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A Squirrel-tail Moss - Sciuro-hypnum latifolium
Other Names:  Brachythecium nelsonii

Status Under Review
Native Species

Global Rank: G4G5
State Rank: SNR

Agency Status


External Links

General Description
Plants: Pleurocarpous (Vitt 1988). Growing in open, erect clumps (FNA 2014), pale green to green with yellow tones (Lawton 1971). Stems prostrate or upwardly inclined, straight or a little bowed, appearing with the leaves circular in X-section, mostly 3-6 cm in length (but as many as 12 cm) (FNA 2014), branching unevenly (Lawton 1971); possessing a central strand. Branches mostly to 8 mm in length (but as many as 15 mm) (FNA 2014).

Leaves: Stem leaves upright or flat to the stem, usually overlapping, 1.4-2.2 mm in length, 0.8-1.3 mm in width, deltoid with ovate tendencies, faintly pleated longitudinally if at all, cupped; apex slowly tapered or widely rounded, constricting suddenly to a short, slender, typically reflexed acumen; margins flat, very finely saw-toothed along the acumen; base extending down the stem a little; costa mostly ending a little above mid-leaf, sometimes shorter, broad at the base, narrowing rapidly, and slender for most of its length, with no dorsal terminal spine present. Branch leaves smaller and more slender than the stem leaves; margins nearly smooth (FNA 2014).

Leaf Cells: Alar cells fine-walled, the alar area’s boundary precise or sometimes the transition gradual; basal cells adjacent to costa quadrangular (FNA 2014), with porose walls (Lawton 1971); laminal cells somewhat long and slender, narrower than the basal juxtacostal cells (FNA 2014).

Diagnostic Characteristics
The occasional leaf may have a double costa or costa nearly absent (FNA 2014).

Range Comments
North American Range

AK to NT, BC, AB, WA, CA, MT s to NM (FNA 2014). In Montana, known in Carbon, Flathead, Gallatin, Glacier, and Madison Counties (Elliott 2016).

Type location is from La Plata Mines, Wyoming; Common in the Rocky Mountains in the vicinity of Tolland, Colorado (Grout 1928).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 9

(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)

Wet soil and rock in boreal (Elliott 2016) or alpine habitats, rich fens; sometimes mingling with other moss species. Elevation:1-11,480 feet (FNA 2014).

Reproductive Characteristics
Dioicous. Perichaetial leaves enveloping the stem, the tips reflexed ca 90 degrees (Lawton 1971). Seta 20-25 mm tall, orange (FNA 2014), rough, or a little smoother toward the base. Capsule brown (Lawton 1971), to 1.8 mm in length, somewhat ascending, level, or drooping, curved on the upper side (FNA 2014); cilia with transverse ridges (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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    • Elliot, J. C. 1993. Second checklist of Montana mosses. Unpublished report. U.S. Forest Service, Region 1. Missoula, MT. 45 pp.
    • Flowers, S. 1973. Mosses: Utah and the West. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. 567 p.
    • 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 latifolium.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from