Knowing your Acrocarp from your Pleurocarp


Our main mission at Moss and Stone Gardens‘ blog, is to educate those desiring to learn more about mosses.  Our goal is to make it easy for you to understand mosses; to take the mystery out of moss – not the mystic.

As a landscape design group specializing in moss and stone gardens, we work with homeowners and design professionals designing with moss.

Particularly today, in what appears to be a movement towards moss, as designers and gardeners are looking for sustainable, shade loving options, either as a lawn replacement or as a sculptural backdrop to accent the grounds of commercial or residential properties, we feel it is even more important to help with this education.  As such, this is the first in a series to educate the reader about mosses on the most basic level — an introduction — to begin to guide you through the movement towards moss.

All mosses can be classified as 2 types:  Acrocarpous and Pleurocarpous

Recently, I asked David Spain, our moss expert, to describe the two types of mosses we are so often writing about.  I hope you learn as much about Acrocarps and Pleurocarps as I did.  If you have further questions, please leave a comment and David will get back with you.

Acrocarpous – Dicranum scoparium

Acrocarpous mosses have an upright growth habit.

As defined by,  Acrocarpous MossA type of moss in which the archegonia (i.e. female sex organs), and hence the capsules are borne at the tips of stems or branches.  Acrocarpous mosses may branch extensively; once they have fruited, branches take over the erect growth.

Acrocarps are usually unbranched and erect, forming a mounded colony.

Acrocarps are slower growing than Pleurocarps.

The sporophytes of the Acrocarps emerge from the tips of the plant.

Acrocarps do not regenerate from fragments as quickly as Pleurocarps.

Weeds are less likely to invade Acrocarps due to the thickness and tight packed stems.

Common Acrocarps for moss gardens are: Polytrichum commune, Dicranum scoparium, Campylopus introflexus, and Luecobryum glaucum.


Pleurocarpous – Bryoandersonia illecebra

Pleurocapous mosses have a prostrate growth habit.

As defined by, Pleurocarpous – A type of moss in which the female sex organs (archegonia) and capsules are borne on short, lateral branches, and not at the tips of branches. Pleurocarpous mosses tend to form spreading carpets rather than erect tufts.

Pleurocarps are freely branching in a chaotic fashion.

Pleurocarps spread out branches from the colony in a creeping fashion.

The sporophytes of the Pleurocarps emerge mid stem.

Most Pleurocarps grow faster than Acrocarps.

Pleurocarps quickly regenerate from broken fragments.

Pleurocarps quick attachment to stone and growth rate makes them better for colonizing hard substrates.

Maintenance of Pleurocarps is easier due to their matting tendencies and low even profile, blowing debris off of them is easier.

Pleurocarps can be used as a nursery for Acrocarps, once an area is colonized by these pioneer mosses, the slower growing Acrocarps can more easily colonize.

Common Pleurocarps for moss garden are: Thuidium delecatulum, Plagiomnium cuspidatum, Climacium americanum, Bryandersonia illecebra, Entodon seductrix, Hypnum cupressiforme, and Hypnum imponens.

As we move you toward mosses, we hope you visit with us again and feel free to visit our website at Moss and Stone Gardens to send us an email.

By: Helen  Yoest

Follow Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks! on Twitter @Moss_Rocks and our Facebook Like page Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!

To learn more about Moss and Stone Gardens – Where Moss Rocks!, please visit our website.  Or email David Spain at

30 thoughts on “Knowing your Acrocarp from your Pleurocarp

  1. Pingback: Undulating waves | Moss and Stone Gardens Blog

  2. Pingback: Making moss terrariums – nor not… | Moss and Stone Gardens Blog

  3. Pingback: The truth about moss – dispelling moss myths | Moss and Stone Gardens Blog

  4. Pingback: A couple of catchy moss caches – your new best friends | Moss and Stone Gardens Blog

  5. Pingback: Moss – mosses for sun | Moss and Stone Gardens Blog

  6. Pingback: Bullish brown moss dish garden | Moss and Stone Gardens Blog

  7. Pingback: Long, cool Moss Rocks! | Moss and Stone Gardens Blog

  8. Pingback: Moss trending | Moss and Stone Gardens Blog

  9. Pingback: Moss Rocks! David Spain on the Martha Stewart show | Moss and Stone Gardens Blog

  10. Pingback: Growing moss between stepping stones | Moss and Stone Gardens Blog

  11. Pingback: Twelve days of Mossmass | Moss and Stone Gardens Blog

  12. Pingback: Watering moss terrariums | Moss and Stone Gardens Blog

  13. Pingback: Moss Rocks–aging moss in my moss lawn | Moss and Stone Gardens Blog

  14. Pingback: How to collect moss | Moss and Stone Gardens Blog

  15. Pingback: Understanding the growth rate of pleurocarps versus acrocarps | Moss and Stone Gardens Blog

  16. Pingback: Growing moss between flagstones | Moss and Stone Gardens Blog

  17. Pingback: Dividing and Fragmenting Mosses | Moss and Stone Gardens Blog

  18. Pingback: A day at the Beach | Moss and Stone Gardens Blog

  19. Liz. Thurston

    Wow! I feel I’ve just discovered the Holy Grail.

    I have a new pergola (replacement structure for a big climbing Hydrangea) and want to repurpose flagstone under it to create a small seating area/transition to the southern lawn area. I love moss and while it grows contentedly (even rampantly) here I wasn’t sure how to introduce it to the spaces between the flagstones. I’m still a little fuzzy on how deep the soil medium ought to be for good culture, but more reading should remedy that! If not, I certainly know where to come for more information. What a dandy find your site has been, thanks!

    Liz. (s.ME)

  20. L.E. Erickson

    I have a small section of my yard under a big tree in which nothing will grow. The previous owners–and now I–simply mulch the area to keep it looking somewhat well groomed. A carpet of moss may look really nice here. What do I need to do to make the ground area ready for planting/tranplanting moss (I’m leaning toward the Acrocarps family since I like the texture better).

  21. Laura

    Thanks for the great information. Is sheet moss the generic name for Pleurocapous? What would you call the other type? Mood moss?



    1. David Spain

      Laura, sheet moss is a generic common name adopted by the floral industry to describe several species of pluerocarps like Hypnum cupressiforme, H. Imponens, H. curvifolium etc. It does not however apply to the 10,000 other species of pleurocarps. Modd moss is also a generic name given to acrocarp mosses of the Dicranum family, of which there are some 25 described, the most common is D. Scoparium and D. Montanum.

  22. Pingback: Mooning over Mosses | Moss and Stone Gardens

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.