Scientific name Racomitrium lanuginosum – Festuca vivipara heath
Common name Woolly Fringe-moss – Viviparous Fescue heath
Community code HE3E


HE3E: Racomitrium lanuginosum – Festuca vivipara heath     HE3E: Racomitrium lanuginosum – Festuca vivipara heath     HE3E map: Racomitrium lanuginosum – Festuca vivipara heath

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This is a low-growing, rather sparsely vegetated community with Racomitrium lanuginosum often the only plentiful species. Growing alongside the mounds of this moss are usually found sprigs of Vaccinium myrtillus and Calluna vulgaris, and a few tufts of Agrostis capillaris, Festuca vivipara and Deschampsia flexuosa, together with some prostrate shoots of Galium saxatile. The other typical members of the bryophyte layer are Hypnum jutlandicum, Diplophyllum albicans, Rhytidiadelphus loreus, Scapania gracilis and Hylocomium splendens, but acrocarpous mosses such as Polytrichum alpinum, Dicranum scoparium and Dicranella heteromalla are also frequent. Occasionally one will find here patches of Herbertus aduncus or Carex bigelowii.



This is a heath community of the highest mountain slopes, saddles, ridges and plateaux where there is high exposure. The substrate is usually very rocky with thin, acidic and infertile soils.



Three sub-communities have been described for this community. The Hymenophyllum wilsonii – Bazzania tricrenata sub-community (HE3Ei) is a liverwort-variant with Scapania gracilis, Pleurozia purpurea, Bazzania tricrenata, Herbertus aduncus and Plagiochila spinulosa all constant, as are Saxifraga spathularis and Hymenophyllum wilsonii. The Carex bigelowii – Salix herbacea sub-community (HE3Eii) is a very exposed community in which the titular arctic-alpines are each frequent, with Potentilla erecta and Dicranella heteromalla constant and dense cushions of Armeria maritima occasional.  The third sub-community lacks any particular indicators and is referred to as the typical sub-community (HE3Eiii).


Similar communities

The most similar community is HE3D Calluna vulgaris – Racomitrium lanuginosum heath which also occurs on exposed ground in the mountains.  That community, however, tends to occur at slightly lower altitudes, with Calluna vulgaris much more abundant.


Conservation value

Almost all of the examples of this vegetation qualify as EU Annex I habitat 4060 Alpine and subalpine heath. This is on average a moderately species-rich heath community.



These heaths, which often form parts of commonages, may be used as rough grazing land (typically for sheep) and overgrazing can be a problem. Climate change threatens arctic-alpine species which are restricted to montane communities such as this.