11 types of moss for your closed terrarium

Moss is a great enrichment for your closed terrarium. Whether haircap moss, silvery thread moss or pulvinate dry rock moss. On the one hand it grows almost everywhere and on the other hand it keeps your substrate stable so that it is not worn away by the daily water cycle and becomes compacted. Plus, moss looks pretty and can function visually as a lawn, shrubbery, or small tree in your closed terrarium. Blades of grass grow way too large and are more like inverted vines in a closed terrarium. Find out what types of moss you can find here in Europe and what other moss is suitable here.

For more appropriate plants for your closed terrarium, check out this article here.

What is moss?

Mosses are small plants without supporting tissue and without lignin, which provides the hardness of wood, for example. They therefore remain soft throughout their lives and are also quite small, which makes them ideal for closed terrariums. The science of mosses is called bryology and distinguishes between the species of hornworts, liverworts and deciduous mosses (bryophytes). The latter are the most common, especially in Europe. A total of about 16,000 species of moss are known.

Welche Moose eignen sich für ewige Terrarien?

To put it bluntly...almost all of them. Moss is really hardy and hardly ever really lets itself get down in any climate. There are even mosses in the Arctic Circle and tundra areas, where they often make up a large proportion of the plants and are therefore immensely important to the continuation of the ecosystem. Like all plants, they produce oxygen. Below I present you some mosses that you can find here in Europe. I found the list at the Garten-Treffpunkt (German source). I'm sure there's one you'll find very beautiful and want to put in your closed terrarium!

Tip: Some of these mosses come from nutrient-poor bog soils, making them super suitable for a closed terrarium with carnivorous plants!

#1 Silvery threaded moss

Silvery threaded moos Bryum argentum
Silvery threaded moss has a silver shine to it. Source: Michael Becker on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

The silvery threaded moss (Bryum argenteum) belongs to the deciduous mosses and you have certainly encountered it before. It grows especially in the cracks of the sidewalks of our cities and is also considered a cultural follower of mankind. It gets its name from the fact that the outer cells do not produce chlorophyll and thus look more silver than green. When silvery threaded moss dries out, these cells form a protective layer that reflects light and thus shimmers slightly.

#2 Common haircap moss

Common haircap moss Polytrichum commune
Common haircap moss has a star form. Source: Hans Hillewaert on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

The common haircap moss (Polytrichum commune) is also called great golden maidenhair and also belongs to the deciduous mosses. This haircap moss is the tallest moss in Europe, ranging in height from 10 to 40 cm, so it may even be a bit too tall for small bottle gardens. It looks somewhat greenish-bluish from a distance and forms long stems with small, narrow leaves. If you're looking for common haircap moss, you'll find it specifically in damp places in coniferous forests. It is especially beautiful because the moss cushion looks like small stars.

There are a whole lot of haircap mosses, all with different characteristics! You're about to learn about another one. But if you want to find out a lot more, read the article specifically about the most important haircap moss species.

#3 Beautiful haircap moss

Beautiful haircap moss Polytrichum formosum
Beautiful haircap moss also resembles stars. Source: Alexander Klink on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0

The beautiful haircap moss (Polytrichum formosum) is very closely related to the common haircap moss and can also be found in damp coniferous forests. It differs in that the moss cushion is somewhat stiffer than that of the common haircap moss. However, beautiful haircap moss has the same star shape. Also interesting here are the spore capsules, which can cause a shower of spores even when touched slightly.

By the way, I made the term beautiful haircap moss up by directly translating it from German. The english Wikipedia article on it might be the shortest I've ever seen.

#4 Pulvinate dry rock moss

Pulvinate dry rock moss grimmia pulvinata
Pulvery dry rock moss really looks like a small pin cushion. Source: Michael Becker on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

This pulvinate dry rock moss (Grimmia pulvinata) literally resembles small cushions and, like silvery threaded moss, often grows in cities. You'll recognize it by its round shape and black to blue-green color. In the light it shimmers similar to silvery threaded moss. It is also extremely drought resistant and will survive complete desiccation. Plant this moss in a closed terrarium and it can look like a small shrubbery.

#5 Cone moss

Cone moss Brachytecium rutabulum
Cone moss. Source: Michael Becker on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Cone Moss (Brachythecium rutabulum) can also be found in the inner parts of cities, and its leaf structure resembles a conifer. Biologically, of course, it is not actually related to that at all. It can appear in different colors. Green, yellow-green and golden-green are not uncommon.

