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Naturalist Friday: Plume Moss and Other Bryophytes

Ostrich-plume Moss (Ptilium crista-astrensis) is a type of plant that belong to the larger classification, Bryophytes. Which are non-vascular seedless plants that include liverworts, hornworts, and mosses. Ostrich-plume moss also goes by the name, Knight-plume moss due to its visual similarity to the feathers that knights would put in their helmets.

Spreading through spores these mosses are prolific and have been found on almost every continent on earth. Even growing in the arctic tundra where they prove to be an important food source for many of the herbivorous creatures that reside there, such as the musk ox. Here in North America they tend to reside at higher elevations and in moister environments where water can easily spread their spores around.

Similar to lichen, they dont require a deep substrate to grow out of and have been found to grow directly on logs, tree bases, and even boulders. Like many bryophytes, Ostrich-plume moss is sensitive to air pollution and can be a good indicator when an area may be suffering from poor air quality. Really amazing for such a little plant! 

With a little over 25,000 different species we still have a lot to learn about Bryophytes and the unique world they inhabit, the forest floor. 

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