Dwarf Haircap - Pogonatum aloides


As its name suggests, P. aloides resembles a small Aloe, with its short, stiff, dark green, rather triangular leaves arranged in a rosette-like tuft on short, stout, reddish stems. Note that P. nanum looks like a small version of P. aloides but variations in P. aloides make identification of non-fertile colonies impossible. Individual shoots of both species tend to emerge from a low, persistent, vividly green protonemal felt. The shoots are less than 1 cm tall and most conspicuous when crowned by male inflorescences or sporophytes. Individual leaves are 3 to 4 mm long, with blunt, multicellular marginal teeth along much of the blade. The upper surface of the leaf above the colourless sheathing base is largely covered by longitudinally orientated, parallel plates of cells. Capsules are commonly produced on a 3 to 4 cm tall reddish seta, and provide the only reliable means of identification. The short, almost spherical capsule of P. nanum is distinct from the upright, shortly cylindrical capsule of P. aloides. In P. aloides, the capsule wall is very pale, whereas in P. nanum it is mid-green when unripe. The calyptrae of both species are densely hairy.

Similar Species

Could be confused with P. nanum.

Identification difficulty

P. aloides is a fairly common colonist of bare, loose, acidic soils, usually sheltered and often where heavily shaded. It is relatively widespread in the uplands, but appears to have declined in lowland Britain, where it grows on steep, sandy, loamy banks on the root plates of fallen trees in woodlands. P. nanum has declined more dramatically and is now largely restricted to coastal areas, with a few widely scattered inland.

UK Status

Widespread and fairly frequent in Britain, though less so in eastern England.

VC55 Status

Most records for VC55 seem to be concentrated in north west Leicestershire.

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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