Species At Risk

Pygmy Pocket Moss

(Fissidens exilis)

Special Concern

Pygmy Pocket Moss
Pygmy Pocket Moss occurrences map


The family to which the Pygmy Pocket Moss belongs is named for its leaves. The lower part of the inner side of a pocket moss leaf is doubled, producing two overlapping blades that form a pocket. Pygmy Pocket Moss leaves are only one to two millimetres long at most. The entire plant stands no more than two millimetres high, except for the pale to reddish reproductive stalk and spore-containing capsule that grows to a maximum height of about three to 10 millimetres. The overall colour of the moss is dark green to dark brown.

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Although widespread in Europe, Pygmy Pocket Moss has limited distribution in North America. The first discovery of Pygmy Pocket Moss in North America was made in 1947, in Cleveland, Ohio, and since then it has been observed in 16 American states. In Canada, a few populations have been documented in southern Ontario and Quebec. In Ontario, this includes Essex County, the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, Norfolk County, and the Regional Municipality of Waterloo. There have been a few confirmed records in Quebec, from Gatineau Park near the Ontario-Quebec border, the west end of Montreal Island and Quebec City (St. Foy).


The preferred habitat for Pygmy Pocket Moss is moist, bare, clay soil often associated with seepage areas and river banks. It usually grows in woodlands, and sometimes on soil that has been disturbed by human activity.


The factors affecting the limited distribution of Pygmy Pocket Moss in Canada are uncertain. Southern Ontario and Quebec may represent the northern limit of its distribution in North America, so climate might play a role, although European populations are found much further north. Specific micro-habitat conditions may be limiting its distribution, but it is not known what conditions, if any, are factors.


Pygmy Pocket Moss is listed as a species of Special Concern under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act. Although this species does not receive protection under these acts because of its Special Concern status, four of the known locations for this moss in Ontario are on conservation authority, municipal forest and non-government conservation lands, which provide some protection.

What You Can Do to Help Pygmy Pocket Moss

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as Pygmy Pocket Moss. You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species at risk recovery. You may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.

Did you know?

Mosses do not flower. and they reproduce by microscopic spores rather than seeds.

Did you know?

Pygmy Pocket Moss can self-fertilize and produce fertile spores without being in close proximity to other Pygmy Pocket Mosses.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.