Rare Species Guide

 Tortella inclinata    (Hedw. f.) Limpr.

Shortleaf Chalk Moss 

MN Status:
special concern
Federal Status:


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Minnesota range map
Map Interpretation
North American range map
Map Interpretation


Barbula inclinata, Tortella inclinatula

  Basis for Listing

Tortella inclinata (shortleaf chalk moss) is a widespread species in the temperate bioclimatic zone of both hemispheres. It has been recorded regionally from Ontario, Iowa, Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In Minnesota, a single population was discovered in Cook County (North Shore Highlands) in 1975 and, in all likelihood, may have been extirpated due to shoreline development. Tortella inclinata grows as a pioneering colonist in exposed and sandy calcareous habitats, on stabilized dunes, on sand and gravel, and rarely on rock (Janssens 2005). Because only one population has ever been documented in Minnesota, there is too little information available to detect a statewide population trend at this time. Further survey work is needed to better define the species’ distribution and specific habitat needs in Minnesota.  Based on its apparent rarity, Tortella inclinata was designated special concern in 2013.


Tortella inclinata forms dense and slightly fragile (easily broken apart or removed from substrate) yellow-green tufts up to about 1.0 cm (0.4 in.) high. Occasionally, the lower portion of the tufts will be brownish. The plant has few branches; leaves are incurved, twisted, and somewhat curled when dry, spreading when moist, 2.2-3.3 mm (0.09-0.13 in.) long; the majority of leaf apices are obtuse, strongly cucullate (hood shaped; Crum and Anderson 1981; Zander 2007). A costa (midrib) is present, projecting beyond the apex of the leaf.


Across its range, T. inclinata occurs on exposed calcareous silt, sand, or other loosely consolidated substrates, where it functions as a pioneer species, frequently near bodies of inland fresh water, gravel bars, mud flats, sand dunes on the Great Lakes, gravel pits near bogs, sandy clearings in mixed deciduous woods or spruce-pine groves, and even highway ditches (Zander 2007). In Minnesota, it has been found in the vicinity of Grand Marais on sand near the shore of Lake Superior.

  Biology / Life History

Plants are dioicous (male and female reproductive organs are on separate plants).The species' name refers to the capsules that curve somewhat towards the apex (Crum and Anderson 1981).

  Conservation / Management

Developments or alterations to sandy shoreline habitat, such as installing riprap or retaining walls are serious threats to this species and may have already impacted our single known population. Other concerns include damage to sensitive dune habitats through heavy foot traffic or motorized vehicles in areas where there is potential to find additional populations. Other more benign concerns are competition through succession of taller woody or herbaceous vegetation, as this species is a pioneer species.

  Best Time to Search

Spores mature in the spring (late May); however, the best time to search for Tortella inclinata is from May through September or essentially anytime the ground is not covered by snow.


Erika R. Rowe (MNDNR), 2018

(Note: all content ©MNDNR)

  References and Additional Information

Crum, H. A., and L. E. Anderson. 1981. Mosses of eastern North America. In two volumes. Columbia University Press, New York, Yew York. 1330 pp.

Janssens, J. A. 2005. Proposed candidates of endangered, threatened, and special concern species of bryophytes for Minnesota: update June 2005. Report to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, County Biological Survey, St. Paul. 18 pp.

Janssens, J. A. 2009. MS Access database on Minnesota bryophytes. Lambda-Max Ecological Research, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 2003. Field guide to the native plant communities of Minnesota: the Laurentian mixed forest province. Ecological Land Classification Program, Minnesota County Biological Survey, and Natural Heritage and Nongame Research Program. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, St. Paul, Minnesota. 352 pp.

NatureServe. 2009. NatureServe Explorer: an online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. <http.//www.natureserve.org/explorer>. Accessed 10 June 2009.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources. 1993. Tortella inclinata (R. Hedw.) Limpr. Curved tortella factsheet. Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, Ohio Department of Natural Resources [web application]. <https//www.dnr.state.oh.us/dnap/Abstracts/t/tortincl/tabid/1634/Default.aspx>. Accessed 27 September 2009.

U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). 2009. The PLANTS Database [web application]. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. <http://plants.usda.gov/java/nameSearch>. Accessed 23 June 2009.

Zander, R. H. 2007. Pottiaceae. Pages 476-642 in Flora of North America Editorial Committee, editors. Flora of North America north of Mexico. Volume 27. Oxford University Press, New York, New York.

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