About two months ago, ecologists of Alterra (Wageningen University and Research) discovered Small capsule dung moss (Splachnum ampullaceum) at the ‘Witterveld’, a military training area in the vicinity of Assen, NL. This moss species was considered extinct from the Netherlands, where it was found only 5 times, for the last time in 1905. It grows on old old cow dung in bogs. These systems are very rare, because of land reclamations in the 19th and 20th century. The few remaining bogs are not grazed.

The Witterveld is grazed by ‘Blondes d’Aquitaines’ for management reasons: they keep the heathland open and free from trees. Now they have another effect: they made it possible for the dung moss to grow. At the Witterveld, Small capsule dung moss is found at only one excrement, and it had no capsules.

Here’s a photo of the moss. It isn’t spectacular in appearance, but the occurrence of this Small capsule dung moss in the Witterveld is quite puzzling. How did it reach this area? Are there more locations in the vicinity where it grows? Is it overlooked, or did it reach the Witterveld from far? No one knows. But it’s worth to keep the eyes open, for mosses growing on cow dung….

550Small capsule dung moss, September 2010, Witterveld