National Trust Reveals Rare Thatched Moss Found on New Sites in Southern England

By The National Trust, PRNE
Tuesday, October 19, 2010

SWINDON, England, October 20, 2010 - The National Trust has reported that a rare and distinctive thatch moss,
thought to have been on the verge of disappearing because of modern thatching
techniques, has been discovered at ten new sites and mostly on buildings
owned by the National Trust.

Before the latest discoveries, 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 may be 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

The traditional approach to thatching encourages the growth of thatch
moss as it involved 'patching' sections of the roof; but modern demands for a
uniform 'chocolate box' appearance now means that the entire top coat is
invariably replaced.

This has helped to hasten its demise and restrict it to only a few
hotspot sites in southern England.

Before the survey was carried out this year by a Bryologist (a moss
expert) the thatch moss had only been found at eight sites in recent years,
including Alfriston Clergy House in East Sussex, the first ever built
property acquired by the National Trust back in 1896.

Four of the newly recorded sites, found on buildings owned by the
National Trust, had more than 1,000 plants on the thatch, including the
martyr's memorial shelter at Tolpuddle in Dorset and a cottage at Blaise
Hamlet in North Bristol.

The National Trust shop at Selworthy in north Somerset had more than
3,000 plants on its thatched roof, which represents the largest known
population of thatch moss anywhere in the world.

Richard Lansdown, the moss expert who carried out the survey, commented:
"Recent work suggest that moist roofs close to trees, or in valleys, are
favoured by thatch moss. It seems to favour middle aged thatch but can appear
on a roof four or five years after re-thatching."

Thatch moss is a very small moss which forms dull-green patches up to 1cm
tall when it grows. It has also been found on grassy heaths in Hertfordshire
and Norfolk.

The moss has tiny leaves shaped like spears with reproductive structures
called gemmae at their tips which disperse to help spread the moss. This is
unique among British mosses.

Matthew Oates continued: "People living in thatch cottages in southern
England may be hosting this moss alongside the more common and obvious
mosses. We're keen to find out where else thatch moss might be found beyond
the known National Trust sites."

Details and images of what the moss looks like can be found on the
National Trust website and thatch cottage owners or tenants can send in
pictures of suspected thatch moss found on their roofs to help in the quest
to build up a distribution map for the moss.

The survey was funded by Natural England to help monitor existing
populations of the moss and look for possible new sites.

About the National Trust:

The National Trust cares for 300 inspiring historic houses and gardens
across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. From former workers' cottages to
the most iconic stately homes, and from mines and mills to theatres and inns,
the stories of people and their national heritage ( are at the heart of
everything it does. The National Trust also offers volunteering
opportunities, wedding venues (
), days out ( and
campsites (

(Due to the length of these URLs, it may be necessary to copy and paste
the hyperlinks into your Internet browser's URL address field. Remove the
space if one exists.)

    Press Contact:

    Mike Collins
    Senior Press Officer
    The National Trust
    Kemble Drive
    SN2 2NA

Press Contact: Mike Collins, Senior Press Officer, The National Trust, Heelis, Kemble Drive, Swindon, Wiltshire, SN2 2NA, +44(0)1793-817708.

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