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Special Areas of Conservation

1393 Slender green feather-moss Drepanocladus (Hamatocaulis) vernicosus

Lower plant species

Description and ecological characteristics

Slender green feather-moss Drepanocladus vernicosus is a medium-sized straggling moss of base-rich flushes and springs in the uplands and, more rarely, lowland sedge fens. It may grow with small sedges Carex spp., black bog-rush Schoenus nigricans and other characteristic mosses of base-rich flushes and fens, such as Campylium stellatum and Scorpidium scorpioides, and liverworts such as Leiocolea bantriensis. Although more frequent in the uplands, it does not reach very high altitudes, and the highest record is at 450 m on Snowdon. It may be declining because of destruction of its habitat, lowering of the local water table at lowland sites, and through heavy grazing of flushes by sheep and deer at upland sites.

Drepanocladus and related genera are taxonomically difficult and the group has recently been revised. Drepanocladus vernicosus is referred to in most current literature as Hamatocaulis vernicosus (Mitt.) Hedenäs. It has been confused with the related Scorpidium cossonii [Drepanocladus cossonii], but its distribution has been clarified by examination of herbarium specimens and recent survey work.

Distribution of SACs/SCIs/cSACs with species 1393 Drepanocladus (Hamatocaulis) vernicosus. Click image for enlarged map.

European status and distribution

Drepanocladus vernicosus is rare but widely distributed throughout Europe, although it is thought to be declining because of widespread destruction and damage of its habitat. It is listed as Data deficient in Europe.

UK status and distribution

In the UK, Drepanocladus vernicosus is widespread in the upland areas of north Wales and north-west England but appears to be infrequent in Scotland. It has not been seen recently at several of its lowland localities in England. It is listed as Lower risk (Nationally scarce) in Britain.

View UK distribution of this species.

Site selection rationale

Information on the current UK distribution of Drepanocladus vernicosus is limited, but the selected sites include the largest and most robust populations known, and represent the species across its extant range. Ecological variation has also been taken into account, and the site series includes examples of both upland flushes and lowland fens.

Site accounts

  • Asby Complex Cumbria
    Sunbiggin Tarn is an upland locality in north-west England supporting slender green feather-moss Drepanocladus vernicosus. The site contains a large population of this species in extensive upland flush systems and wet calcareous sedge fen on Carboniferous limestone. D. vernicosus grows here with black bog-rush Schoenus nigricans and the liverwort Leiocolea bantriensis.
  • Corsydd Eifionydd West Wales and The Valleys
    Slender green feather-moss Drepanocladus vernicosus occurs at two separate but nearby lowland localities at this fen complex. At Cors Gyfelog it is found near the flushed margins of the fen basin, while at Cors Llanllyfni it is associated with two hillside flushes within a stand of heath.
  • Eryri/ Snowdonia West Wales and The Valleys
    This is an upland site in north Wales for Slender green feather-moss Drepanocladus vernicosus, which has been recorded in flushes up to an altitude of 450 m.
  • Mynydd Epynt East Wales
    Slender green feather-moss Drepanocladus vernicosus occurs in at least five flush complexes within this upland range in south central Wales. The flush habitats are generally situated within expanses of grass moorland.
  • Pitkeathly Mires Eastern Scotland
    Pitkeathly consists of a group of upland mires which form an undisturbed area of flushes, with poor- and intermediate fen. The site contains a small but healthy population of slender green feather-moss Drepanocladus vernicosus and is the most northerly Scottish representative.
  • Preseli West Wales and The Valleys
    Preseli is representative of slender green feather-moss Drepanocladus vernicosus in south-west Wales. It grows here in upland flushes and seepages amidst wet heathland habitat.
  • Whitlaw and Branxholme Eastern Scotland
    Whitlaw and Branxholme consists of a series of basic alkaline and neutral fens of considerable diversity. It holds a recently-confirmed strong population of slender green feather-moss Drepanocladus vernicosus providing a south-east Scotland representative site.

SACs where this Annex II species is a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for site selection

Many designated sites are on private land: the listing of a site in these pages does not imply any right of public access.

Please note that the map shows sites where the presence of a feature is classed as ‘grade d’, but these sites are not listed. This is because ‘grade d’ indicates a non-significant presence.