Bryol. Europ. 2: 156. 1846,.
Stems to ca. 6 cm, occasionally longer. Sexual condition paroicous. Seta to 2 cm, straight to somewhat flexuose, smooth, red or reddish brown, occasionally yellowish brown. Capsule brown, 1–2 mm, erect, cylindric to ovoid-cylindric, straight to weakly arcuate, becoming ± wrinkled when dry; operculum to 0.5 mm; peristome teeth evenly spaced, lanceolate, divided nearly to the base into 2(–3) filaments, smooth to papillose or sometimes ± striolate. Spores densely and finely papillose, 15-25 µm.
Phenology: Capsules mature summer–fall.
Habitat: Soil, rock, crevices, ledges, banks, occasionally bark
Greenland, Alta., B.C., Man., N.B., Nfld. and Labr., N.W.T., N.S., Nunavut, Ont., Que., Sask., Yukon, Alaska, Ariz., Calif., Colo., Idaho, Ind., Iowa, Maine, Mich., Mont., Nev., N.H., N.Mex., N.Y., N.Dak., Oreg., S.Dak., Utah, Vt., Wash., Wis., Wyo., Mexico, Central America, South America, Eurasia, n, c, e, se Asia, Africa, Pacific Islands, Australia, Arctic, Antarctic.
Plants of Distichium capillaceum form dense, rather silky tufts and the slender, spreading, distichous leaves with shiny, whitish, oblong, sheathing bases are characteristic. This is a taller species than D. inclinatum, with plants less crowded, capsules erect-symmetrical and cylindric, and spores smaller. In more northerly or alpine regions with more severe climatic conditions, the plants are often shorter, more compact, and have shorter leaves.