Syntrichia laevipila

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Identification notes

Syntrichia laevipila is a frequent epiphyte on a variety of trees, usually found on the lower trunk rather than the branches. It forms cushions which can coalesce into larger patches. When dry, like other plants in this genus, the leaves are appressed, twisted and greyish so it is not especially conspicuous. When moist the leaves are spreading or slightly recurved, forming obvious cushions which often have cylindrical capsules. Sometimes, small leaf-like gemmae can be found in the axils at the apex of the shoot.

Usually the identity of the plant is clear from the habitat, but sometimes S.montana can grow on tree trunks, especially in urban areas. S.laevipila can sometimes be found on rocks and walls. S.montana cushions are usually more compact and a brighter green, but these features should not be relied on. The outer rows of leaf cells are more pellucid in S.laevipila but this can be difficult to see in the field. The key character is that the hair point is smooth in S.laevipila and denticulate in S.montana.

A number of other Syntrichia can be found as epiphytes. S.papillosa has obvious gemmae on the ventral aspect of the leaf and S.latifolia has no hair point. S.virescens is smaller but microscopy may be required for confirmation.

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Distribution in Great Britain and Ireland

Widespread in southern England and Wales, becoming less common further north. Scattered localities in Ireland.

View distribution from the BBS Atlas 2014

Resources you may find useful

Gallego, M.T.  2005. A taxonomic study of the genus Syntrichia Brid. (Pottiaceae, Musci) in the Mediterranean Region and Macaronesia. Journal of the Hattori Botanical Laboratory. 47-122.

A widespread review of this genus including some European species not known to occur here.

Similar Species

Confusion is possible with several Syntrichia species, not just those listed below.