Northern Ontario Plant Database
Ptilium crista-castrensis (Hedw.) DeNot
En: plume moss, ostrich plume feathermoss, knight's plume feathermoss, knight's plume
Hypnaceae (Plait moss Family)
Form: an elegant feathermoss, with flat, feathery shoots forming loose, shiny, bright green to golden-green mats in the forest understory; stems usually arching to somewhat ascending; rhizoids usually absent.
Gametophyte: stems regularly and tightly pinnately branched, with branches formed at right angles to the stem; forming attractive feather-like shoots with triangular tips. Plants 3-11 cm long; stem and branch tips curved downward. Plants dioecious, with male and female reproductive structures borne on separate plants. Stem leaves 2-3 mm long, ovate-triangular, with obvious lenghtwise folds (plicate), tip acuminate, curled; margins entire; costa short and double. Branch leaves 1-2 mm long, lanceolate, plicate, with an acuminate, strongly recurved tip (circinate-secund) that points toward the base of the shoot; margins entire; costa short and double.
Sporophyte: sporophytes reddish-brown, seta 2-3 cm long, capsule 1.5-2 mm long, curved, held horizontal to the shoot. Sporophytes are occasionally found in the boreal region, but occur uncommonly in other regions.
Habitat and Range in the understory of mixedwood and conifer forests, usually forming medium to large patches amongst other feathermoss species; sometimes on rotting logs and humus-covered boulders. Ptilium crista-castrensis is a circumpolar species that extends across northern Ontario.
Similar Species: Ptilium can be differentiated from Hypnum species by the curve of the leaves. In Ptilium, the leaves curve towards the base of the shoot, while in Hypnum, the leaves curve towards the the underside of the shoot. Robust specimens of Sanionia uncinata (sickle moss) can be differentiated in the same manner, plus the costa in Sanionia leaves is single.
Internet Images: This webpage, with 2 images of Ptilium crista-castrensis, is from the Mosses and Lichens section of Andy's Northern Ontario Wildflower Webpage.
An image of Ptilium crista-castrensis from the Mosses of Alaska website.
For pictures of the leaf detail, see this selection of Ptilium crista-castrensis images from Bioimages: the Virtual Field-Guide.
Back to species list