Ecology and distribution. Open montane, dry inter-Andean valleys, páramo and puna; on soil and rocks. At elevations from 2100-4380 m (Ecuador: 4170 m, Bolivia: 2100-4380 m).
Syntrichia princeps is characterized by the presence of a central strand, spathulate leaves to 4 mm, actue-rounded apices, recurved leaf margins from base to below midleaf, unistratose lamina, reddish, long excurrent costa papillose on dorsal surface (and usually serrate at apex), and spinose, long hair point (leaf lamina ca. 2.5-4 x longer than hair point), and presence of hydroids (viewed in cross-section). Tortula ruralis var. spiralis Herzog is a synonym.