Sex expression and growth rates in natural populations of the desert soil crustal moss Syntrichia caninervis

Lloyd R. Stark, Brent D. Mishler, D. Nicholas McLetchie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


The low elevation Mojave Desert cryptobiotic crust is dominated by the moss Syntrichia caninervis. In 16 populations of this moss, stem height and population were significantly associated with sex expression, with longer stems expressing sex more frequently and producing more perichaetia. The above-ground age of stems ranged up to 10 years, with a mean growth rate across populations of 0.36 mm year-1. The overall stem sex ratio, as a proportion of the total number of stems, was 0.30 ♀ : 0 ♂: 0.70 non-expressing. The probability of expressing sex in a given season was 0.09. The absence of sexual reproduction (no sporophytes) and likely absence of the male sex from the area indicate that the non-expressing plants are female individuals. The slow growth rates, low rates of sex expression, absence of male plants, and absence of sexual reproduction in this crustal species may help explain why re-establishment of mosses on desert soils can take decades.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)401-416
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1998

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the National Geographic Society (grant no. 5429-95)for providing partial travel costs, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area for providing permission to collect bryophytes, Bruce Allen, Ronald Pursell, and the Missouri Botanical Garden for providing valuable references and intangible assistance, Robin Stark for assistance in the field and preparation of figures, and Gene Sealove (National Park Service, Boulder City)for providing rainfall data.


  • Bryophyte
  • Cryptobiotic soil crusts
  • Desert
  • Dioecy
  • Growth rates
  • Sex expression
  • Sex ratio
  • Syntrichia caninervis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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