Water rock-bristle (Seligeria carniolica)

Water rock-bristle specimen
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Water rock-bristle fact file

Water rock-bristle description

GenusSeligeria (1)

This minute dark green moss is very distinctive. The tapering leaves have very broad bases and long, narrow tips (2).

Also known as
Trochobryum carniolicum.
Patch height: up to 3 - 4 cm (1)

Water rock-bristle biology

Little is known of the biology of this species. Mosses, hornworts and liverworts form a group of plants called bryophytes (2). Bryophytes lack many of the more complex structures of the higher plants, such as a vascular system, and flowers. They do not have roots, instead they have structures called 'rhizoids' which absorb water and anchor the plant to the substrate. All bryophytes have an interesting life cycle consisting of two main parts, called the gametophyte and sporophyte generations (3). Plants that are in the gametophyte stage can reproduce sexually. Male organs (antheridia) produce male sex cells or gametes called antherozoids, which actually move to the female sex organs (archegonia) (3) through water droplets. Fertilisation occurs and a plant develops called a 'sporophyte', which remains attached to the plant. The sporophyte releases spores from within a capsule; the spores disperse and develop into a new gametophyte stage plant (3).


Water rock-bristle range

Water rock-bristle has only ever been recorded from two places in Britain. It is thought have been lost from the only Scottish site as a result of a fall of the stream bank on which it grew (2). It still persists in small numbers at a site in south Northumberland (2). This moss is endemic to Europe, but is endangered, and is known from single sites in the following countries: Austria, Germany, France, Norway, Romania, Sweden, and Switzerland. It is also known from three sites in the former Yugoslavia (1) (2).


Water rock-bristle habitat

This moss grows on permanently or periodically moist and shaded calcareous sandstone or limestone by the side of streams (1). It is found at altitudes of 150 to 250 metres (2). All of the sites that support this species are thought to have stayed free of ice during the last ice age; it is therefore thought that water rock-bristle may be a 'pre-glacial relict'; a relict species from before the ice age (2).


Water rock-bristle status

Classified as Critically Endangered in Great Britain (2).


Water rock-bristle threats

Potential threats include changes in the catchment area, which could affect the chemistry of the water, such as agricultural run-off, over grazing or the growth or planting of forests (2). Felling of or disturbance to streamside trees could remove shade and affect the humidity of the site; further threats are drought and botanical collecting (2).


Water rock-bristle conservation

A Species Action Plan has been produced for this moss under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. This plan aims to maintain the populations at the single remaining site, and to increase its extent if possible (1). The Northumberland site is not a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), but it has been suggested that the site is notified as an SSSI to help to ensure the long-term survival of the species (1).


Find out more

View the UK BAP Species Action Plan on-line at:



Information authenticated by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.



Containing free calcium carbonate, chalky.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
A life cycle stage in plants, which has one set of chromosomes (threads of DNA protein) in the cell nucleus (a condition known as ‘haploid’), which arises from a spore (which is also haploid). Sex cells (gametes) are produced during the gametophyte stage. This is the dominant life-cycle stage in liverworts and mosses.
Thread-like structures that help to anchor the plant to the substrate, and absorb minerals and water. In liverworts they consist of a single cell, in mosses they are multi-cellular.
Microscopic particles involved in both dispersal and reproduction. They comprise a single or group of unspecialised cells and do not contain an embryo, as do seeds.
The stage of a plant life cycle that produces spores (microscopic particles used in dispersal and reproduction). This stage is diploid (in the cell nucleus there are two sets of chromosomes - threads of DNA protein) and is dominant in ‘higher’ plants such as flowering plants.
Vascular system
In plants, the system that allows water and nutrients to move around.


  1. UK BAP Species Action Plan (August, 2002)
  2. Church, J.M., Hodgetts, N.G., Preston, C.D. and Stewart, N.F. (2001) British Red Data Books: Mosses and Liverworts. Joint Nature Conservancy Committee, Peterborough.
  3. Egerton, H. and Jones, F. (1998) Nature Encyclopedia. Dorling Kindersley, London.

Image credit

Water rock-bristle specimen  
Water rock-bristle specimen

© The Natural History Museum, London

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