tree climacium moss

(Climacium dendroides)

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern


NNR - Unranked

SNR - Unranked


not listed

tree climacium moss
Photo by Luciearl

Tree climacium moss is a large, carpet-forming (pleurocarpous), feather moss. It occurs in Europe, Asia, and North America, where it is native. It also occurs in New Zealand, where it was probably introduced. In the United States, it occurs from Maine to South Carolina, west to Washington and New Mexico. It is common in Minnesota.

Tree climacium moss grows on the ground or on logs, rarely on rocks. It grows in moist or wet areas, especially areas subject to periodic fluctuations of water. It is found in rich woodlands, marshes, swamps, fens, the edges of peatlands, the edges of lakes, damp grasslands, and dune slacks. It is usually found in a loose tuft of numerous plants, but it sometimes grows alone. When young, each plant in the tuft looks distinctly tree-like. When mature, the upper branches intertwine with adjacent plants, making it difficult to pick out an individual plant.

The primary stem is creeping, rhizome-like, and it lies flat on the ground (prostrate). It is mostly leafless, and it is densely covered with loose, woolly, reddish-brown filaments (rhizoids) that anchor it to the ground. The plant’s growth form is sympodial. Two branches are formed at the end of the primary stem. One branch lies flat on the ground and becomes a continuation of the primary stem. The second branch becomes the secondary (aerial) stem.

The aerial stem is erect, reddish brown, robust, and ¾ to 3 (2 to 8 cm) tall. It has tree-like branching, with numerous crowded branches at the top of the stem and no branches below. It appears to be naked, but it has appressed, scale-like leaves.

The stem leaves are egg shaped and broadly angled at the tip. There is sometimes an abrupt, sharp point at the tip. They may have ear-like expansions (auricles) at the base or be only slightly expanded at the base.

The branch leaves are narrowly egg shaped, 116to (2 to 3 mm) long, and dark green to yellowish. They have a single prominent midrib. They are folded or pleated longitudinally near the end. The tip is broadly angled and has an abrupt, sharp point. Branch leaves are spreading when they are wet, but they are tightly appressed when they are dry. Tiny, green, photosynthetic filaments (paraphyllia) are borne between the leaves, but it requires a 20x hand lens to see them.

Male plants are much more common than female plants, and reproductive structures (capsules) are rarely produced. When present, the capsules are erect, reddish orange to reddish brown, shortly oblong cylinder shaped, symmetric, and 116 to (1.5 to 3 mm) long or longer. They mature in the fall.


Growth Form




¾ to 3 (2 to 8 cm)


Similar Species


Rrich woodlands, marshes, swamps, fens, the edges of peatlands, the edges of lakes, damp grasslands, and dune slacks



Capsules mature in the fall




Distribution Map



3, 4, 10, 24, 29, 30.

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






Common and widespread



Plantae (green algae and land plants)


Viridiplantae (green plants)


Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)


Embryophyta (land plants)


Bryophyta (mosses)


Bryophytina (moss)


Bryopsida (joint-toothed mosses)






Hypnales (feather mosses)


Climaciaceae (climacium moss)


Climacium (climacium mosses)


Subordinate Taxa

At least eleven varieties of this species have been described, but none of them are currently recognized.



Amblystegium solitarium

Calliergon solitarium

Climacium epigaeum

Climacium europaeanum

Climacium novae-seelandiae

Hypnum dendroides

Hypnum dendroides var. europaeum

Hypnum solitarium

Leskea dendroides

Neckera dendroides


Common Names

common tree moss

European tree moss

tree climacium moss

tree moss









A small, ear-like projection at the base of a leaf or at the junction of a grass blade and stem.



Laying flat on the ground.



A filament arising from the lower stem of a moss, liverwort, or alga that anchors it to a substrate.



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Climacium dendroides

Climacium dendroides
Amadej Trnkoczy

Climacium dendroides

Climacium dendroides (Hedw.) Web. & Mohr., syn: Amblystegium solitarium H.A. Möller, Calliergon solitarium (H.A. Möller) Broth., Climacium epigaeum Stirt., Climacium europaeanum P. Beauv., Leskea dendroides Hedw.

Family: Climaciaceae
EN: Tree-moss, DE: Bäumchenartiges Leitermoos
Slo.: škrlatni rogatec

Dat.: April 12. 2021
Lat.: 46.35962 Long.: 13.70501
Code: Bot_ 1358/2021_DSC6710

Habitat: Light wood, Fagus sylvatica dominant tree; slightly incline mountain slope. east aspect; calcareous, colluvial ground; mostly in shade; average precipitations ~ 3.000 mm/year, average temperature 7-9 deg C, elevations 550 m (1.800 feet), alpine phytogeographical region.

Substratum: soil and rock.

Place: Lower Trenta valley, right bank of river Soča; between villages Soča and Trenta; near Trenta 2 abandoned farm house Skokar, East Julian Alps, Posočje, Slovenia EC.

Comment (applies to Flicks album Climacium dendroides): Climacium dendroides

is common, quite large and easy to recognize moss. Many individual shots, often in large patches, grow from a hidden, prostrate, ground appressed, rhizome-like primary stems. The shots are 2 to 4 cm tall and look like a miniature trees or palms, most distinctly when growing on humid places. The moss is a dioecious (having the male and female reproductive organs in separate individuals) plant. Capsules appear rather rarely.



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Other Videos

The tree ladder moss or tree-like palm moss (Climacium dendroides)
Carnivorus Monster


Apr 5, 2023

The tree ladder moss or tree-like palm moss (Climacium dendroides) is a deciduous moss common in Central Europe, which always occurs in very damp places.



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Location: Fairview Twp, Cass County

tree climacium moss Sightings






Created: 2/20/2024

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