Pleurozium schreberi

Schreber's Feathermoss

Schreber's Feathermoss

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods



  • Pleurozium, from the Latin
  • schreberi, from the Latin, "of Schreber, Schreber's", named for German botanist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber (1739-1810),a student of Linnaeus.
  • Common Name, from
  • Other common names include: Schreber's Moss, Red Stemmed Feather Moss, Feather Moss, Schreber's Big Red Stem Moss, Harilik palusammal, kulliküüs (Est)


  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Phylum Bryophyta, the Hornworts and Mosses
      • Class Musci, the Mosses
        • Subclass Bryidae, the Mosses
          • Order Hypnales
            • Family Hylocomiaceae
              • Genus Pleurozium, the Big Red Stem Mosses
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 16373
  • Also known as Calliergon schreberi, Calliergonella schreberi, Calliergonella schreberi var. tananae



  • A perennial, relatively large, robust moss with a weave growth form. It is usually prostrate or partly erect, freely branched, and grows in mats rather than tufts. The stems are 2½"-4½" long, and the leaves loosely imbricate.


  • Greenland to Alaska; south (principally in uplands) to North Carolina, Arkansas, South Dakota, Colorado and west to Washington, California and Oregon. Also South America, Europe, and Asia.


  • Often occurs in closed to semi-open coniferous forests predominantly in boreal and cool temperate climates. It also occurs in damp woods, swamps, or margins of bogs. Although most abundant in old, closed, mesic stands, it is also found in dry, nutrient-poor, open, black spruce-lichen stands in suitable areas at the base of birch (Betula spp.) and Black Spruce (Picea mariana).
  • Soils: Occurs on humus and exposed mineral soil and coarse fragments or rocks. Often abundant on nitrogen-poor, acidic soils throughout much of its range and is sometimes used as an indicator of acidic soils. Soil textures range from course to fine sand, loam, or clay-loam. It normally does not grow on calcareous soils.
  • Very shade tolerant, typically occuring in stable late stages of succession. After the canopy closes, will generally form a continuous carpet on the forest floor. Given a shady, humid, high-nutrient environment as is found on the cool, basal slopes of Black Spruce-White Spruce-Feathermoss stands, Schreber's moss is a very effective competitor against other species. It can quickly spread over and eliminate other ground cover such as lichens.
  • Typically occurs as a dominant or codominant ground cover in stands dominanted by White Spruce (Picea glauca) or Black Spruce (Picea mariana).


  • Not well adapted to fire. It typically occurs in wet stands of White or Black Spruce that have a fire cycle of 200 to 400 years. When they do burn, the moss/lichen layer provides the major source of fuels. These fuels take only minutes to reach equilibrium moisture content when the relative humidity changes; therefore, they are very flammable.
  • Generally killed by fire because it often lacks connection with the substrate. Some moss species can survive on burned sites as fragments in the soil.
  • Recovery after fire very slow. It is not until favorable edaphic conditions and a closed or nearly closed canopy is established that Schreber's moss can spread and form a continuous moss cover. It therefore often takes several decades before recovery to preburn densities.



  • Formerly collected and used to block chinks in the walls of homes in Scandinavia. It is still used for chinking log homes in Russia.
  • Was also used for lining fruit and vegetable storage boxes.


  • Used as an indicator of heavy metal deposition. Often used in locating pollution sources and determining levels of pollution of heavy metals in the environment. It absorbs metals over its entire surface and is little influenced by variations in substrate mineralization. Close to the source, this moss accumulates high levels of metals.
  • Known to efficiently intercept nutrients contained in precipitation, thus preventing rapid leaching of nutrients to lower levels of the soil. With its storage capacity, the moss carpet can act as a reservoir in which a large proportion of the potentially available nutrients found in the ecosytem is sequestered. However, it has also been recognized that Mycorrhizal mechanisms may exist for the transfer of nutrients from the moss carpet to the trees where roots of some trees grow in close association with mosses.


  • Sexual reproduction: A dioecious, pleurocarpous (producing the sporophytes laterally from short, lateral, specialized branches rather that at the stem tip) moss. The spores are shed 9 to 12 months after fertilization. The period of gametangial (structure containing the gametes) development is approximately 7 months for archegonia (female gametophyte) and 9 months for antheridia (male gametophtye). The timing of gametangial development in spring may be influenced by the duration or severity of the winter.
  • Reproduces vegetatively by branching laterally. The main stems are perennial and appear to be capable of indefinite growth. There is a growth resting phase in the winter.
  • The beginning of blooming in mosses occurs when one or two archegonia open. In North America, blooms in August and September. The gametangial develop in spring of the following year. The spores are shed throughout the year following fertilization. Capsules may persist on stems for at least twelve months after drying.



  • Prefers cool, acidic soils


Boreal border

Last updated on 11 October 1999