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NZ Plants

Stems, leaves and rhizoids

Branch arrangement

The orientation of stems and branches determines the form of a moss.

photo, I MacDonald

Thuidiopsis furfurosum - Many mosses have a horizontal stem that bears branches right and left in a pinnate (herringbone) pattern to form a carpet over the soil surface.

More on Thuidiopsis

photo, L Jensen

Canalohypopterygium tamariscinum - Some mosses have a vertical main stem with horizontal branching 'fronds' covered with tiny leaves to form miniature umbrella-like 'trees'.

More on Canalohypopterygium


Leaf arrangement

photo, Bill and Nancy Malcolm

Polytrichadelphus magellanicus - The leaves of most mosses are in three rows, arranged in a spiral around the stem at 120° intervals -

More on Polytrichadelphus magellanicus

photo, L Jensen

Fissidens taxifolius In a few mosses the leaves are arranged in two rows and flattened into one plane.

See Find by Genus page for Fissidens species.


Conostomum pentastichum - The leaves are arranged in five ranks along the stem which is most unusual for a moss. 
(photo, Bill & Nancy Malcolm) 





photo, J Beever 

Meesia muellen, rhizoids detached from the stem - Mosses do not have roots. They are anchored to the substrate by rhizoids. Rhizoids in the mosses consist of many cells, are branched and often have peg-like growths (papillae) on their walls.