10 cm in length; possessing a central strand. Branches weakly to quite flattened in X-section, to 16 mm in length, curved or a little bent and twisted (FNA 2014).

Leaves: Stem leaves distant, spreading somewhat (FNA 2014) to loosely appressed (Lawton 1971), 2.2-3.7 mm in length, 1.3-2 mm in width, widely egg-shaped, somewhat cupped, not pleated longitudinally; base extending down the stem slightly; margins flat or curved back and down near the attachment, nearly smooth to finely saw-toothed, the apical margins more toothed; apex with an abrupt or short tapering point; costa ca 1/2 the leaf length or a little more, occasionally forked, lacking terminal dorsal teeth. Branch leaves smaller and more slender than the stem leaves, with more teeth (FNA 2014).

Leaf Cells: Alar cells larger than cells adjacent to the costa, fine-walled, the alar area unclearly demarcated; laminal cells long and thin; basal cells wider than and not as long as the laminal cells (FNA 2014), porose (Lawton 1971), in 3-4 series (FNA 2014).

Diagnostic Characteristics
The large size, long leaves (often more than 3 mm), and pale color make this plant easy to recognize (FNA 2014).

Range Comments
North American Range

Pacific Northwest, AK, CA, ID, MT, CO (FNA 2014). Known in Montana from Beaverhead, Flathead, Lake, Lincoln, Mineral, and Missoula Counties (Elliott 2016).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 233

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Soil, litter, rotting wood in coniferous forest (Elliott 2016). Elevations: 2620-4920 feet (FNA 2014).

Reproductive Characteristics
Dioicous. Fruit quite rare. Seta 1-3 cm tall, brown to red with purple tones, papillae-roughened. Capsule 15-25 mm in length, somewhat red, level (FNA 2014) to occasionally drooping; cilia transversely ridged (Lawton 1971).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Elliott, J.C. and A.K. Pipp. 2018. A Checklist of Montana Mosses (1880-2018). Updated 3 January, 2020. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, Montana. 73 pp.
    • Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 2014. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Volume 28. Bryophytes: Mosses, Part 2. Oxford University Press, Inc., NY. xxi + 702 pp.
    • Lawton, E. 1971. Moss Flora of the Pacific Northwest. Hattori Botanical Laboratory. Japan: Yamabuki-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. 362 pages plus appendices.
    • Vitt, D. J. Marsh, and R. Bovey. 1988. Mosses, Lichens & Ferns of Northwest North America. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 296 p.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
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    • Lawton, E. 1971. Keys for the Identification of the Mosses on the Pacific Northwest. Reprinted from 'Moss Flora of the Pacific Northwest'. Published as Supplement No. 2 of the Journal of the Hattori Botanical Laboratory. Nichinan, Miyazaki, Japan. 66 pp.
    • Malcolm, B., N. Malcolm, J. Shevock, and D. Norris. 2009. California Mosses. Nelson, New Zealand: Micro-Optics Press. 430 pp.
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Citation for data on this website:
A Squirrel-tail Moss — Sciuro-hypnum hylotapetum.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from