Mosses are part of a plant group called bryophytes, which includes liverworts and hornworts. They are usually green, small, and are amongst the simplest of plants. Being a difficult group to identify knowledge about their distribution is far from complete; still we know that just under 500 species have been recorded in Dumfries and Galloway.
Several moss species have been identified as a priority for Dumfries and Galloway. Cernuous Bryum Bryum uliginosum is a moss that grows in patches on damp soil, such as stream banks. Formerly a widespread species, its present distribution is unknown, with any reduction in numbers probably due to habitat loss. Slender Green Feather-Moss Hamatocaulis vernicosus is known from only a single site in the Dalveen Pass and despite searches of potentially suitable habitats elsewhere it has yet to be located elsewhere in the region. Growing on the bark of trees, Spruce’s Brittle-Moss Orthotrichum sprucei can be found within the flood-zones of streams and rivers. The moss has suffered reduced numbers due to the removal of trees from the edge of watercourses and the alternation of river discharge patterns. The Baltic Bog Moss Sphagnum balticum grows in raised bogs, and on rare occasions, blanket bogs, where it is found in wet parts of this habitat. This species was previously recorded at Racks moss and though it has disappeared from this site due to afforestation it is thought that it may occur on the adjacent Longbridge Muir SSSI. The fifth and final priority species is the Rugged Collar-moss Sphagnum vasculosum, which can be found in the Moffat Hills.
Mosses can occur in a wide variety of different habitats including some which may seem unsuitable. The sand dunes of Torrs Warren are stabilised by mosses, including Big Shaggy-moss Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus. This is a common species, which as its name suggests is a relatively large and bushy moss, pale green in colour with red rigid stems. More typical damp boggy habitats at the Silver Flowe National Nature Reserve support a wide range of mosses, including Cow-horn Bog-moss Sphagnum denticulatum and Red Bog-moss Sphagnum capillifolium. Closer to home, many species such as Red Beard-moss Bryoerythrophyllum recurvirostrum and Rough-stalked Feather-moss Brachythecium rutabulum can be found around our homes and gardens.