fern mosses

(Thuidium spp.)

fern moss (Thuidium sp.)
Photo by Luciearl

Thuidium is a large genus of feather mosses called fern mosses. It occurs worldwide on every continent except Antarctica. In the United States it occurs east of the Great Plains and in the northwest. It is common in Minnesota.

There are about 230 Thuidium species worldwide, six species in North America north of Mexico, and 3 species in Minnesota.


Thuidium mosses are large mosses that are fern-like in appearance.

The stems creep along the ground or are arched, curving up at the base. They are highly branched and are two or three times pinnately divided.

Stem leaves and branch leaves are egg-shaped. The midrib (costa) ends before the leaf tip.

Female sex organs (archegonia) and male sex organs (antheridia) are borne on separate plants (dioicous).

The capsule is cylinder-shaped and curved, and it is held horizontally. The stalk supporting the capsule (seta) is usually smooth, rarely roughened (papillose).

The two most common Thuidium species in Minnesota are Thuidium delicatulum and Thuidium recognitum. They are very difficult to tell apart in the field. Reliable identification requires examining the leaves under a compound microscope.


Distribution Map



3, 4, 24, 29, 30.

County Atlas of Minnesota Mosses (2000), Joannes A. Janssens

Janssens, J.A. 2014. Noteworthy Mosses & Liverworts of Minnesota, Part II: Species Fact Sheets. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources 2014, 208 pp.

  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)  



Subordinate Taxa


Allen’s fern moss (Thuidium allenii)

common tamarisk-moss (Thuidium tamariscinum)

delicate fern moss (Thuidium delicatulum)

eastern weft-moss (Thuidium cymbifolium)

hook-leaved fern moss (Thuidium recognitum)

Philbert’s fern moss (Thuidium assimile)






Common Names


fern mosses

thuidium mosses












On ferns: The central axis of a pinna, to which pinnules are attached. On mosses: the central axis (midvein) of a leaf. On insects: The vein on the leading edge of the forewing.



In bryophytes, having female sex organs (archegonia) and male sex organs (antheridia) on separate plants.



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.



A stiff, hair-like process on the outer surface of an organism. 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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    fern moss (Thuidium sp.)      
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Location: Fairview Twp.

fern moss (Thuidium sp.)

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Created: 11/10/2023

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