Comb-moss - Ctenidium molluscum

Alternative names
Comb Moss

This very variable moss forms soft, closely branched, loose, yellowish-green patches. The common variety is var. molluscum. Typical shoots are 2 to 3 cm long, but var. condensatum and var. robustum can grow considerably bigger. Leaves are 1 to 2 mm long (but smaller on the branches), broadly triangular, strongly curved in the same direction, nerveless and undulate. The tip of the branches is often hooked and seems more shiny than the rest of the branch because the leaves overlap one another so densely. Var. sylvaticum has stout branches and a strongly hooked branch tip. Var. condensatum has creeping, pinnately branched stems. Var. robustum has erect, irregularly branched stems that form tufts. Var. fastigiatum is very slender, with erect stems and branches up to 3 cm tall. Capsules are rare.

Identification difficulty

Varieties of this plant are found in many calcareous habitats such as woods, banks, cliffs, flushes and grassland. It may grow on rocks or soil and, as an indicator of base-rich conditions, its presence frequently alerts the bryologist to the possibility of uncommon species nearby. Var. sylvaticum is fairly frequent on acidic soil and humus in woods in southern England. Var. condensatum is scarce on damp, shaded cliffs, in flushes and in scree. Var. robustum is rare on sheltered, base-rich rocks in the mountains. Var. fastigiatum is also rare on base-rich rocks at high altitudes.

UK Status

Fairly frequent and widespread in Britain.

VC55 Status

Fairly frequent in Leicestershire and Rutland.

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Leicestershire & Rutland Map


Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

UK Map