On the one hand inconspicuous, on the other hand to be found in almost every area of ​​our native vegetation, mosses form one of the largest plant families of all. Weak-competitive moss species in particular colonize particularly unfavorable locations and thus contribute to the revitalization of the most inhospitable areas. We clarify which varieties can be found in Germany in gardens and forests.

The diversity of mosses

There are around 16,000 known types of moss worldwide. It is important to know that the mosses in the garden and forest are by no means a connected plant family. Rather, the varieties can be assigned to one of three main lineages, which have at most extensive connections to each other. These are:

  • Hornmoose
  • Lebermoose
  • Laubmoose

Of the 16,000 species worldwide, 1121 varieties were native to Germany at the start of the recording. In the meantime, however, 54 of them are extinct and a further 28 are threatened with extinction. 104 species are classified as critically endangered and 203 species at least as endangered. This clearly shows how the habitats of even insensitive and very undemanding plants are. If you look at the most common types of moss, there are only a handful of types that make up most of the moss growth in gardens and forests in Germany.


Among the mosses found here, only very few species belong to the horn mosses. Vegetatively, they have individual properties of liverworts, but also of leaf mosses. They were originally counted among the liverworts and only later classified as a separate species family. The exact family relationships to other moss species are still unclear, but the origin can largely be traced back to the green elders.

Acker-Hornmoos (Anthoceros agrestis)

  • Vegetation areas: agricultural land, mainly stubble fields, but also patchy meadows and ditch edges
  • Preferred substrates: neutral to slightly acidic, lime-poor soil
  • Special features: is considered a pioneer species that temporarily colonizes bare soil and is displaced by subsequent vegetation


Liverworts form a family of moss species that appears very differently. They are summarized as a separate group based primarily on biological growth characteristics that are not recognizable to the layperson. Liverworts were given the name as early as the Middle Ages, when individual species were used as medicinal plants to treat liver diseases.

Bach-Spatenmoos (Scapania undulata)

  • Vegetation areas: permanently wet locations near streams or waterfalls
  • Preferred substrates: lime-free soil and rocks
  • Special features: preferably found at higher altitudes in the low mountain ranges

Endivienartiges Beckenmoos (Pellia endiviifolia)

  • Vegetation areas: Areas with high humidity, e.g. in sheltered locations in the forest, along roadsides or along streams, lakes, etc.
  • Preferred substrates: calcareous soils
  • Special features: also known as goblet moss

Kleines Schiefmundmoos (Plagiochila porelloides)

  • Vegetation areas: shady, nutrient-rich locations
  • Preferred substrates: rock, dead wood, root area of ​​trees
  • Special features: also known as bald-fruited shell moss

Korallenmoos (Riccardia chamedryfolia)

  • Vegetation areas: permanently wet locations
  • Preferred substrates: alkaline-rich soils, flooded rock, partly dead wood and exposed tree roots
  • Features: Also known as Mini Pelliamoos

Creeping scale-branch liverwort (Lepidozia reptans)

  • Vegetation areas: moist forests or other sheltered locations
  • Preferred substrates: silicate rock, raw humus, dead wood
  • Special features: very common and widespread in Germany, often to be found as a guest in the garden, among other things

Preiss liverwort (Preissia cf. quadrata)

  • Vegetation areas: rocks, natural stone walls, barren subsoil
  • Preferred substrates: alkaline rich soil
  • Peculiarities: is considered endangered or even highly endangered in parts of Germany, in the garden above all “undesirable” to be found on walls or buildings


For the layman, mosses are quite easy to recognize by their appearance. Similar to the foliage of bushes or trees, clear leaf structures can usually be recognized. Broadleaf mosses form the largest group of native moss species. Historically, they can be traced back to the Carboniferous, so that they are considered to be significantly older than the horn mosses, for example.

Cup-fruited gold hair moss (Orthotrichum cf. cupulatum)

  • Vegetation areas: Gardens and open, mostly mapped field and meadow areas
  • Preferred  substrates: stone, rocks, less often natural stone walls
  • Special features: good indicator plant for air quality

Curled spiral toothmoss (Tortella cf. tortuosa)

  • Vegetation areas: quarries, rocky heaths, in the cultivated garden area also natural stone walls
  • Preferred substrates: moist, calcareous rock
  • Special features: The eponymous leaf rippling is strongly dependent on moisture and can be observed above all in dry weather

Common green stem moss (syn. Scleropodium purum)

  • Vegetation areas: light forest areas, other light woody locations in gardens or nature
  • Preferred substrates: nutrient-rich soils, eg humus layer on the forest floor
  • Special features: development of large stocks, especially in the area of ​​afforestation

Common strong nerve moss (Palustriella commutata)

  • Areas of vegetation: along streams or swampy forest floors
  • Preferred substrates: calcareous soils or rocks
  • Special features: can also be found directly in the water, eg on washed-over stones

Common white moss (Leucobryum glaucum)

  • Vegetation areas: bog biotopes or coniferous forests
  • Preferred substrates: dead wood, silicate rock, raw humus
  • Special features: white color when dry, light green appearance when wet
Note: The municipality of Weißmoos, also known as Ordenskissenmoos, is the only economically relevant moss in Germany. It is used in floristry for decoration and can be found, for example, on Christmas decorations, in cribs and similar objects.

Striped moss (Eurhynchium striatum)

  • Vegetation areas: preferably low mountain ranges, here areas with high humidity
  • Preferred substrates: nutrient-rich forest soils, rocks, dead wood
  • Specialties: also known as pointed-leaved beauty beak moss

Forktooth Moss (Dicranum scoparium)

  • Vegetation areas: widespread in wooded areas and heaths
  • Preferred substrates: bark or dead wood, rocks and rocks
  • Special features: Formation of thick, closed cushions, also known as broom moss
Note: The fork-tooth moss family is one of the most widespread mosses in Germany. Different members of the family have specialized in individual vegetation areas, so that they can be found in almost all areas from the lowlands to the higher mountains.

Golden Maidenhair Moss (Polytrichum commune)

  • Vegetation areas: permanently wet locations, such as coniferous forests or marshy meadows
  • Preferred substrates: lime-free soil
  • Special features: With a growth height of up to 40 centimetres, it is considered the largest moss in Central Europe

Rare glow moss (Schististega pennata)

  • Areas of vegetation: dark, damp locations, such as high places, crevices in rocks, etc.
  • Preferred substrates: rocks
  • Special features: when exposed to light, there is often a characteristic luminous effect due to special cell structures for photosynthesis that are adapted to weak light conditions

Sparse side fruit moss (Pleurochaete cf. squarrosa)

  • Vegetation areas: sunny locations on dry grassland, embankments or gravel pits
  • Preferred substrates: calcareous soils
  • Special features: listed as endangered in our red list

Tamarisken-Thujamoos (Thuidium tamariscinum)

  • Areas of vegetation: moist, shady forests and areas of native gardens
  • Preferred substrates: lime-free, humus-rich soil
  • Special features: one of the moss species with the formation of large stocks and up to great heights (up to 2000 meters)

Weiches Kammmoos (Ctenidium cf. molluscum)

  • Vegetation areas: forests, rarely open locations, such as dry grassland
  • Preferred substrates: calcareous soils, limestone
  • Specialties: also known as ostrich feather moss

Wavy star moss (Plagiommnium undulatum)

  • Vegetation areas: roadsides, moist forests, along streams or on shady meadows
  • Preferred substrates: nitrogen-rich locations
  • Special features: also known as arched star moss

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