Species Profile

Spoon-leaved Moss

Scientific Name: Bryoandersonia illecebra
Taxonomy Group: Mosses
Range: Ontario
Last COSEWIC Assessment: May 2003
Last COSEWIC Designation: Endangered
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered

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Quick Links: | Taxonomy | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Spoon-leaved Moss

Spoon-leaved Moss Photo 1



A monotypic genus, Bryoandersonia is a genus with only one species in it, illecebra.



A large, attractive moss, Spoon-leaved Moss takes its name from its deeply concave leaves. The leaves are loosely heart-shaped and from 1.3 to 2.8 mm long. They spread when moist; when dry, they overlap, press close together and the tips become twisted. The stems grow in green-yellow-brown mats and branch readily upwards to blunt tips, which in mature specimens can be reminiscent of rat-tails. The seta (the stalk that supports the capsule that bears the spores) is smooth, red, and from 1.3 to 2.5 cm long.


Distribution and Population

Spoon-leaved Moss is found only in eastern North America, where its range approximates that of the Carolinian (eastern deciduous) forest of North America. It occurs most commonly in the south. It ranges from southern Ontario, east to New York and Connecticut, down along the coast to the Northern Carolinas and west to Texas, and then east again as far as northwestern Florida. Despite relatively intensive searches, there are fewer than eight known Canadian sites of Spoon-leaved Moss, all in the extreme southern part of southern Ontario. In 2001 and 2002, only two of these eight colonies were found; in Essex and Elgin counties. A third site, previously unknown, was found in Welland County.



Although it can grow on rocks or tree bases, all known colonies of Spoon-leaved Moss in southern Ontario have been on soil. While historic Ontario locations for Spoon-leaved Moss have included cedar swamps, deciduous forests, pine plantations, and areas of Hawthorne and Juniper scrub, extant (still in existence) Canadian colonies are confined to soil that is in or near flat, low-lying, seasonally wet areas. Spoon-leaved Moss may prefer such wet conditions when it occurs this far to the north of its range, but it may be that people less often disturb such swampy sites.



Little is known of the biology of Spoon-leaved Moss. Like all mosses, it requires periodic moisture. It is dioecious (male organs and female organs occur on separate plants). As the sperm cells are not capable of moving very far, the separate male and female plants must be within a few centimetres of each other for fertilization to occur. No fruiting bodies were observed at any of the extant Canadian sites, and only female plants were found. Spoon-leaved Moss can spread vegetatively, but only by creeping; in the absence of sexual reproduction, it cannot spread beyond the surface on which it grows. This leaves it at a disadvantage in disturbed areas, where a species’ survival may depend on the ability to disperse to new sites. The soil banks preferred by Spoon-leaved Moss can be relatively continuous, which may be important to the moss in its northern range; however, its ability to exploit available habitat is limited, particularly as human encroachment leads to increasing fragmentation of what remains of the Carolinian forest.



Even if it was pristine, the small southern part of Canada that supports Carolinian forests offers only a limited amount of suitable habitat for the Spoon-leaved Moss. As it is, this modest scattering of habitat lies in the most heavily developed region in Canada and is under intense pressure from further development. Forest destruction and fragmentation further decreases available habitat, and increases this species’ overall vulnerability. Habitat fragmentation also diminishes the likelihood of genetic exchange, lowering the likelihood of male and female plants being near each other. As well, the increased pollution associated with development is detrimental to mosses such as the Spoon-leaved Moss.



Federal Protection

The Spoon-leaved Moss is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Two of the three Canadian populations of Spoon-leaved Moss are on public land, where they receive some protection. The third, privately owned site is part of an Ontario Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI), providing it some protection through stewardship and municipal zoning.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.


Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Spoon-leaved Moss (Bryoandersonia illecebra) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry


Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities Field surveys were conducted in Ontario in 2002 to update the COSEWIC status report. Populations at three sites were relocated. All known extant sites are now in public ownership. The Cedar Creek population has been recently acquired by the Nature Conservancy of Canada and has since become a Provincial Nature Reserve. Additional colonies were discovered at two of the sites when surveyed again in 2004 by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Summary of Recovery Activities At this time no specific recovery actions have been implemented for the species. The recent acquisition of the Cedar Creek site as a Provincial Nature Reserve under management of Ontario Parks will help to ensure habitat for Spoon-leaved Moss is maintained or restored according to the goals of the recovery strategy. URLs Ontario Species at Risk:http://www.rom.on.ca/ontario/risk.php?doc_type=fact&lang=&id=300


PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

8 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on the spoon-leaved moss Bryoandersonia illecebra in Canada (2003)

    Bryoandersonia illecebra is a distinctively robust, shiny, julaceous (smoothly cylindric, like a rat's tail) moss (Division Bryophyta, subdivision Musci, order Hypnales). The genus Bryoandersonia is monotypic, and belongs to the large and variable family Brachytheciaceae. "Illecebra" means "attractive, or alluring". The species' large size and distinctive form make it easy to see and identify in the field.

COSEWIC Assessments

Response Statements

  • Response Statements - Spoon-leaved Moss (2004)

    A response statement is a communications document that identifies how the Minister of the Environment intends to respond to the assessment of a wildlife species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The document provides a start to the listing and recovery process for those species identified as being at risk, and provides timelines for action to the extent possible.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Spoon-leaved Moss (Bryoandersonia illecebra) in Canada (2006)

    Spoon-leaved Moss (Bryoandersonia illecebra), a robust, Endangered moss of seasonally flooded, variably wooded habitats possesses no specialized dispersal mechanisms within its Canadian range. To date, only female plants have been documented in Canada. Very little scientific knowledge exists on the biology or ecology of Spoon-leaved Moss, or the reasons for its rarity.

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Point Pelee National Park of Canada and Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada (2016)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Point Pelee National Park of Canada and the Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of the two sites: Point Pelee National Park of Canada (PPNP) and the Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada (NNHS). The NNHS is being used as a term to collectively refer to two locations in the Niagara region that consist of three National Historic Sites: Fort George National Historic Site, Battlefield of Fort George National Historic Site, and Butler’s Barracks National Historic Sites of Canada. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species At Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur in these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at PPNP and at NNHS.


  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (2004)

    This Order acknowledges receipt by the Governor in Council of the assessments of the status of wildlife species done pursuant to subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). The purpose of SARA is to prevent wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.
  • Order Amending Schedules 1 to 3 to the Species at Risk Act (2005)

    Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk of the Species at Risk Act (SARA), is amended by Order of the Governor in Council (GIC), on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, by the addition of 73 species. This Order is based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and follows consultations with provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the public, and analysis of costs and benefits to Canadians.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species Under the Species At Risk Act: March 2004 (2004)

    The Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003 as part of its strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, hereinafter referred to as the 'SARA list'. Canadians are invited to comment on whether all or some of the species included in this document should be added to the SARA list.