Polytrichum commune - Common Hair Cap Moss


Moss.  What comes to mind when you hear “moss”?  Probably an image of that useless green fuzz you see on rocks when you’re hiking or in your neighbor’s garden, but there is more to moss then meets the eye.  By looking over this website you will find the answers to questions you never even thought to ask about an organism as seemingly boring as moss.  Next time you come across that bit of green fuzz you will not leave unimpressed.

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Polytrichum commune. © James K. Lindsey


With a distinct appearance the Common Hair Cap Moss gets its name from the hairs that cover, or cap, the calyptra where each spore case is held (1).  Looking down on it, the Common Hair Cap Moss has a star shaped appearance because of the pointed leaves arranged spirally at right angles around a stiff stem (3).  Like other mosses, it is generally a dark green colour and doesn’t grow very tall.  The Common Hair Cap Moss has no woody tissue so it only grows from 4-20cm tall (2).  Growing like a lush green carpet, the average life span of this moss is three to five years, although ten has been recorded, and even dead the moss remains intact, and is what makes up the lower portion of this organism (7).


Living all over the world both in the wild and as decorative ground coverings in personal gardens Common Hair Cap Moss is easy to find.  Preferring to live in lightly shaded areas with moist slightly acidic soil, it can also survive in areas of full sunlight provided the soil is moist (2).  The Common Hair Cap Moss can also grow in areas of poor soil and slow drainage.  These characteristics make this moss a good plant for all types of gardens and gardeners.  In gardens of Japan, where mosses are used commonly, the Common Hair Cap Moss is used more than any other species combined.  In the wild it grows in many places, from granite outcrops to the coastal plain to the banks of ponds or lakes.  With the ability to grow in a diversity of habitats, Common Hair Cap Moss is seen all over the world.


Although the Common Hair Cap Moss has three types of shoots, it is the male and female shoots which are necessary for reproduction.  The female shoots develop the eggs and the male shoots develop the sperm.  In the spring, raindrops splash the sperm from the male shoots to the female shoots where they then travel into the egg. 

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Click on an image to view larger version & data in a new window
Life cycle of a dioicous moss

© 1997 BIODIDAC. Modified from original drawings by Ivy Livingstone. Life cycle of a dioicous moss. 

During the summer spores are released and carried by the wind.  When the spore reaches a habitat it can survive in, it germinates and the process starts over again (6).&


Not just visually pleasing, Common Hair Cap Moss has other uses.  It is used by some people to make a tea to dissolve kidney and gall bladder stones (5).  Also, this moss is good for hair, so the same tea was used by women as a rinse to strengthen their hair.  In the past the stems have been woven and used to make baskets.  Like many plants the Common Hair Cap Moss can be useful to humans.  


In closing, moss is more important that it may seem.  All organisms play a role in the way the world works and even something as small and inconspicuous as Common Hair Cap Moss is valuable.


(1) “hair-cap moss”. Encyclopedia Britannica. 2005. Encyclopedia Britannica Online

School Edition. 6 October 2005< http://school.eb.como/eb/article-9038818 >

(2) Polytrichum. 6 October 2005.

< >

(3) Giallombardo, Angelo. Polytrichum commune. May 2001. 3 October 2005.

< >

(4) Mosses and Liverworts (Bryophyta). December 2001. 3 October 2005.

< >

(5) Hair Cap Mosses. 3 October 2005.

< >

(6) Holley, Lauren. Biology, Natural History, and Ecology of Polytrichum commune-

Common Moss. October 6 2005. < Bryophyta/Polytrichaceae/Polytrichum/commune/ >

(7) “life span." Encyclopedia Britannica. 2005. Encyclopedia Britannica

Online School Edition. 10 Oct. 2005

(8) Wyatt, Robert E. Plant Life on Granite Outcrops. 23 December 2004. 6 October

2005. < LandResources/GeographyandEnvironment/SpeciesPatternsofDiversityandLif&id=h-3156 >

(9) Introduction to Byrosphere. 6 October 2005.

Learning Information

About This Page

Author: newmoss1
Classroom Project: Moss Individual
Havergal College
Toronto, Ontario Canada

License: Creative Commons Attribution License - Version 2.0

Correspondence regarding this page should be directed to , Havergal College

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