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Feather Moss

Ptilium spp.

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Plant Profile

Hypnaceae (Feather Moss)
Maximum Size:
2 centimetres tall
Gardens, grassland, mountains, riversides, rocky places, walls, waterside, woodland.
Flowerless. Mosses reproduces using spores or asexually.
Long erect stalks with a spore-bearing, drooping, nipple-shaped fruit on top.
Feathery as the name implies. Carpet-forming.
Other Names:
Boreal Forest Moss, Fringed Feather Moss.
Frequency (UK):

Other Information


Ptilium moss, also known as fringed feather moss, is a species of moss in the genus Ptilium. It is native to North America, Europe, and Asia. It is known for its feathery, fringed appearance and its green, delicate leaves. It typically grows in damp, shady areas, such as woodlands and along streambanks. It is commonly found in the understory of moist woods and it often forms mats or carpets on the forest floor. It is also used as an ornamental plant, It is appreciated by gardeners and landscapers for its delicate appearance and its ability to form an attractive, low-maintenance ground cover in shady areas. It is also commonly used in terrariums and in dish gardens.


Ptilium species, commonly known as feather moss, is a genus of mosses that belong to the family Hypnaceae. These mosses are found in various parts of the world, including North America, Europe, and Asia, and are commonly seen growing in moist and shady environments, such as forests, bogs, and wetlands.

Feather mosses are named for their feather-like appearance, with many slender and delicate shoots branching off a central stem. These mosses can grow up to 10cm tall and form dense, mat-like clusters on the forest floor. Ptilium species have many fine leaves that are arranged in a spiral pattern around the stem, giving them a distinctive appearance.

One of the most notable features of Ptilium species is their ability to retain water. This is due to the unique structure of their leaves, which have long, narrow cells that can hold water like a sponge. This makes them well-adapted to living in damp environments where water is readily available. They are also able to grow in low-light conditions, which makes them ideal for colonizing forest floors.

Feather mosses play an important role in the ecosystem. They are known to absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to mitigate climate change. Additionally, they provide a habitat for a wide range of insects and small animals, such as beetles, spiders, and snails. These animals, in turn, are an important food source for larger predators like birds and mammals.

Ptilium species have a long history of use in traditional medicine. In some cultures, they are used to treat respiratory conditions, such as asthma and bronchitis, as well as skin ailments and digestive issues. They contain a number of compounds that have been shown to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, which may explain their medicinal benefits.

Feather mosses are also known to have an interesting reproductive cycle. They reproduce asexually through the growth and fragmentation of shoots, but they can also reproduce sexually by producing male and female gametes. The sperm are carried by raindrops or insects to the female gametes, which then develop into sporophytes, the stage of the moss life cycle that produces spores. The spores are dispersed by wind and can grow into new moss plants, continuing the cycle.

Feather mosses are also used for decorative purposes, particularly in terrariums and miniature gardens. Their delicate appearance and ability to thrive in low-light conditions make them ideal for creating small-scale landscapes.

Despite their many benefits, feather mosses are under threat from habitat destruction, climate change, and pollution. Wetland and forest destruction, overuse of fertilizers and pesticides, and air pollution are all major threats to these important plants. It is important to protect and conserve their habitats and promote sustainable forestry practices to ensure their survival.

Another interesting fact about Ptilium species is that they have been used historically as a natural insulation material. In Scandinavian countries, feather moss was commonly used as insulation in traditional houses and even in Viking ships. The moss was harvested from the forest floor and dried before being packed into the walls or roof of the building to provide insulation against the cold.

Feather mosses also have cultural significance in some indigenous communities. In the Inuit culture, for example, feather moss has been used in traditional medicine and as a natural dye for clothing. The moss is also used in some ceremonial practices and as a symbol of resilience and adaptability in harsh environments.

Feather mosses are also an important indicator of environmental health. As they are sensitive to changes in moisture levels, nutrient availability, and air pollution, they can be used to monitor the health of ecosystems and identify areas that may be under stress.

In recent years, there has been growing interest in the potential use of feather mosses in bioremediation, the process of using living organisms to remove pollutants from the environment. Some studies have shown that feather mosses can absorb heavy metals and other contaminants from soil and water, making them a potentially useful tool in environmental cleanup efforts.

In conclusion, Ptilium species, or feather moss, are remarkable plants with many interesting and important features. From their unique adaptations to their cultural significance, they have captured the imagination of humans for centuries. As we continue to learn more about these fascinating plants, it is essential that we work to protect and conserve their habitats and promote sustainable practices to ensure their survival in a changing world.