Plants small, scattered or loosely caespitose, light green to yellow-green, brownish below, stem and leaves covered with glaucous bloom; saxicolous or corticolous. Stems 10-40 mm tall, frequently branched, especially above, larger plants ± dendroid, tomentum sparse on lower stem, red-brown; in section round, central strand large, inner cortical cells in 3-4 rows, large, thin-walled, outer cortical cells in 2-3 rows, incrassate, yellowish-brown, epidermal cells quickly eroded, stem weakly fluted. Leaves appressed to spreading, weakly contorted dry, spreading wet; ovate to lanceolate, 0.5-1.0 mm long; apex acute to acuminate; margins plane to reflexed, crenulate by projecting leaf cell papillae. Costa short-excurrent as brownish awn, ventral and dorsal superficial cells long-rectangular, prorate; in section bulging dorsally, guide cells 2, incrassate, ventral cells in single row, smaller than guide cells, dorsal substereid band 2-3 cells thick, dorsal surface cells similar to ventral cells. Laminal cells quadrate to hexagonal, rectangular or rhomboidal, mostly 1-2:1, thin-walled, papillose with one large, spinose papilla over lumen of either dorsal or ventral surface; basal cells not differentiated. Dioicous. Perigonia terminal, discoid; leaves with broadly obovate clasping base, abruptly constricted to a squarrose-reflexed acumen; costa percurrent to short-excurrent. Perichaetia terminal, quickly overgrown by subperichaetial innovations; leaves oblong to elliptical, constricted to a long, narrow acumen, 2.2-2.5 mm long; costa long-excurrent. Seta 5-7 mm long, reddish yellow; capsule inclined, asymmetrical, urn ovoid, 2 mm long, striate wet or dry, red-brown; exothecial cells rectangular to rhomboidal, thin-walled, 2-4 rows of transversely rectangular cells at mouth, reddish; stomata present at base of urn, phaneropore; peristome double, exostome teeth narrowly triangular, 0.35 mm high, weakly papillose, red-yellow, endostome irregularly cleft and perforated, segments as long as teeth, cilia absent, smooth, yellowish; operculum convex; calyptra not seen; spores rounded, 27-28 µm, papillose, brownish.
A widespread species in the Southern Hemisphere, P. scabrifolia is known from Central and South America, southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand, subantarctic Islands and Oceania. In southern Africa the species is found in the mountains of the western Cape and Drakensberg of Lesotho and Natal.