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Lepidopilum splendens: The Iridescent Jewel of the Moss World

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Hylocomium_splendens-A9D6517116.jpg from: https://florafinder.org/Species/Hylocomium_splendens.php

Lepidopilum splendens Broth.: A Shining Star of the Moss World


Mosses may be small, but they play a big role in many ecosystems around the world. One particularly fascinating moss is Lepidopilum splendens Broth., also known simply as Lepidopilum. This shimmering species is a member of the Pilotrichaceae family and is sure to catch the eye of any nature enthusiast. Let’s take a closer look at this marvelous moss!


Lepidopilum splendens is classified under the Bryophyta division and Bryopsida class. The genus Lepidopilum contains around 180 species found mainly in tropical regions of the Americas. The specific epithet “splendens” means shining or gleaming, referring to the glossy appearance of the leaves.

Morphology and Identification

One of the most striking features of L. splendens is its iridescent leaves. The oblong-lanceolate leaves are arranged in neat rows and have a metallic sheen that ranges from coppery-red to golden-green depending on the angle of the light. The leaves are around 2-3 mm long and have a


8543117393_5252482978_b.jpg from: https://www.flickriver.com/photos/reallysmallfarm/8543117393/

finely toothed margin.
The stems of L. splendens are creeping to ascending and sparsely branched. They can reach 2-5 cm in length. Tiny, reddish-brown rhizoids anchor the moss to its substrate.
The spore capsules


glittering-wood-moss-stair-step-moss-fern-moss-feather-moss-etagenmoos-EFEB7E.jpg from: https://www.alamy.com/stock-photo/glittering-wood-moss-hylocomium-splendens.html

are held on slender, reddish setae that are 1-2 cm long. The capsules themselves are small, ovoid to cylindrical in shape, and have a beaked operculum. Spores are released from the capsule through a ring of teeth called the peristome.

Global Distribution and Habitat

Lepidopilum splendens is found in tropical and subtropical regions of Central and South America, including Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Brazil. It grows on tree trunks, branches, and logs in moist, shady forests from lowland to montane elevations.


Stair-step-Moss-Hylocomium-Splendens-scaled.jpg from: https://www.borealforest.org/stair-step-moss/

This moss prefers


2020-08-26-12-31-25.jpg from: https://www.britishbryologicalsociety.org.uk/learning/species-finder/hylocomium-splendens/

humid, low-light environments and is often found in cloud forests and rainforests. It is epiphytic, meaning it uses trees and other plants for support but does not parasitize them.

Ecological Roles and Adaptations

Like other mosses, L. splendens plays several important roles in its ecosystem:

To thrive in its low-light environment, L. splendens has developed a highly reflective cuticle layer on its leaves that bounces light around, allowing more photons to be captured by the chloroplasts for photosynthesis. The metallic sheen may also help deter herbivores.
The reddish pigments visible in the leaves and stems are thought to act as a “sunscreen” to protect the moss from damage by UV radiation that filters through the forest canopy. The pigments may have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties as well.


From its dazzling appearance to its fascinating adaptations, Lepidopilum splendens Broth. is a true gem of the moss world. Next time you’re walking through a tropical forest, keep an eye out for its coppery gleam – you may just spot a patch of this remarkable species! What other secrets might these tiny but mighty plants be hiding?


5441269223_cb7c217b8d_b.jpg from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/41066614@N05/5441269223


3112099443_0cb20b6bae_b.jpg from: https://www.flickriver.com/photos/mark_leppin/3112099443/

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