Ptilium crista-castrensis (Hedw.)
knight's plume (knights plume moss)

Species Account Author: Wilf Schofield
Extracted from Some Common Mosses of BC

Introduction to the Bryophytes of BC


© Steve Henstra     (Photo ID #31284)


E-Flora BC Static Map

Distribution of Ptilium crista-castrensis
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Species Information

Species description:
Genus name referring to the feather-like growth form. Species name meaning military plume, in reference to its resemblance to the feather on a soldier's hat.
Sometimes called Hypnum crista-castrenesis, a synonym. Commonly called the knight's plume moss.
Distinguishing characteristics:
The regular, feather-like plants with the branches almost at right angles to the main shoot, the pale yellow­green colour tending to golden in sunny sites, and the pleated falcate­secund leaves that point toward the base of the main shoot, are distinctive.
Forming mats of pale, yellow-green to golden green, regularly branched shoots that may be suberect or reclining.
Similar Species:
Within the genus Hypnum there are several species superficially similar to Ptilium. H. subimponens and H. callichroum are often regularly branched and yellow-green but the falcate-secund leaves are not pleated and point to the underside of the stem rather than to the stem base as in Ptilium. H. procerrimum sometimes shows the same regu­lar branching but plants are not yellow-green but tend to reddish­ brown. The regular branching of Ctenidium schofieldii is also similar to Ptilium, but C. schofieldii is reddish-brown to dark green and the main stem leaves are conspicuously squarrose. In calcareous marshy habitats Cratoneuron commutatum is sometimes regularly branched but forms dense mats of erect, rather than creeping plants; Ptilium is always in well-drained sites, usually in· forests. Some specimens of Drepanocladus uncinatus may resemble Ptilium but the Drepanocladus has a single mid­rib and the branch leaves curve downward toward the soil surface rather than in the direction of the base of the main shoot, which is characteristic for Ptilium.


If more than one illustration is available for a species (e.g., separate illustrations were provided for two subspecies) then links to the separate images will be provided below. Note that individual subspecies or varietal illustrations are not always available.

Illustration SourceSome Common Mosses of BC

Habitat and Range

Coniferous forest floors and occasionally on bog margins, from sea level to alpine elevations, occasionally in tundra. Reproduction: Sporophytes occasional, maturing in summer, red­ brown when mature.
World Distribution

Circumtemperate in the Northern Hemisphere; widespread in northern North America, extending in the east southward to the southern Appalachian Mountains, and in the west southward to Wyoming.


Synonyms and Alternate Names:
Hypnum crista-castrensis Hedw.