Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Sandhills Pyxie-moss - Pyxidanthera brevifolia   B.W. Wells
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Section 6 » Order Diapensiales » Family Diapensiaceae
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AuthorB.W. Wells
DistributionFound only in the Sandhills region, and within that area it has yet to be found in the southern counties of Richmond or Scotland; found only in Moore, Lee, Harnett, Hoke, and Cumberland counties. A record for Brunswick County is likely suspect.

This is a very narrow endemic, found only in NC and adjacent SC, all in the Sandhills region.
AbundanceVery rare overall, but it can be locally fairly common on Fort Bragg. Rare away from Fort Bragg, and mysteriously absent (so far) from the extensive Sandhills Game Land, which seems to have suitable habitat. This is a Significantly Rare species in the state.
HabitatThe taxon is restricted to sandy soil on clay hardpans within the Sandhills region, typically on ridges and hilltops. It is also found over “paint rock” (i.e., very thin soil with rock beneath) in upland sandhills. It is not found in moist habitats, nor in deep sands.
PhenologyBlooms from February into March, rarely as early as December; one of our earliest blooming “shrubs”. Fruits from February to May.
IdentificationThis is a tiny sub-shrub with narrow evergreen leaves, resembling a moss. It grows essentially flat on the ground, but as it grows in dense stands, it can occur in mounds that can easily be kicked loose by unobservant hikers. Colonies can extend for several feet across. The tiny leaves are needle-like, barely 1/8” long, densely covering the stems. At times the plants can have a reddish tint, especially where desiccated or in very dry conditions. The white flowers (about 1/4” across), though quite small, are so abundant that the plants looks like patches of snow when in bloom. The very similar P. barbulata, often considered the same species as this, grows essentially in flatwoods, pocosin borders, or drier savannas, in somewhat moist ground, as opposed to thin sandy soil on hilltops, ridges, or over a hardpan. Its leaves are somewhat larger and are seldom reddish-tinged, but the two can be confused at times. You have to be extremely observant if you want to spot this species, and likely you will need to go down to your knees or your belly to get a convincing look.
Taxonomic CommentsThis taxon is just as often considered a variety of P. barbulata – as P. barbulata var. brevifolia – as it is considered a good species. A few references barely go as far as calling them varieties.

Other Common Name(s)Wells’s Pyxie-moss, Littleleaf Pyxie-moss, Little Pyxie
State RankS3
Global RankG3
State StatusSR-L
US Status
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