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Montana Field Guides

Scraggly Squirrel-tail Moss - Sciuro-hypnum starkei
Other Names:  Brachythecium starkei, Hypnum starkei

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Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: SNR

Agency Status


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General Description
Plants: Pleurocarpous (Vitt 1988). Growing in erect, open clumps, green to green with yellow tones. Stems prostrate to nearly upright, slightly bowed terminally, appearing circular in X-section with the leaves, up to 4 cm in length; possessing a central strand. Branches, together with the leaves, appearing circular to somewhat flattened in X-section, up to 7 mm in length (FNA 2014).

Stem Leaves: Loosely upright or open when dry to broadly spreading when moist (Flowers 1973), not congested on the stem, 0.8-1.6 mm in length, 0.4-0.8 mm in width, deltoid and somewhat egg-shaped (FNA 2014), slightly cupped near the base (Flowers 1973), not pleated; margins finely saw-toothed, flat or rolled back and downward near the base; apex slowly narrowing to a slender point (FNA 2014), occasionally twisted, straight or sometimes curved (Flowers 1973); base extending well below the insertion; costa usually disappearing in the apex or percurrent, sometimes ending below mid leaf, possessing a distal spine dorsally (FNA 2014).

Branch Leaves: Smaller and more slender at the base than the stem leaves (Flowers 1973), egg-shaped or tending toward lance-shaped, usually less finely saw-toothed; base almost always symmetric; costa with dorsal spine lacking or sometimes with a few teeth (FNA 2014).

Leaf Cells: Alar cells nearly square or scarcely longer, fine-walled and swollen, the region distinctive; laminal cells long and narrow, smooth or the upper cells sometimes prorulose dorsally; basal cells adjacent to costa wider and not as long as the laminal cells (FNA 2014).

Diagnostic Characteristics
The stem and branch leaves are more similar to each other in Brachythecium starkei than those of Kindbergia praelonga, and its pseudoparaphyllia are acute. The pseudoparaphyllia of K. praelonga have long acumens (FNA 2014).

Range Comments
North American Range

Canada: Found in ON and provinces east; USA: WI, ME and VT (FNA 2014). Known in Montana from Flathead, Glacier, and Lake Counties (Elliott 2016).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 2

(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)

Swamps (FNA 2014), wet soil and humus in forests (Elliott 2016). Elevation: 328-4270 feet (FNA 2014).

Reproductive Characteristics
Autoicous. Seta 1.2-1.6 cm tall, russet (FNA 2014), roughened from papillae (Flowers 1973). Capsule ca 2 mm in length, russet, level to drooping (FNA 2014); cilia knobby, similar in length to the endostome segments (Flowers 1973).

  • 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.
    • Flowers, S. 1973. Mosses: Utah and the West. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. 567 p.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Lawton, E. 1971. Moss Flora of the Pacific Northwest. Hattori Botanical Laboratory. Japan: Yamabuki-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. 362 pages plus appendices.
    • Smith, A.J.E. 1980. The Moss Flora of Britain and Ireland. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 705 pp.
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Citation for data on this website:
Scraggly Squirrel-tail Moss — Sciuro-hypnum starkei.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from