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Unveiling the Enigmatic Schlotheimia wainioi: A Tropical Epiphytic Moss

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Schlotheimia wainioi Broth.: A Fascinating Moss of the Orthotrichaceae Family


Macromitrium-soulae-Renauld-Cardot-a-c-habit-dry-b-capsule-d-branch-leaves_Q640.jpg from: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Schlotheimia-badiella-Besch-a-c-habit-dry-b-capsule-d-branch-leaves-e_fig2_281108486


The world of mosses is full of fascinating species, each with their own unique characteristics and ecological roles. One particularly interesting moss is Schlotheimia wainioi Broth., a member of the Orthotrichaceae family. In this blog post, we’ll dive into the details of this captivating bryophyte.


Schlotheimia wainioi Broth., also simply known as


schlotheimia_sp_20230517_1154421213.jpg from: https://www.steinkern.de/steinkern-de-galerie/schwaebische-alb-lias/schlotheimia-sp-19735.html

Schlotheimia, is a species of moss belonging to the Bryophyta division and Bryopsida class. It was named after Finnish botanist Edvard August Vainio (1853-1929). The Orthotrichaceae family contains around 900 species worldwide.

Morphology and Identification

Schlotheimia wainioi forms dense tufts or cushions. The stems are erect, usually unbranched, and can reach 1-3 cm tall. The leaves are ovate-lanceolate, 1.5-2.5 mm long, with a short apiculus at the tip. When dry, the leaves become crisped and contorted.
The leaf cells are rounded-quadrate in the upper part and rectangular below. A key identifying feature is the presence of immersed stomata on the capsules. Capsules are


schlotheimia_sp_20220517_2008531867.jpg from: https://www.steinkern.de/steinkern-de-galerie/schwaebische-alb-lias/schlotheimia-sp-18976.html

cylindrical and ribbed


Lepidopilidium-devexum-Mitt-Broth-A-Lateral-leaves-B-Lateral-leaf-apex-C_Q640.jpg from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/280989042_Taxonomic_Revision_of_the_Moss_Genus_Lepidopilidium_Pilotrichaceae

when dry.

Global Distribution and Habitat


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Schlotheimia wainioi has a pantropical distribution, found in tropical regions around the world including Central and South America, Africa, and Asia. It typically grows as an epiphyte on tree trunks and branches in moist, shady habitats like rainforests and cloud forests at elevations from 500-3000 meters.
In the table below are some countries/regions where S. wainioi has been recorded:


Cladonia_wainioi_31August2012_1%251.jpg from: https://www.waysofenlichenment.net/lichens/Cladonia wainioi


1573062281-Schlotheimia-extranodosa.jpg from: https://www.mineralienatlas.de/lexikon/index.php/FossilData?fossil=Schlotheimia extranodosa

Continent Countries/Regions
South America Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru
Central America Costa Rica, Panama
Africa Tanzania, Uganda, DR Congo, Cameroon
Asia Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea

Ecological Roles and Adaptations

Like many epiphytic mosses, Schlotheimia wainioi plays important roles in its forest ecosystems:

  • Provides habitat for micro-organisms
  • Helps regulate moisture and humidity
  • Contributes to nutrient cycling
  • Acts as a pioneer species in forest regeneration

The moss has several adaptations for its epiphytic lifestyle:

  • Dense growth form to retain moisture
  • Leaves that contort when dry to reduce water loss
  • Rhizoids for attachment to bark
  • Spore dispersal by wind to reach new tree hosts


Schlotheimia wainioi Broth. is a prime example of the incredible diversity and ecological importance of mosses. From its distinct morphology to its specialized epiphytic habit, this tropical species illustrates the myriad ways bryophytes have evolved to thrive in forest canopies worldwide.


GettyImages-1042364980_329396312_514433741.jpg from: https://www.countrylife.co.uk/nature/moss-350-million-year-old-plants-turn-unsightly-things-radiant-beauty-203327

The next time you find yourself in a tropical rainforest, take a closer look at the trees – you may just spot a patch of Schlotheimia wainioi making its home among the branches. What other secrets of the bryophyte world remain to be uncovered?

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