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Unveiling the Resilient World of Pohlia Wahlenbergii Var. Glacialis

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2020-09-21-09-37-29.jpg from: https://www.britishbryologicalsociety.org.uk/learning/species-finder/pohlia-wahlenbergii/


In the vast and captivating world of bryophytes, one particular moss species stands out as a true marvel of nature – the Pohlia wahlenbergii var. glacialis (Schleich. ex Brid.) E.F.Warb., commonly known as Pohlia


710382_871f3370.jpg from: https://www.plantarium.ru/page/image/id/710382.html

. This unassuming yet resilient member of the Mniaceae family has captured the hearts and minds of moss enthusiasts worldwide, offering a fascinating glimpse into the intricate tapestry of life that thrives in even the harshest environments.


718179_fd157d21.jpg from: https://www.plantarium.ru/page/image/id/718179.html


Before delving into the intricacies of this remarkable moss, it’s essential to understand the broader context in which it exists. Bryophytes, a diverse group encompassing mosses, liverworts, and hornworts, are among the oldest and most primitive land plants on Earth. These diminutive yet mighty organisms have played a crucial role in the evolution of terrestrial ecosystems, paving the way for more complex plant life to flourish.

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Morphology and Identification

The Pohlia wahlenbergii var. glacialis is a true master of camouflage, blending seamlessly into its surroundings with its unassuming appearance. This acrocarpous moss forms dense, cushion-like tufts or mats, with stems reaching heights of up to 5 centimeters. Its leaves are narrowly lanceolate, tapering to a fine point, and often exhibit a distinctive reddish-brown hue at the tips. The leaf margins are entire, and the costa (midrib) extends to the leaf apex or slightly beyond.


po_wahlenbergii3.jpg from: https://wnmu.edu/academic/nspages/gilaflora/pohlia_wahlenbergii.html

One of the most remarkable features of this moss is its ability to produce specialized reproductive structures called sporophytes. These intricate structures consist of a slender seta (stalk) topped by a capsule (spore case) enclosing the spores. The capsules are cylindrical in shape and often curved or inclined, adding a touch of elegance to this unassuming plant.

Global Distribution and Habitat

The Pohlia wahlenbergii var. glacialis is a true cosmopolitan, found across a wide range of habitats and geographical regions. From the Arctic tundra to the alpine zones of mountain ranges, this hardy moss thrives in areas where few other plants can survive. It is particularly abundant in areas with high moisture levels, such as near glaciers, snowfields, and streams, where it forms dense carpets on soil, rocks, and even decaying organic matter.

Ecological Roles and Adaptations

Despite its diminutive size, the Pohlia wahlenbergii var. glacialis plays a vital role in the ecosystems it inhabits. As a pioneer species, it is often one of the first plants to colonize newly exposed or disturbed areas, helping to stabilize the soil and pave the way for other plant life to establish itself.
This moss is also a valuable contributor to the nutrient cycling process, absorbing and retaining moisture and nutrients from the surrounding environment. Its dense mats create a microhabitat for a diverse array of microscopic organisms, including fungi, bacteria, and invertebrates, further enriching the ecosystem.
One of the most remarkable adaptations of the Pohlia wahlenbergii var. glacialis is its ability to withstand extreme environmental conditions. It possesses a remarkable tolerance for desiccation, allowing it to survive prolonged periods of drought by entering a state of dormancy. Additionally, its compact growth form and dense cushions help to insulate the moss from harsh winds and low temperatures, enabling it to thrive in some of the most inhospitable regions on Earth.

Case Studies/Examples

The resilience and adaptability of the Pohlia wahlenbergii var. glacialis have been showcased in numerous studies and observations. For instance, in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, this moss has been found thriving on the margins of retreating glaciers, rapidly colonizing newly exposed terrain and playing a crucial role in the succession of plant communities.
Similarly, in the alpine regions of the Rocky Mountains, the Pohlia wahlenbergii var. glacialis is a common sight, forming vibrant green carpets on rocky outcrops and in areas where snowmelt provides a constant source of moisture.

Technical Table


7c81f047-7950-4202-8e63-f83e1d1394f3.jpg from: https://www.naturbasen.dk/art/15164/lysegroen-voksmos

Characteristic Description
Family Mniaceae


medium.jpeg from: https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/1153245-Pohlia-wahlenbergii-wahlenbergii



141925.jpg from: https://www.calflora.org/app/taxon?crn=14083

Pohlia wahlenbergii var. glacialis (Schleich. ex Brid.) E.F.Warb.
Growth Form Acrocarpous, cushion-like tufts or mats
Stem Height Up to 5 cm
Leaf Shape Narrowly lanceolate, tapering to a fine point
Leaf Margin Entire
Costa Extends to the leaf apex or slightly beyond


193548.jpg from: https://inpn.mnhn.fr/espece/cd_nom/4906/tab/fiche

Slender seta with cylindrical, curved or inclined capsules
Habitat Arctic tundra, alpine zones, near glaciers, snowfields, and streams
Adaptations Desiccation tolerance, compact growth form, insulation


The Pohlia wahlenbergii var. glacialis is a true testament to the resilience and adaptability of life on our planet. This unassuming moss has not only survived but thrived in some of the harshest environments imaginable, reminding us of the incredible diversity and complexity of the natural world. As we continue to explore and appreciate the wonders of bryophytes, we are left with a profound question: What other marvels of nature are waiting to be discovered, even in the most unlikely of places?


6fe5cdf5e9a461b8f52cfdb597befccc.jpg from: https://www.ni.is/is/biota/plantae/bryophyta/bryopsida/lindaskart-pohlia-wahlenbergii


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