This is a member of a small but well-known community of mosses whose natural habitat is in the flood zone of silty lowland rivers. There, it often grows with Syntrichia latifolia, Dialytrichia mucronata, Cinclidotus fontinaloides and even Didymodon sinuous and D. nicholsonii.
However, like its associates, S. cespitans has adopted a second, man-made habitat and in many areas will most frequently be found growing in large green patches on tarmac of driveways, tracks and minor lanes in places that remain damp much of the time, thereby mimicking its riparian habitat.
Large colonies can be spotted from a distance with a little practice and S. cespitans is particularly conspicuous when the shoots dry out. It prefers neutral to slightly acid situations and avoids those where the surface is irrigated by run-off of lime-rich water, where Cirriphyllum crassinervium tends to replace it.Read the Field Guide account