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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Elfin Crisp Moss - Tortula acaulon
Other Names:  Entire-Leaf Nitrogen Moss, Phascum acaulon, Phascum cuspidatum

Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S1

Agency Status
MNPS Threat Rank:

External Links

General Description
Name Change Rationale: Gametophytic characteristics largely determined the reasoning behind moving type species of former genus Phascum to Tortula. Tortula species with leaves turning red in 2% KOH solution, among other characteristics, have been placed in Henediella, Microbryum, or Syntrichia (FNA 2007).

Plant: Large, scattered or in patches. Green, yellow-green, yellow-brown, to dark brown. Stems usually 1-2 mm high and sometimes branched.

Leaf: Ovate to oblong-lanceolate, 0.8-3 x 0.4-0.75 mm. Apex acute and mucronate to short-awned. Margins recurved proximally to nearly plane and either not bordered or bordered with slightly thicker cells. Costa is excurrent, lacking an adaxial pad of cells, and narrowing to the apex.

Leaf Cells: Apex and median leaf cells are quadrate-hexagonal with a width of 13-17 ┬Ám. Cells weakly with one papillae or smooth.

Note: The varieties of pilifera and schreberiana, which were based on awn and plant height, are not recognized in FNAv27 because these characteristics are highly variable.

Capsules mature in winter to spring.

Species Range

Range Comments
Canada: AB, BC, NS, ON, QC, SK: USA: AK, AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, ID, IL, IN, IA, KS, LA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, OK, OR, PA, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WV, WI; Mexico; Europe; Asia; n Africa; Pacific Islands (New Zealand) (FNA 2007). Known in Montana from Flathead, Glacier, Missoula, and Park Counties (Elliott 2016).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 5

(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, lawns, fields, and soil banks, often among grasses or shrubs in open areas. Habit: Soil crust. Low to moderate elevations.

Reproductive Characteristics
Autoicous. Seta is very short. Capsules immersed, 0.9-1.3 mm long, spheric to very short-ellipsoid.

  • 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. 2007. Flora of North America North of Mexico. Volume 27. Bryophytes: Mosses, Part 1. Oxford University Press, Inc., NY. xxi + 713 pp.
  • 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.
    • Lawton, E. 1971. Moss Flora of the Pacific Northwest. Hattori Botanical Laboratory. Japan: Yamabuki-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. 362 pages plus appendices.
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Citation for data on this website:
Elfin Crisp Moss — Tortula acaulon.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from