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Montana Field Guides

An Apple Moss - Oncophorus virens

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: SNR

Agency Status
MNPS Threat Rank:

External Links

General Description
Plants: Acrocarpous (Vitt 1988). Growing in uncrowded clumps of erect shoots (FNA 2007), green distally and sometimes with tinges of yellow, brown proximally. Stems commonly branched, to 8 cm in height; rhizoids growing low on the stem (Lawton 1971).

Leaves: Contorted, folded and wavy when dry, less so when moist, egg-shaped, more lance-shaped and subulate above (FNA 2007), tapering steadily to an acute or somewhat broader leaf tip (Lawton 1971), 2.5-5 mm in length; base erect but not enveloping the stem, extending down the stem a little, keeled above (Crum & Anderson et al. 1981), margins smooth or occasionally toothed distally, tightly rolled back and down in ca the proximal half; costa usually extending to the apex (FNA 2007).

Leaf Cells: Margins 2 cell-layers thick (Crum & Anderson et al. 1981); lamina usually of 2 cell-layers, the upper cells smooth, nearly square; lower laminal cells not as long at the margins as interiorly, smooth, quadrangular, thick-walled; alar cells clear (FNA 2007), swollen just a little; costa in X-section with guide cells, adaxial and abaxial stereid bands, the abaxial band larger (Lawton 1971), generally smooth on the dorsal surface (Crum & Anderson et al. 1981).

Fruit ripens the last part of spring into the first part of summer (FNA 2007).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Differs from the similar O. wahlenbergii which has more strongly crisped leaves that become suddenly subulate (FNA 2007).

Range Comments
North American Range

Found in almost every state, province and territory of the United States and Canada (FNA 2007). Known in Montana from Carbon, Flathead, Glacier, Granite, Lake, Park, Ravalli, and Sanders Counties (Elliott & Pipp 2016).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 12

(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, damp stones, decaying wood, commonly along streams (FNA 2007).

Reproductive Characteristics
Autoicous, the perigonia situated just beneath the perichaetia. Seta upright, spiraled when dry, 7-22 mm in height. Capsule bowed, tilted to level, shrunken below the opening, with a swelling at the base, 1.5-2 mm in length, ochre, a little grooved when dry; peristome single, the 16 red, 2-lobed teeth split to about midway (FNA 2007), finely lined up and down below (Lawton 1971), with papillae above. Calyptra draped like a hood (FNA 2007).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Crum, H.A. and L.E. Anderson. 1981. Mosses of Eastern North America. 2 volumes. Columbia University Press, New York. 1328 pp.
    • 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. 2007. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Volume 27. Bryophytes: Mosses, Part 1. Oxford University Press, Inc., NY. xxi + 713 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
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Horpestad, A.A. 1969. Factors affecting the distribution and abundance of aquatic macrophytes in parts of the Madison, Firehole and Gibbon Rivers. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 88 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.
    • Smith, A.J.E. 1980. The Moss Flora of Britain and Ireland. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 705 pp.
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An Apple Moss — Oncophorus virens.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from