Did you know that moss types are one of the oldest species in the world? They have a diverse and broad range of types, and there are currently over 20,000 ones to choose from. A lot of people find moss in their gardens and consider it to be a nuisance because it tends to grow between gaps in your pavers or spoil how the lawn looks. However, moss comes with several benefits, including filling out planters, used as ground cover, and as a nice grass alternative.
You can categorize types of moss as either acrocarpous or pleurocarpous. There are several differences between the two groups, but the biggest one is that pleurocarpous moss offers a carpet-like, spreading growth habit while acrocarpous moss types grow upright.
It’s a flowerless plant that you find in shady locations all over the world. It’s a very primitive plant, and there are hundreds of identified moss species to date. We’re going to outline 30 moss types that you can use to add a touch of whimsy to your garden or yard below.
Why Use Moss?
Why would you ever purposely use a type of moss in your yard or garden? For starters, it’s a low-lying and attractive plant that can easily help fill in any gaps or bare spots you have in spaces between your stepping stones or in a rock garden. It’s also a low-maintenance choice that is able to grow on rocks, depending on the variety you pick out.
Moss also works as a pretty filler in floral arrangements, and it’s popular to use in your decorative terrariums. Many people put it in outdoor and indoor plant pots to help retain moisture. In particular peat moss is used a lot in agriculture and gardening because it has huge moisture retention qualities.
Types of moss also work well as traditaionl lawn substitutes in areas where the growing conditions and weather are right. If you’re not a fan of mowing your lawn, moss could be a creative answer. If you pick a quick-spreading choice, you’ll never have to mow the yard again.
Moss is also commonly used in green roof designs because it has a high capability of tolerating drought and absorbing water. Moss needs very little in the way of fertilizer, and it’s a low-maintenance greenery type that makes it a great choice for anyone who doesn’t want to spend a lot of time working to upkeep it.
30 Moss Types
Moss is the main makeup of peat, and it’s also very commonly used for decorative purposes by florists and in gardens. If this intrigues you, we’re going to outline 30 popular types of moss that you can use in your garden or around your yard below.
1. American Tree Moss (Climacium americanum)
This moss type got the name because the appearance looks like an evergreen tree. When upi clump this moss together, it can resemble the look of a miniature forest. You’ll commonly find this moss in shade, damp places throughout the Northern Hemisphere. They’ll produce new shoots each year from the horizontal stems that grow along the soil’s surface. They can get between two and four inches high at full maturity.
2. Baby Tooth Moss (Plagiomnium cuspidatum)
Baby Tooth Moss is a moss type that falls into the perennial category, and it has a shorter life span to it. You’ll find it in North America, Africa, and Asia. The tall stalks it produces makes it very easy to identify, and they hover over the base foliage. These stalks are the result of fertile shoots that create nodding spore capsules on top of slender orangish-brown stalks. The foliage is a medium green with heavily toothed margins. It won’t be able to survive higher temperatures or full sun because it prefers moist areas with cooler temperatures.
3. Big Shaggy Moss (Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus)
This moss type is also called electrified cat’s tail moss or rough goose neck moss because the foliage offers a very unkempt, fuzzy appearance. It prefers to be in a location with moist soil or even humus, and you’ll find them in the Pacific Midwest in forests.
4. Catherine’s Moss (Atrichum undulatum)
Also called big star moss, this moss type offers lance-shaped leaves that spread out from the plant’s stem to create a broader star shape when you look at it from above. The leaves are very bright green with a stiffer texture, and the leaves will get crispy when the plant dries out. You’ll find this moss growing in grasslands or on rocks, and it can survive in a huge range of soil types. It likes to be in shaded areas, but it can survive with mild sunlight exposure.
5. Common Haircap Moss (Polytrichum commune)
This moss type is also called great goldilocks, great golden maidenhair, and common hair moss. You’ll find it growing in areas that have high amounts of rainfall and humidity. The stems can grow up to 12-inches long at full maturity, and this is taller than a lot of types of moss get. They have wiry, tough shoots with narrow, dark green spearhead-shaped leaves that will slowly turn brown as the plant ages.
