Rare thatch moss found in Branscombe

National Trust Forge home to endangered species of moss

A RARE thatch moss, thought to be on the verge of extinction because of modern thatching techniques, has been discovered at 10 new sites, including one at Branscombe.

Most are on buildings owned by the National Trust, including the Forge, Branscombe, whose roof was found to have 30 plants of the distinctive moss on it.

Before the latest discoveries, through a survey funded by Natural England, thatch moss, Leptodontium gemmascens, was only known to exist at a handful of sites in southern England.

Matthew Oates, Nature Conservation Adviser at the National Trust, said: “This survey shows that this endearing and harmless little moss has a real future and that it maybe more widespread than we first thought.”

The moss was first discovered by experts in 1845 but its distribution was thought to have dwindled in recent years as the nature of thatching changed course.

Traditional thatching, with sections patched when worn, encourages the growth of thatch moss, but with owners demanding a uniform look, these days an entire top coat is usually replaced, which has hastened the demise of the moss.

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Until the survey, the moss had only been found at eight sites. The Branscombe discovery is the first record for this rare moss, which is classified as an endangered species, in East Devon.

Moss expert Richard Lansdown, who did the survey, said: “Recent work suggests that moist roofs close to trees, or in valleys, are favoured by thatch moss.”

The moss forms dull-green patches up to 1cm tall and has tiny spear-shaped leaves.

Matthew is keen to find out where the moss might be found beyond the NT sites and any possible sightings, including location details, can be sent to press.office@nationaltrust.org.uk.