Herbs & Plants

Polytrichum commune

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Botanical Name : Polytrichum commune
Family: Polytrichaceae
Genus: Polytrichum
Species: P. commune
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Bryophyta
Class: Polytrichopsida
Subclass: Polytrichidae
Order: Polytrichales

Common Name : Common haircap moss, Common hair moss, or Great Goldilocks

Living all over the world both in the wild and as decorative ground coverings in personal gardens Common Hair Cap Moss is easy to find.  Preferring to live in lightly shaded areas with moist slightly acidic soil, it can also survive in areas of full sunlight provided the soil is moist .  The Common Hair Cap Moss can also grow in areas of poor soil and slow drainage.  These characteristics make this moss a good plant for all types of gardens and gardeners.  In gardens of Japan, where mosses are used commonly, the Common Hair Cap Moss is used more than any other species combined.  In the wild it grows in many places, from granite outcrops to the coastal plain to the banks of ponds or lakes.  With the ability to grow in a diversity of habitats, Common Hair Cap Moss is seen all over the world.

Polytrichum commune is a medium to large moss. It is dark green in colour, but becomes brownish with age. The stems can occur in either loose or quite dense tufts, often forming extensive colonies. The stems are most typically found at lengths of 5 to 10 cm, but can be as short as 2 cm or as long as 70 cm. They range in stiffness from erect to decumbent (i.e. reclining) and are usually unbranched, though in rare cases they may be forked. The leaves occur densely to rather distantly, and bracts are present proximally.

The leaves typically measure 6 to 8 mm in length, but may be up to 12 mm long. When dry they are erect, but when moist they are sinuous with recurved tips and are generally spreading to broadly recurved, or sharply recurved from the base. The leaf sheath is oblong to elliptic in outline, forming an involute (i.e. with inward rolling margins) tube and clasping the stem. This sheath is typically golden yellow and shiny, and it is abruptly contracted to the narrowly lanceolate blade. Using a microscope, the marginal lamina can be seen to be level or erect, narrow, and typically 2 to 3 cells wide, though sometimes as many as 7 cells wide. It is toothed from the base of the blade up to the apex, with the teeth being unicellular and embedded in the margin. The costa, or central stalk of the leaf, is toothed on the underside near the apex, and is excurrent, meaning it extends beyond the end of the apex, ending in a short, rough awn.

The lamellae, ridges of cells that run along the leaf surface, are crenulate (i.e. with small rounded teeth) in profile and are 5 to 9 cells high. Their margins are distinctly grooved with 2 rows of paired, projecting knobs. The marginal cells, when observed in section, may be narrow, but are more typically enlarged and wider than those beneath. They are retuse (i.e. with a rounded apex with a central shallow notch) to deeply notched, and in rare cases are divided by a vertical partition. These cells are smooth and brownish in colour and have relatively thick cell walls. The sheath cells measure 60 to 90 µm long by 10 to 13 µm wide. These cells may be elongated rectangles or strongly linear structures up to 20 times long as wide. They become narrower toward the margins. Marginal lamina cells are 10 to 15 µm wide and are subquadrate (i.e. nearly square).

Close-up of capsules (after shedding of calyptra)The plants are sexually dioicous. The leaves of the perichaetium have a long sheath with a scarious (i.e. membranous) margin, while the blades themselves are greatly reduced, gradually narrowing to a finely acuminate tip. These blades have toothed margins, are denticulate to subentire in outline, roughened to almost smooth, and have a costa that is excurrent. The seta, or capsule stalk, is 5 to 9 cm long, and is stout and yellowish to reddish brown in colour. The capsule is 3 to 6 mm long, slightly rectangular to cubic in shape, and brown to dark reddish brown in colour. It is sharply 4 winged, inclined to horizontal, and glaucous when fresh. The peristome measures 250 µm, is pale in colour and has 64 teeth. The calyptra is golden yellow to brownish and completely envelops the capsule. The spores measure 5 to 8 µm, but may be up to 12 µm.

Medicinal Uses:
Reduces  inflammation, as an anti-fever agent, detergent, diuretic, laxative and hemostatic agent

Not just visually pleasing, Common Hair Cap Moss has other uses.  It is used by some people to make a tea to dissolve kidney and gall bladder stones .  Also, this moss is good for hair, so the same tea was used by women as a rinse to strengthen their hair.  In the past the stems have been woven and used to make baskets.  Like many plants the Common Hair Cap Moss can be useful to humans.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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