6. Common Tamarisk Moss (Thuidium tamariscinum)
You’ll get a very distinct lacy look with this moss type. The foliage is a vibrant greenish-yellow color, and it looks almost like a fern. The dark stems contrast very nicely with the leaves. Unlike the majority of types of moss that like acidic soil, this one does better when you plant it in neutral soil. It’ll grow in very dense tufts on rotting logs or damp ground.
7. Delicate Fern Moss (Thuidium delicatulum)
Delicate fern moss and common fern moss are the same moss type. You’ll find it growing in South and North America. When you see dried moss in floral arrangements, this is usually what the florists use. It’s one of the most common types to find in stores when you look for dried moss.
8. Dwarf Haircap Moss (Pogonatum aloides)
This moss type is better known as the aloe haircap moss because the foliage on this plant can easily look like some aloe plant types due to the succulent appearance. You’ll see red, stubby stems with stiffer triangular foliage. They do very well growing in acidic, sandy, and loose soil types. In your home, the difference between vermiculite and perlite won’t matter a huge amount when it comes to getting it started growing indoors before transplanting it.
9. Fire Moss (Ceratodon purpureus)
As the name suggests, this moss type comes with a foliage that is several different colors from red to greenish-yellow, and people also call it purple forkmoss or redshank moss. It grows very well when you plant it in sandy, dry soil. You can find them growing all over the world, and it’s common to see them in industrial or urban environments that have a higher pollution exposure.
10. Glittering Wood Moss (Hylocomium splendens)
You can find this moss type growing in the Northern Hemisphere in cooler climates, and it also goes by the names mountain fern moss, stair step moss, and splendid feather moss. It’s very plentiful in Canada, Scotland, and Russia. They can grow very well in humus and acidic soil, and it’s common for them to form carpets in moors, woodlands, or heaths. They are characterized by yellowish, olive green, or reddish foliage that is very glossy and shimmers when certain light conditions hit it. The decorative quality of this moss type makes it popular for use in floral exhibits. It also gets used to line vegetable or fruit storage boxes.
11. Heath Star Moss (Campylopus introflexus)
This is a South American moss type, but it’s now widespread throughout other areas, including the UK where it was first introduced in 1941. It likes to grow on pieces of rotting wood, like thatched roofs, shingled roofs, and old logs and fence posts. It has darker brownish-red stems and foliage, and they turn bright green when they’re young. As the moss ages, it turns almost black. This moss has a very rapid growth habit, and it’s easy for it to spread quickly. It can even get invasive when you have it in ideal growing conditions.
12. Juniper Moss (Polytrichum juniperinum)
This moss type is alive and thriving on every continent in the world. Unlike most moss types, this one prefers dry habitats, and it’s rare to find it growing in moist conditions. It also grows very well when you put it in an exposed location, unlike most moss that requires shelter. It’s very widespread, and you can find it growing in forest footpaths, dry grasslands, gravel, and quarries. It has an unfriendly but attractive look with rosette-like patterns in the spiky foliage.
13. Knight’s Plume Moss (Ptilium crista-castrensis)
Also called ostrich plume feather moss or plume moss, this moss type traditionally grows in forests in Northern Europe and in the Canadian boreal forests. It does very well in full to partial shade as long as it’s in an area with acidic, moist soil. It’s very commonly used as a decorative plant because it has a very appealing feather-like look.
14. Lanky Moss (Rhytidiadelphus loreus)
Lanky moss is a feather moss type that you can find growing happily in Europe, Canada, and North America. They all work like a nitrogen fixer because they’re excellent at absorbing nitrogen and any nutrients that the rainwater will wash downhill.
15. Mood Moss (Dicranum scoparium)
This moss type is native to North America, and you may hear it called broom-fork moss. It usually grows in thick clumps that can get up to five inches tall that will eventually form a cushion-like patch. It grows upright, slender stems that get covered in spear-head shaped leaves that reach toward the sky. This type of moss grows very well in woodland habitats, including forest gardens. It loves full to partial shade with moist soil, rocks, tree trunks, or logs. It won’t do well in full fun or in soggy areas.
