In the depth of winter when it can sometimes seem as if much around us is dull and bare, mosses provide splashes of varying shades of green to the woodland floor, bases of tree trunks and rotting logs. These tiny plants can be found all year round but now is an ideal time to take a closer look because some of the commonest species can be quite easily identified using the naked eye or a hand lens
Mnium hornum - Swan's-neck Thyme-moss
One of Britain's commonest mosses found abundantly in woodland in acid soil on banks, on tree bases, stumps and logs. The dull, dark green leaves on unbranched stems have a toothed border, are not wavy when moist and curl when dry..
Atrichum undulatum - Catherine's Moss
Very common in lowland woodlands, on heaths and wasteland forming extensive, loosely tufted, dark green patches. The unbranched, erect stems have long, narrow, pointed leaves that are wavy across their width when moist.
Polytrichastrum formosum - Bank Haircap
This moss has unbranched, erect shoots up to 10cm tall, with bright, dark green leaves about 1cm long. The plant prefers well-drained, slightly acidic soils and as its common name suggests can often be found growing on banks.
Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus - Shaggy Moss
This large, robust, bushy moss grows in loose mats on soil or with grass on banks, woodland clearings and edges. It has rigid, irregularly branched, red stems. The leaves stick out in all directions whether wet or dry.
Thuidium tamariscinum - Common Tamarisk Moss
With its fine, fern-like branching stems, this is a very distinctive moss that forms loose, vivid yellow-green mats on soil in woodlands, under hedges and amongst grass in damp places.
Article and pictures by Heather Martin; January 2012