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Rhynchostegium volkensii: Unveiling the Remarkable Moss of the Brachytheciaceae Family

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medium.jpeg from: https://uk.inaturalist.org/taxa/274502-Rhynchostegium-riparioides

Rhynchostegium volkensii: The Remarkable Moss of the Brachytheciaceae Family


Mosses may be small, but they play a big role in ecosystems around the world. One particularly fascinating species is Rhynchostegium volkensii (Broth.) Paris, a moss in the Brachytheciaceae family. Also known simply as Rhynchostegium, this diminutive plant has some remarkable adaptations. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the details of R. volkensii and explore what makes it so special.

Background on Mosses

Before we get into the specifics of R. volkensii, let’s review some moss basics. Mosses are non-vascular plants in the division Bryophyta. Unlike other plants, they lack true roots, stems, and leaves. Instead, they have rhizoids that anchor them and absorb water and nutrients. Mosses reproduce via spores rather than seeds and are found in a wide range of habitats worldwide.

Morphology and Identification

R. volkensii is a pleurocarpous moss, meaning it has a branching, mat-forming growth habit. Its stems can reach 2-3 cm long. The leaves are ovate-lanceolate in shape, 0.8-1.2 mm long, and have a single costa (midrib) that extends 1/2 to 3/4 the leaf length. Leaf margins are serrated and the leaf cells are elongated.


Rhynchostegium-megapolitanum-0319.jpg from: https://www.britishbryologicalsociety.org.uk/learning/species-finder/rhynchostegium-megapolitanum/

The species produces sporophytes (spore-bearing structures) on short 5-10 mm setae (stalks). Capsules are inclined to horizontal and 1-1.5 mm long. Spores are 10-14 μm in diameter.

Global Distribution and Habitat

R. volkensii has a widespread distribution, found in Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. It grows on various substrates including soil, rocks, tree bases and logs in moist forests and woodlands from lowlands to montane elevations over


970159.jpg from: https://www.bio-forum.pl/messages/3280/970151.html

2000 m.
The species is especially common in tropical and subtropical regions with high humidity. It often forms extensive mats on the forest floor and covering rocks and tree bases.

Ecological Roles and Adaptations

As a ground-dwelling moss, R. volkensii plays important roles in its forest habitats:


3189-l-2.jpg from: https://www.wildflowers.co.il/hebrew/picture.asp?ID=18490

  • Helps retain moisture in the soil
  • Provides shelter and foraging grounds for invertebrates
  • Aids in nutrient cycling by trapping organic debris
  • Stabilizes soil and prevents erosion
  • Pioneer species that helps other plants establish

The moss has several adaptations that allow it to thrive:

  • Tolerates low light under the forest canopy
  • Desiccation tolerance – can survive drying out
  • Absorbs water and nutrients over its entire surface
  • Asexual reproduction via fragmentation

3382-l-1.jpg from: https://www.wildflowers.co.il/hebrew/picture.asp?ID=21549


medium.jpg from: https://inaturalist.ca/taxa/407688-Rhynchostegium-tenuifolium


3382-l.jpg from: https://www.wildflowers.co.il/hebrew/picture.asp?ID=21548

Characteristic Description
Stem length 2-3 cm
Leaf shape Ovate-lanceolate
Leaf length 0.8-1.2 mm
Leaf margin Serrated
Costa 1/2 to 3/4 leaf length
Seta length 5-10 mm
Capsule orientation Inclined to horizontal
Capsule length 1-1.5 mm
Spore diameter 10-14 μm


Rhynchostegium volkensii is a remarkable moss with a wide distribution and important ecological roles. Its small size belies its outsized impact on the habitats where it occurs. Next time you’re walking through a tropical forest, take a closer look at the ground – you just might spot a patch of this mighty moss! What other secrets of the forest floor are waiting to be discovered?

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