Again, I had to make this term up by translating it directly from German, as there does not seem to be an English name for it. At least none I could find.

#5 Sphagnum moss

Sphagnum moss closed terrarium moss
Sphagnum moss. Source: Christian Fischer on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

I have written about sphagnum moss (Sphagnum) on this blog before. However, it was always about substrates and not about the living plant itself. Dried sphagnum mosses are particularly well suited as a condition for substrates because of their structure, so that they do not compact so easily. This is important so that water and oxygen can flow through there well.

This is not a single species, but an entire genus belonging to the deciduous mosses. Similar to carnivorous plants, they originate from nutrient-poor peat soils and swamps. So to find them, you'll have to do a little searching. However, they will survive in your closed terrarium with a little less water than there.

#7 Liverwort

Liverwort Marchantia polymorpha
Liverwort. Source: Manfred Morgner on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

The liverwort (Marchantia polymorpha) is an extremely hardy moss and is therefore found on all continents. It does not need certain light conditions or temperatures, is resistant to heavy metals and air pollution. Only some moisture and a soil in which it can anchor itself are necessary. Since they are so resistant, you can find them just about anywhere. This moss is wonderful for a closed terrarium.

#8 Beautiful golden hair moss

Closed terrarium beautiful gold hair moss orthitrichum pulchellum
Beautiful golden hair moss. Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain

The Beautiful Golden Hair Moss (Orthotrichum pulchellum) has long fibers similar to the beautiful haircap moss, which curl when dry. You'll find it most often around the North and Baltic Seas. When you put this moss in your closed terrarium, it's best to place it on a rock or piece of tree bark. This is because, like most orchids, it lives epiphytically. That is, it literally grows on trees. As you can see, I could not find a photo for free use for this moss. Therefore, here you can see only the drawing of the first discovery of the moss. You can, however, find many photos online.

#9 Square goose neck moss

Square goose neck moss Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus
Square goose neck moss. Source: Michael Becker on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Often, the British are made fun of for some silly words. But this time it's on you, Americans!

If you are looking for a pale or olive green moss, the square goose neck moss (Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus) is a good candidate. The British call it the springy turf-moss (albeit only a little), which sounds a little more serious. However, this moss also grows relatively tall at 15 cm tall and can quickly overgrow a closed terrarium. It forms irregular leaves on its long stems and tolerates nutrient-poor soil. Sometimes you can find it in the inner city.

Fun fact! One of the multiple German names for this moss directly translates to bulky wrinkle brother. Just why? ._.

#10 Pin cushion moss

Closed terrarium pin cushion moss Leucobryum glaucom often used in miniature models
Pin cushion moss. Source: Jerzy Opioła on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

The pin cushion moss (Leucobryum glaucum) is very similar to the pulvinate dry rock moss in shape, but looks quite artificial because it has a uniform surface. You can see that here yourself. It is therefore often used in model making. The cushions can grow up to 20 cm wide. The pin cushion moss can be found on all continents except Antarctica. It especially likes lime-free soils and can be found mostly on dead wood.

#11 Java moss

Closed terrarium Java moss Taxiphyllum barbieri
Java moss. Source: Buchling on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

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A very popular moss for terrariums is the Java moss (Taxiphyllum barbieri). It originates from riverbanks in Southeast Asia and is very resistant to water and soil quality. It overgrows soils relatively quickly and particularly likes high humidity. Java moss in a closed terrarium doesn't really care where you put it. It can grow epiphytically, lithophytically and terrestrially (i.e. on wood, stones and soil). It even finds a foothold on plastic or glass and is great for making a closed terrarium much greener. In Europe and the Americas you won't find Java moss anywhere, but you can buy it very cheaply online. It says that it is an aquatic plant, but Java moss can also grow in the air. The only important thing is that the humidity remains high!

Summary

Moss is super suitable for a closed terrarium or bottle garden. It appears in many different forms that resemble a wide variety of plants. Thus, it can serve as a miniature variant for trees, bushes and lawns. You can find many different species not only in forests, but even in the inner city. Only the proliferating Java moss, which finds a foothold on virtually any substrate, you have to buy online.

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