Fontinalis and Vesicularia

Scientific name

Fontinalis Hedw. and Vesicularia (C. Müll.) C. Müll.

Common names

Java moss, willow moss, christmas moss


Fontinalaceae (Fontinalis), Hypnaceae (Vesicularia)

Could be confused with

other species of terrestrial mosses, Fissidens

Native distribution


Species commonly cultivated

Vesicularia dubyana (Müll) Broth. (Southeast Asia)

Fontinalis antipyretica Hedw. (cosmopolitan)

Adventive distribution

information not available

Weed status

not weedy


creeping, amphibious, epiphytic, growing on wood and rocks

Brief description

Perennial moss. Non spore-producing generation (gametophyte) is dominant, forming a dense mat of dark green stems. Stems leafy, relaxed, soft, much-branched, bearing elongate rhizoids along ventral surface (roots absent); branching pattern variable, pinnate to dichotomous to apparently random. Leaves alternate (3-ranked in Fontinalis), lanceolate to ovate. Spore-producing generation (sporophyte) emersed. Dispersal by spores and stem fragments.

Natural habitat

shallow water, splash zone, and boggy ground

Additional comments

Fontinalis and Vesicularia are genera in the nonvascular plant phylum Bryophyta (mosses). Vesicularia is more commonly used in the aquarium trade and adapts more easily to underwater culture. Fontinalis is less common, while Vesicularia is almost ubiquitous. Vesicularia has smaller leaves than Fontinalis. Vesicularia is sold in various different forms, e.g. willow moss, christmas moss, and Java moss. All clearly have different growth forms, varying in the degree and pattern of stem branching. It is unknown which species or varieties these represent. Critical taxonomic appraisal is required before they can be accurately identified. At present, they are all considered varieties of V. dubyana. There is also some debate as to the actual species identity of the Vesicularia that is widely distributed. Some sources suggest that the species is actually V. reticulata (Dozy & Molk.) Broth., and not V. dubyana. Vesicularia reticulata also originates from Southeast Asia.