brocade moss

(Callicladium imponens)

Conservation Status
brocade moss
Photo by Luciearl
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed


Feather moss is a classification of convenience for identifying certain mosses in the field that have a feather-like appearance. It has no taxonomic equivalent. There are at least seven feather mosses found in Minnesota.

Brocade moss is a medium-sized to large, carpet-forming (pleurocarpous), golden-yellow to yellowish-green or brown, feather moss. It occurs in Europe and in North America. In the United States it is common from Maine to Minnesota south to Georgia and Arkansas, and there are scattered records in the west. In Minnesota it is common in the Arrowhead region, infrequent in the Metro area, and absent from the remainder of the state. It grows on the floor of moist forests on soil, soil-covered rocks, logs, and stumps. It often forms dense mats which can cover large areas.

The main stem is creeping and lies flat on the ground (prostrate) or nearly so. Erect or almost erect, 13 16 to 4 (3 to 10 cm) long branches arise at regular intervals along the main stem, creating a repeating pattern when viewed from above. These branches are reddish-brown and usually regularly pinnately branched, sometimes partially twice pinnate, sometimes irregularly pinnate. These secondary branches (branchlets) are 1 32 to 1 16 (0.3 to 1.2 mm) long and are arranged in a single plane, giving the branch a flat appearance. The upper half of each leaf is very finely toothed, but this cannot be seen without strong magnification. At the base of each branchlet there is a whorl of tiny, leaf-like, appendages (pseudoparaphyllia). The pseudoparaphyllia are lance-shaped and mostly deeply cut.

Stem leaves are shiny, flat, oblong lance-shaped, 1 16 (0.8 to 2.0 mm) long, and 1 32 (0.6 to 0.8 mm) wide. They have a short, double midrib but this is nearly impossible to see, even with a hand lens. They are swept to one side and strongly curved, like a sickle, the curve often as much as 180°. The leaf tips point downward, toward the substrate.

A spore-bearing reproductive structure (sporophyte) rises from the tip of a small branchlet that is well below the tip of a major branch. The sporophyte is a small capsule at the end of a long stalk (seta). The seta is slender, reddish-brown, smooth, and to 13 16 (1 to 3 cm) long. The capsule is erect or slightly angled, reddish-brown, smooth, and cylinder-shaped. At the end of the capsule there is an obliquely angled opening. When immature the capsule opening (mouth) is covered with a membranous hood (operculum) and a large, smooth cap (calyptra). The operculum is cone-shaped or beak-like. The capsule is 1 16 to (1.5 to 3.0 mm) long not including the operculum, and is somewhat curved below the mouth. As it matures, the capsule develops a ring around the opening (annulus). When mature, the annulus forces the operculum and calyptra to drop off exposing the capsule opening. Around the opening there are two sets of teeth. The outer set has 16 yellowish to brownish teeth, each with a distinct zig-zag line. The inner teeth are pale and yellowish.


Growth Form






13 16 to 4 (3 to 10 cm)


Similar Species


Moist. Forest floors. On soil, logs, and soil-covered rocks. Shade.




Capsules mature July to September




Distribution Map



4, 10, 24, 29, 30.








Common in the Arrowhead region

  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Bryophyta (mosses)  
  Subdivision Bryophytina (moss)  
  Class Bryopsida (joint-toothed mosses)  
  Subclass Bryidae  
  Superorder Hypnanae  


Hypnales (feather mosses)  





Brocade moss was formerly classified as Hypnum imponens. The genus Hypnum was a wastebasket genus, containing basically all creeping, branched, or pleurocarpous mosses, and representing about half of the diversity of mosses. A recent study (Schlesak et al., 2018) used molecular DNA to sort the mosses. Hypnum imponens was transferred to the genus Callicladium.


Subordinate Taxa






Hypnum imponens

Hypnum cupressiforme var. imponens


Common Names


brocade moss

hypnum moss











On mosses: a ring of cells around the capsule opening beneath the operculum.



On mosses: A thin cap that covers and protects the capsule and operculum and drops off at maturity.



On mosses: A lid or cover that covers the opening of a capsule and detaches at maturity.



On a compound leaf, having the leaflets arranged on opposite sides of a common stalk. On a bryophyte, having branches evenly arranged on opposite sides of a stem.



Laying flat on the ground.



In Lepidoptera: A usually rigid bristle- or hair-like outgrowth used to sense touch. In mosses:The stalk supporting a spore-bearing capsule and supplying it with nutrients. Plural: setae.

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Location: Fairview twp., Cass County

brocade moss  

Location: Superior Hiking Trail, Cook County

brocade moss  






Created: 11/15/2019

Last Updated:

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