16. Pincushion Moss (Leucobryum glaucum)
This is another perennial moss type that forms dome-shaped mounds that are very large. They can get up to two feet wide and five inches tall, and each cushion has a stem spread that gets covered in a thicker greenish-gray, lance-shaped leaves. The feathery and smooth foliage gives the moss a very soft and plump look. The plant spreads using spores and the wind, usually in the winter and autumn months. It prefers to be in moist growing conditions, but it’s more tolerant to drought than a lot of types of moss on the list.
17. Plume Moss (Ptilium crista-castrensis)
You’ll find this moss type growing in northern Europe and Canada, and the name gives a very good indication of what the moss looks like. When you look at it, you should see feather-shaped leaves, and it comes in a medium-green color with a spreading growth habit. As a result, you’ll get dense mats that cover larger areas of the forest floors.
18. Ribbed Bog Moss (Aulacomnium palustre)
This mos type will form extensive collections of tufts as it grows, and these tufts come together to form a very densely matted carpet. You’ll find it growing across the globe in boggy areas, and it is usually the dominant moss type growing in wetlands. If you spot it, you’ll see that it has brownish-orange stalks with greenish-yellow foliage that is very fine. It does best in cooler climates, and this is why it’s so common in Canada.
19. Rigid Beard Moss (Didymodon rigidulus)
In the Didymodon species, this is the most common moss type. You’ll commonly find it growing in gaps in paving slabs, concrete, rocks, or bricks in older walls. It features a ton of tiny leaves that clump tightly together to form dense, soft mats. It prefers to grow in shaded, moist conditions, and it has a pretty emerald-green coloring.
20. Sand Beauty Moss (Racomitrium canescens)
The sand beauty moss also goes by the name of hoary finge moss. It’s very tolerant to drought conditions, and this is unlike most other moss types. It has a dull green foliage that will turn a gray hue when it dries out.
21. Shaggy Moss (Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus)
This is a fuzzy moss type that grows in tail-like stems. The shaggy moss name is very appropriate for the appearance of this moss because it has a very messy, unkempt look to it. The older foliage will turn a brown color, and the newer foliage is very bright and vibrant green. This is one of the most common found types of moss that grows in forests in the Pacific Midwest. The ideal habitat for this moss to thrive is fertile and moist soil, but you can also find it growing along streams and riverbanks and on trees.
22. Shiny Seductive Moss (Entodon seductrix)
This is a feather moss type that will grow very quickly and spread sideways. It’s very common in North America, and the favorite space for it to grow is on rotten wood. This includes old logs, felled trees, and fence posts. It’s a good pick if you want to cover a gap or empty space very quickly in a rock garden or between plants with an attractive and bright base. Unlike the majority of moss types, this one prefers to be in an area that gets full sun each day.
23. Silky Forklet Moss (Dicranella heteromalla)
Silkey forklift moss gets characterized by narrow and long leaves. It has a yellowish-green foliage, and you’ll find it growing in ditches, banks, woodlands, or on tree stumps. It loves more acidic soil and partial to full shade.
24. Spoon-Leaved Moss (Bryoandersonia illecebra)
This moss will form a very dense blanket of soft, cushioned foliage as it grows. The stems can get up to 1.5-inches long, but they get hidden because the leaves are packed too tightly together. The overlapping, tiny leaves on blunt stems make it look like a lot of caterpillars. The new leaves will be a very bright green color while the older leaves fade to brown. It’s common to find this moss type growing in Canada and the United States. However, in Canada, you only find it growing in Ontario.
25. Springy Turf Moss (Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus)
This is a very widespread moss that you commonly find in lawns and grasslands. Each stem can get up to five inches long, and the stems get sheathed in pale green, tiny foliage that has a very thick growth habit that resembles hair. The foliage points in the opposite direction of the stem, and the stems are red. You may hear this moss type referred to as an electrified cat’s tail.
26. Square Goose Neck Moss (Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus)
This moss type has a very distinctive red stem on it, and you can find it growing in the Southern and Northern Hemispheres. It can grow well in a broad range of soil conditions, and it’s very common to see it growing in man-made areas like golf courses and lawns. In the United States, it’s one of the most common types of moss.
