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Montana Field Guides

An Orthotrichum Moss - Orthotrichum alpestre

Native Species

Global Rank: G4G5
State Rank: SNR

Agency Status


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General Description
Plants: Acrocarpous, growing in loose clumps or cushions of upright shoots (FNA 2014), green to deep green (Lawton 1971) or brownish (Crum & Anderson et al., 1981). Stems sometimes reaching 23 mm in height (FNA 2014), frequently forked (Lawton 1971).

Leaves: Straight, upright, loosely appressed, and a little twisted when dry, spreading, sometimes broadly, when damp, 2-3.5 mm in length, lance-shaped with ovate tendencies, tapering to the narrowly acute apex, forming an acumen, apiculus, or tooth-like point; leaf edges smooth, rolled back to proximal of the leaf apex (FNA 2014); costa subpercurrent (Lawton 1971).

Leaf Cells: Upper laminal cells chlorophyllous (Crum & Anderson et al., 1981), arranged in 1 cell-layer, somewhat round and isodiametric, with cone-shaped or 2-lobed papillae over each lumen (FNA 2014), with thick walls (Crum & Anderson et al., 1981); lower laminal cells quadrangular and long with fine walls, slightly knobby at the attachment (FNA 2014).

Range Comments
North American Range

YT, BC and AB s to CA, AZ and NM, also SD, ON and NL, MI (FNA 2014). Known in Montana from Carbon, Cascade, Flathead, Glacier, Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, Madison, Park, and Ravalli Counties (Elliott & Pipp, 2016).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 13

(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)

Stone, fissures in boulders, on the bottoms of trees, in forests (FNA 2014); calcareous habitats or not (Crum & Anderson et al., 1981).

Reproductive Characteristics
Autoicous. Seta twisted, occasionally reaching 1.4 mm in height (FNA 2014). Capsule 2- 2.2 mm in length (Crum & Anderson et al., 1981), partially emerged (halfway or occasionally over 3/4) from the perichaetial bracts, with 8 prominent longitudinal ribs; stomata sunken and partially covered by adjacent cells; prostome not present; exostome of 8 teeth bent back and downward, thickly papillose, with fine longitudinal lines above (FNA 2014) and sometimes with slight openings at the apices (Crum & Anderson et al., 1981); endostome processes 8 or 16 and well-formed. Calyptra cone-shaped, sheltering the full length of the capsule, with papillose hairs (FNA 2014).

Specialized vegetative reproduction sometimes occurring on the leaves via gemmae (FNA 2014).

  • 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. 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.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
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    • 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:
An Orthotrichum Moss — Orthotrichum alpestre.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from