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Ceratodon purpureus
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Ceratodon purpureus, commonly know as the fire moss or the purple horned moss, is a short weed like moss that forms dense often-forked tuffs or cushions. The peristome teeth, which aid in spore dispersal, are also forked. The name Ceratodon was derived because the peristome teeth are forked like the horns of animals (such as a goat).

The moss prefers areas that are low in competition but can be found in association with other vegetation that also occupy disturbed areas such as the herb Anaphalis margaritacea (Pearly Everlasting) and Epilobium angustifolium (fireweed) . The fact that Ceratodon tends to occupy disturbed areas indicate that the taxa is fairly resilient. Actually this moss can tolerate much more pollution than other mosses therefore explaining why it tends to be found in urban areas. Interestingly, it is also commonly found in regions with heavy coal mining such as Appalachia. This is probably due to the fact that Ceratodon can tolerate broad ranges in pH.

Ceratodon is a weed like moss, and therefore can thrive in a variety of environments. Sterile and disturbed soil, urban areas, and acidic areas are all habitats where Ceratodon can be found. It is also found in disturbed areas such as areas recently damaged by fire, usually being the first colonizer. It found on a variety of substrates including soil, rock, wood, humus, old roofs, sand and even the cracks of sidewalks. It is often found along the roadside of newly constructed highways. The soil along these highways may appear to be reddened due to the red color of the seta. Ceratodon purpureus is widely distributed throughout North America. Locally, it has been identified in Hocking County, Ohio and historical records indicate presence in Athens County, Ohio. In general Ceratodon is fairly cosmopolitan and can be found on every continent.

Reproduction in the Ceratodon is both vegetative (via protonema) and spore generating. As mentioned before the peristome teeth of the operculum disperse the spores. Spore discharge is controlled by humidity. A change in the humidity causes the fruit stalks which are present in great numbers in the colony to twist and un-twist jerking the capsules. This jerking motion causes the spores to be dispersed and then they are carried by the wind. Some spores have remained viable for as long as 16 years! The sporophytes appear late in the winter usually after the last snow melts. By March the setae reach their full height and turn from green to a purple-red color. The capsules then mature in late spring and are usually gone (have decayed) by August. The gametophyte usually takes about four to five months to mature, but if fire occurs germination will be slower.

An interesting fact about Ceratodon is it is that it is a nitrophile (an organism that flourishes in the presence of nitrogen) thus allowing it to survive in areas of pollution and invade areas after fires. _________________________________________________________________

Anderson, Lewis and Howard Crum. 1981. Mosses of Eastern North America New York: Columbia University Press.

Crum, H. 1983. Mosses of the Great Lakes. University of Michigan Press

Snider, J and Barbara Andreas. 1996. A Catalog and Atlas of the Mosses of Ohio. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio Biological Survey, Ohio State University.

Mosses of the North Country Web Page

Written by Kelly Caporale

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