27. Swan’s Neck Thyme Moss (Mnium hornum)
This moss is native to Europe and the eastern portion of North America, and it’s very common to see it growing in the UK. It gets characterized by dark green, lush foliage that looks like traditional fern leaves. It does well in acidic soil, and it prefers to grow in damp woodlands. This is usually a ground moss, but it can easily grow in rocks, logs, tree bases, or along the banks of streams.
28. Tousled Treasure Moss (Callicladium haldanianum)
Also called beautiful branch moss, this moss type gets characterized by the wispy foliage that will change color with sunlight exposure. This type of moss likes to be in partially shaded areas, and you can use it in rock gardens as a natural decoration.
29. Water Screw Moss (Syntrichia latifolia)
As the name suggests, this moss type has a very decorative look to it with smaller but broad leaves that get packed tightly in circles around the stems. This makes it look like a carpet of tiny flowers. You’ll typically find this moss growing on trees, but it also grows very well on moist rocks and walls, and it does well growing along the side of roads in shaded areas.
30. Warnstorf’s Peat Moss (Sphagnum warnstorfii)
The final moss type on the list has the unique ability to change color based on the amount of sunlight it has exposure to throughout the day. In the sun, it develops a very dark purplish-hue. In the shade, this color changes to a green hue. It loves to grow in mineral-rich areas.
Six Popular Ways to Use Moss
There are arguably dozens of ways that you can use moss types in your everyday life, and we’re going to talk about a few that you may have not considered below.
Dressing a Wound
A lot of moss types, including sphagnum moss, are excellent for wound dressings. It works as a natural iodine, and this quality makes it sterile. After you clean out your wound, you can apply the moss as a bandage. Each time you clean the wound, you’ll apply new moss. This moss type also works well to help you heal rashes. You should apply it as a bandage and change it as it starts to dry out to give yourself quick relief.
Drinking Water Source
A lot of mosses are very spongy, and they allow them to retain a decent amount of water. With sphagnum moss, it can hold enough water that you can literally wring it out and drink the water as it comes out. Since this moss is acidic, bacteria can’t grow in it. The only risk you have is that there is a tiny chance that it’ll have halophiles in it, and this is an organism that can make you sick.
Food is heavy, and this makes it hard to carry a lot with you when you’re out and about in the woods. There are several moss types that are edible, including:
- Oak Moss – You’ll find this moss in the United States in mountainous regions, and it grows on oak trees. It will look like a piece of coral that grows on the side of these trees, but it also has greenish-gray, pointy leaves on it. The leaves can get between three and eight centimeters long, and it’s common to find them growing together in very large clumps.
- Reindeer Moss – This is a very light colored moss type that will only get a few centimeters tall at full maturity. It doesn’t produce any flowers, but it does have bright red reproductive parts that can mimic the look of flowers from a distance. You’ll find it growing in the United States in dry, open areas.
- Spanish Moss – This is the stunning draping moss type that commonly hangs from trees, especially oak trees. It’s common in the eastern portion of the United States, and it has a light coloring that is nearly white. It grows on string-like parts.
Technically speaking, Spanish moss isn’t a moss. It’s a member of the bromeliad family. However, we included it because it has some medicinal properties and you can eat it. This includes helping lactating mothers produce milk, and it can reduce the symptoms of diabetes, rheumatism, and infantile epilepsy.
If you can find dead moss or can pick some and allow it to dry, it’s very flammable. It’s great for starting a fire. Since it’s very lightweight, you could add some to your homemade fire starters.
Because moss types are so incredibly dense and it has a very tight root system, this makes it a great insulator. If you use it to insulate your shelter or house, it’ll keep the cold and warmth out. It will help you hold body heat in, and it can keep heat out. A bonus of using moss types as insulation is that you can also use it to catch drinking water.
Moss is damp to the touch because it likes to hold onto a lot of water. You can use a layer of moss to cover your shelter to stay dry. One of the best things about this is that the moss has a shallow, interconnected root system that allows you to cut big pieces of it to transport it to make a shelter.
We’ve outlined 30 moss types for you to consider adding to your garden or landscape, and each one has benefits attached to it. Depending on your climate, you can mix and match to get the perfect look that is very low maintenance and looks charming.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.