Haircap Moss - Polytrichum commune, click for a larger image
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Haircap Moss - Polytrichum commune, click for a larger image

Haircap Moss - Polytrichum commune
Family - Polytrichaceae
Also known as - Great Goldilocks, Common Hair Moss and Pigeon Wheat

A moss found in many temperate and wooded area with high humidity and rainfall.  It is widely distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere and is also found in New Zealand, and Australia.  It typically grows in bogs, wet heathland and along forest streams.  The plants are sexually dioecious requiring male and female plants.  An endohydric moss, but whilst mosses are not considered to be vascular plants, Hair Cap moss has a rudimentary water conducting tissue.  From above the Common Hair Cap Moss has a star shaped appearance from the pointed leaves arranged spirally around a stem.  Common Hair Cap Moss has three types of shoots but only male and female shoots are require for reproduction, with female developing eggs and the males the sperm.  Fertilised by rain washing the sperm from the male to the female eggs in the spring, spores are later released and wind distributed.

The species can be exceptionally tall for a moss with stems often exceeding 30cm (1ft), mostly found at shorter lengths of 5–10cm (2–4in). A medium to large moss often forming large mats in peat bogs, old fields, and areas with high soil acidity, dark green in colour, browning with age.  The stems can occur in either loose or quite dense tufts, often forming extensive colonies.  Typically the stems are 5–10cm (2–4in) but can be as short as 2cm (0.8in) or as long as 70cm (27in).  Leaves 6–8mm (0.25–0.35in) long rarely to 12mm (0.5in) long.

FBCP do not advise or recommend that Haircap Moss – Polytrichum commune is eaten or used as an herbal remedy.   It is reputed to be used by some people to make a drink used to dissolve kidney and gall stones or as a hair rinse.  In the past the stems have been woven and used to make baskets.

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