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Montana Field Guides

An Apple Moss - Oncophorus wahlenbergii

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, soft, pale to deep green. Stems 10-25 mm in height (FNA 2007), commonly branched; rhizoids growing low on the stem (Lawton 1971).

Leaves: Extremely twisted, curled and wavy when dry, 3-6 mm in length, lance-shaped with ovate tendencies, becoming suddenly subulate above, the subula nearly tubulose above; base enveloping the stem (FNA 2007), but not extending down it (Crum & Anderson et al. 1981); margins smooth or occasionally toothed distally (FNA 2007), erect (Crum & Anderson et al. 1981); costa usually extending to the apex (FNA 2007) or very shortly beyond it (Lawton 1971).

Leaf Cells: Lamina 1 cell-layer thick except margins may be of 2 layers; upper laminal cells smooth, nearly square or slightly lengthened, thick-walled; lower laminal cells somewhat long and quadrangular, smooth, thick-walled; alar cells not distinct; costa in X-section with guide cells, adaxial and abaxial stereid bands, the abaxial band larger (Lawton 1971), frequently a little coarse on the dorsal surface above (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. virens which has less strongly crisped leaves that taper steadily to the subula and do not envelop the stem (FNA 2007).

Range Comments
North American Range

Throughout the United States and Canada (FNA 2007). Known in Montana from Carbon, Flathead, Glacier, Lake, Meagher, and Park Counties (Elliott & Pipp 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)

Often on decaying wood beside streams or inundated places, less frequently on soil, stones and evergreen tree bottoms (FNA 2007).

Reproductive Characteristics
Autoicous, the perigonia situated just beneath the perichaetia. Seta upright, spiraled when dry, 8-21 mm in height. Capsule bowed, tilted to level, shrunken below the opening with a swelling at the base, 0.8-2 mm in length, somewhat straw-colored, grooved when dry; beak of the operculum slanted (Lawton 1971); peristome single, the 16 brilliant-red, 2-lobed teeth split to about midway (FNA 2007) with papillae above. Calyptra like a draping 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?
    • 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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Citation for data on this website:
An Apple Moss — Oncophorus wahlenbergii.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from