Mosses, Ferns & Lichens


  • Moss
  • Moss

Mosses are creeping plants with tiny root hairs. They like moist, shady places. There are many varieties of moss. Many can grow on trees. Some grow very close together in tight clumps or cushions. Other types have branching fronds. Some birds and animals use moss for lining their nests.

Hair moss is common in wet, peaty areas. It often grows next to streams. Hair moss is the largest British land moss. Its stems have lots of pointed dark green leaves, and they form large clumps like cushions


  • Adder's tongue fern

Adder’s tongue fern is quite rare, and very small – it only grows to about 10 cm. It likes damp grassland and often grows on the site of ancient meadows. The adder’s tongue fern takes its name from the spike that grows from between the leaves. This is where the fern’s spores are contained.

  • Bracken
  • Bracken


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Bracken is the most common type of fern. It likes acid soil and grows on heath and in sunny clearings in woodland. It spreads widely with its stems branching underground. Bracken can grow very tall, making good hiding places for birds and animals. Rows of spore cases develop on the undersides of the leaves. These grow into new plants. The young fronds start tightly rolled up and gradually uncoil.

The filmy fern is a rare species. It likes shady, humid areas and often grows on tree trunks. It is very small, so it can look like a patch of moss until you look closer.


  • Different colours of lichen growing on walls facing in different directions.
  • Lichen
  • Lichen

Lichens are partly fungus, partly algae. They can grow on many surfaces including rocks, stones and tree bark. In woodland, lichens grow best in the spring, before there is too much leaf-shade. They prefer sunny places. Some types of lichen grow in flattish, spreading crusts. Other types look like hairy tangles, or grow in fronds and lobes. Good lichen colonies in one area indicate that the air is clean.