The species is identified by its generally short, ovate to ovate-lanceolate leaves with acute apices, costa ending below the apex and bluntly crenulate leaf margins. The species is, however, quite variable, especially in leaf length and shape of the apex. It could be confused with P. dregeana, but that species has regularly narrow-rectangular laminal cells, narrower leaves and costa short-excurrent. The type of P. obtusata was examined and found to differ in having rounded apices. Some of the leaves on the same stem were either obtuse or rarely almost acute, therefore it was concluded that the rounded apices represent only an environmental modification; a few southern African specimens also exhibit the same modification.
Plants small, loosely caespitose, light green to yellow-green; terricolous or saxicolous. Stems 10-20(-30) mm long, infrequently branched; in section round, central strand present, inner cortical cells in 2-3 rows, thin-walled, outer cortical cells in 2-3 rows, thickened, reddish or yellowish, epidermal cells quickly eroded. Leaves appressed dry, erect-spreading wet; ovate-lanceolate to ovate-acute, 0.4-1.2 mm long; apex acute to occasionally broadly acuminate or rarely rounded; margins plane to occasionally reflexed, coarsely crenulate by projecting cell ends. Costa ending below apex or occasionally percurrent in some leaves; superficial cells rectangular, weakly prorate; in section bulging dorsally, guide cells 2, incrassate, ventral cells in single layer, ± larger than guide cells, thin-walled, dorsal cells in small group of 4-6 cells, incrassate, dorsal surface cells slightly larger than ventral cells, thin-walled. Laminal cells rectangular to weakly oblong-hexagonal, 2-4:1, thin-walled, occasionally some quadrate, smooth or occasionally weakly prorate-papillose; basal cells more regularly quadrate or infrequently short-rectangular, smooth. Only single immature capsule seen; perichaetia terminal; seta 16 mm long; capsule horizontal, globose, 2.2 mm long; exothecial cells short-rectangular, weakly thickened; operculum convex.
Plants small, loosely caespitose. Stems 10-30 mm long. Leaves appressed when dry, ovate-lanceolate to ovate-acute, 0.4-1.2 mm long; apex mostly acute; margins coarsely crenulate by projecting cells ends; costa ending below to percurrent. Upper laminal cells ± rectangular, smooth or weakly prorate-papillose; basal cells short-rectangular. Capsules rare, horizontal, globose.
Mesic Grassland; Zastron Moist Grassland. On wet soil or rock.
Philonotis hastata is found in southern Asia, Australia and Oceania, South and Central America, eastern and southern Africa, Madagascar and a few of the East African Islands. In southern Africa, the species is most frequently collected in Natal, Zululand and the eastern Transvaal. Specimens have also been collected in the central and southern Transvaal, Swaziland, eastern Orange Free State, Lesotho, Transkei, the eastern, southern and southwestern Cape and Botswana.