Knowing Your Acrocarp From Your Pleurocarp

Our main mission at Moss and Stone Gardens‘ blog, is to educate those desiring to learn more about mosses.  Our goal is to make it easy for you to understand mosses; to take the mystery out of moss – not the mystic.

As a landscape design group specializing in moss and stone gardens, we work with homeowners and design professionals designing with moss.

Particularly today, in what appears to be a movement towards moss, as designers and gardeners are looking for sustainable, shade loving options, either as a lawn replacement or as a sculptural backdrop to accent the grounds of commercial or residential properties, we feel it is even more important to help with this education.  As such, this is the first in a series to educate the reader about mosses on the most basic level — an introduction — to begin to guide you through the movement towards moss.

All mosses can be classified as 2 types:  Acrocarpous and Pleurocarpous

Recently, I asked David Spain, our moss expert, to describe the two types of mosses we are so often writing about.  I hope you learn as much about Acrocarps and Pleurocarps as I did.  If you have further questions, please leave a comment and David will get back with you.

Acrocarpous – Dicranum scoparium

Acrocarpous mosses have an upright growth habit.

As defined by,  Acrocarpous Moss – A type of moss in which the archegonia (i.e. female sex organs), and hence the capsules are borne at the tips of stems or branches.  Acrocarpous mosses may branch extensively; once they have fruited, branches take over the erect growth.

Acrocarps are usually unbranched and erect, forming a mounded colony.

Acrocarps are slower growing than Pleurocarps.

The sporophytes of the Acrocarps emerge from the tips of the plant.

Acrocarps do not regenerate from fragments as quickly as Pleurocarps.

Weeds are less likely to invade Acrocarps due to the thickness and tight packed stems.

Common Acrocarps for moss gardens are: Polytrichum commune, Dicranum scopariumCampylopus introflexus, and Luecobryum glaucum.

Pleurocarpous – Bryoandersonia illecebra

Pleurocapous mosses have a prostrate growth habit.

As defined by, Pleurocarpous – A type of moss in which the female sex organs (archegonia) and capsules are borne on short, lateral branches, and not at the tips of branches. Pleurocarpous mosses tend to form spreading carpets rather than erect tufts.

Pleurocarps are freely branching in a chaotic fashion.

Pleurocarps spread out branches from the colony in a creeping fashion.

The sporophytes of the Pleurocarps emerge mid stem.

Most Pleurocarps grow faster than Acrocarps.

Pleurocarps quickly regenerate from broken fragments.

Pleurocarps quick attachment to stone and growth rate makes them better for colonizing hard substrates.

Maintenance of Pleurocarps is easier due to their matting tendencies and low even profile, blowing debris off of them is easier.

Pleurocarps can be used as a nursery for Acrocarps, once an area is colonized by these pioneer mosses, the slower growing Acrocarps can more easily colonize.

Common Pleurocarps for moss garden are: Thuidium delecatulumPlagiomnium cuspidatumClimacium americanumBryandersonia illecebraEntodon seductrixHypnum cupressiforme, and Hypnum imponens.


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