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BFNA | Family List | BFNA Vol. 1 | Polytrichaceae

Oligotrichum Lamarck & A.P. DeCandolle, Fl. Franç. ed. 3. 2: 491. 1805.

Greek oligo-, few, and trichos, hair, referring to a sparsely hairy calyptra

Gary L. Smith Merrill

Plants small to medium-sized, not polytrichoid, gregarious, in loose tufts. Stems simple or sparingly branched by innovation. Leaves various, weakly sheathing at base, ± plane to distinctly channeled or subtubulose, erect when dry and sometimes crisped, erect spreading when moist (in O. falcatum falcate-secund wet or dry), ovate-lanceolate to lanceolate to oblong-elliptic; apex flat or cucullate, acute, obtuse, or apiculate, the margins subentire, denticulate or coarsely serrate, the margins not bordered by linear cells; costa percurrent or short-excurrent, toothed towards apex or with low abaxial lamellae; lamina broad, 1-stratose, the abaxial surface with low projecting teeth, and often with abaxial lamellae; adaxial lamellae confined to the costa, straight or more often transversely undulate, margins entire to sharply serrate, the marginal cells in cross-section not differentiated, smooth. Sexual condition dioicous; perigonia often disproportionately large, the bracts broadly ovate, at times colored and petaloid, overlapping, forming a conspicuous rosette; perichaetial leaves longer and narrower than the vegetative leaves. Seta typically solitary, smooth. Capsule cylindric, usually broadest near the base, terete, often rugose or sometimes with 4 or more indistinct angles or ridges, hypophysis not differentiated, tapering, with stomata at the base; exothecial cells not papillate or pitted; operculum rostrate; peristome teeth 32, pale, subacute to obtuse, compound or sporadically simple. Calyptra sparsely hairy. Spores finely papillose.

Species 17--24 (4 in the flora): almost worldwide distribution.

The North American species show wide variation in habit, leaf form, and development of abaxial lamellae. As is the case with Pogonatum, the peristome teeth are compound (double), with the outlines of two teeth visible on the outer face of each tooth, but in Oligotrichum the teeth are pale and not intensely pigmented. The indistinctly angled or ridged capsules of some species also resemble those of Pogonatum, but in that genus the capsules lack stomata and the exothecial cells are papillate. Oligotrichum parallelum is a lax plant, similar to Atrichum in appearance, but lacking a differentiated leaf border. All four species produce abaxial, as well as adaxial lamellae, most notably O. aligerum.


Steere, W. C. 1958. Oligotrichum falcatum, a new species from Arctic Alaska. Bryologist 61: 115--118.
Steere, W. C. and G. L. Smith 1976. The sporophyte of Oligotrichum falcatum. Bryologist 79: 447--451.

1 Leaves 3--6 mm, crisped when dry, laxly spreading when moist; leaf margins coarsely and often doubly serrate; adaxial lamellae straight, not or scarcely undulate; stems 2.5--6 cm.   Oligotrichum parallelum
+ Leaves 1.5--3 mm, not crisped when dry, not much different wet or dry; leaf margins various: regularly serrate, finely and distantly serrulate, or almost entire; adaxial lamellae tall and distinctly undulate; stems 1--2(--3) cm.   (2)
2 (1) Leaves narrowly lanceolate, channeled above and ± erect-appressed when dry; lamina and costa with prominent abaxial lamellae; leaf margins distinctly serrate.   Oligotrichum aligerum
+ Leaves ovate-lanceolate, subtubulose above, arcuate-incurved or distinctly falcate-secund; abaxial lamellae mostly restricted to the costa; leaf margins remotely denticulate or almost entire.   (3)
3 (2) Leaves ± straight, arcuate-incurved; costa with abaxial lamellae usually present, often extending to below mid-leaf.   Oligotrichum hercynicum
+ Leaves strongly falcate-secund; costa smooth at abaxially or with low abaxial lamellae or teeth near apex.   Oligotrichum falcatum

Lower Taxa

Related Synonym(s):


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