Juniper Haircap - Polytrichum juniperinum


    A medium-sized Polytrichum, forming extensive, open patches of unbranched, erect shoots about 3 to 4 cm tall, with leaves up to about 1 cm long. The reddish stems are clothed with evenly spaced, greyish-green leaves with untoothed margins and a distinctive, red-brown tip. When dry, the leaf margins are strongly inrolled and the leaves are slightly flexed and appressed to the stem, the whole shoot becoming sharply pointed and slightly glaucous in appearance. In spring, the male plants are very conspicuous, with their bright, reddish-orange, modified leaves forming small terminal ‘flowers’ at the shoot ends. The erect to sub-erect capsules, which are commonly produced in summer, are usually 4-angled, with a crimson, beaked lid, and are borne on a reddish seta 2–5 cm long.

    Identification difficulty
    Recording advice

    A good photo is needed.


    A common species of dry, exposed, acidic habitats, frequently occurring as a pioneer on recently disturbed or burnt, acidic soils. P. juniperinum is abundant in many freely draining habitats, especially in lowland areas. Favourite habitats include dry, grassy heaths, grassland in fixed dunes, spoil on quarries and collieries, forestry tracks, soil-capped walls and boulder tops. It sometimes grows on leached soil overlying limestone and occasionally on gravelly graves.

    UK Status

    Frequent and widespread in Britain.

    VC55 Status

    Fairly frequent in Leicestershire and Rutland.

    be our species champion

    Leicestershire & Rutland Map

    MAP KEY:

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

    UK Map