Friday, 31 January 2014

The BBS Field Guide

I love the BBS Field Guide. Its keys are well thought out, if not entirely perfect. The species accounts are well put together and appear to contain all the information you would want for a thumbnail sketch of a species. I also love that it's online, although since using it online I have paid for an actual paper copy

However, sometimes the obvious inonsistencies drive me mental. Look at this one:

The text clearly indicates that for this species the leaf length is "2-2.5mm" long. On the other hand the image adjacent clearly shows the leaf as barely 1mm long. How am I supposed to know which is correct? Especally when I am trying to differentiate between two species where this would help enormously (B.gemmiferum and dochotomum). As it happens gemmiferum also has a divergence between text and image, though not as bad.

I had this with another species too, although I eventually had to pick which was correct based on the (potentially misidentified) plant I had in my hand. Who knows how many species this glaring error pertains to.

More Bryum dichotomum

A few pics trying to capture the feel of the bulbils. Should have taken the graticule off earlier, really. Might have another go.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Bicolored Bryum - B.dichotomum

Bryum Dichotomum, Bicolored Bryum

BBS Field Guide page

21/01/2014, Cullaloe LNR, Fife
Hopefully I'll get some pics of leaves and those cute little bulbils later

Aulacomnium palustre, Cullaloe LNR, 26.01.2014

Picked out from the marshy areas at Cullaloe, a tall skinny moss with longish pale green leaves and a whole lot of tomentum on the stem - hand lens not required!

Aulacomnium palustre, Bog Bead-moss

BBS Field Guide page

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Racomitrium aciculare and Didymodon tophaceous

Both blunt(ish)-tipped leaves with a very similar nerve. R.aciculare has a toothed blunt tip, where D.tophaceous has none. The Didymodon tapers more and is less rounded. The Racomitrium appears to have more of a revolute (involute?) leaf edge where the Didymodon has the appearance of only a narrow border.

I say all this because I have a plant in my field collection box marked as D.tophaceous, but it has rounded toothed tips. Every day's a school day, as they say.

Some borrowed images from Oregon State Uni:

Didymodon tophaceous

Racomitrium aciculare

My "Didymodon". The leaf below is really about 0.9mm - a very small example, so potentially confusing. Cell shape looks pretty Racomitrium to these newbie eyes too.

And a not-so-great shot of the plant as a whole

(Just noticed on Idaho website, comment on the Didymodon - <<I first found this species in Idaho in 1975, at which time I noted on the packet, "like Racomitrium aciculare except the margins are bistratose">> - so the similarity is noted there too)

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Most common mosses by Vice County

The following mosses are in every British (all 112) and Irish (all 40) vice county, including VC300, which I assume is offshore but I don't know what it is. It may refer to the Channel Islands, which I see referred to as VC113 somewhere else. These are taken from the Census spreadsheet of 2013.

My thinking is that as a beginner the first task should be to learn these, and I have come across most of them at least in a very short time - seems like a reasonable foundation for spotting the less common ones and being able to contrast and compare.

(note there are 361 species - moss only - in VC85 in the census)

Species # of vice counties
1 Amblystegium serpens var. serpens * 153
2 Atrichum undulatum var. undulatum 153
3 Aulacomnium palustre 153
4 Barbula convoluta 153
5 Barbula unguiculata * 153
6 Brachythecium rutabulum * 153
7 Bryoerythrophyllum recurvirostrum * 153
8 Bryum argenteum * 153
9 Bryum capillare * 153
10 Bryum dichotomum * 153
11 Bryum pseudotriquetrum * 153
12 Calliergonella cuspidata * 153
13 Campylopus introflexus * 153
14 Campylopus pyriformis 153
15 Ceratodon purpureus 153
16 Cratoneuron filicinum 153
17 Ctenidium molluscum var. molluscum 153
18 Dicranella heteromalla * 153
19 Dicranella varia 153
20 Dicranum scoparium * 153
21 Didymodon rigidulus * 153
22 Eurhynchium striatum * 153
23 Fissidens taxifolius var. taxifolius * 153
24 Fontinalis antipyretica var. antipyretica 153
25 Funaria hygrometrica 153
26 Grimmia pulvinata * 153
27 Homalothecium sericeum * 153
28 Hypnum cupressiforme var. cupressiforme * 153
29 Hypnum cupressiforme var. resupinatum 153
30 Hypnum jutlandicum * 153
31 Isothecium alopecuroides 153
32 Isothecium myosuroides var. myosuroides 153
33 Kindbergia praelonga * 153
34 Mnium hornum * 153
35 Neckera complanata * 153
36 Orthotrichum anomalum * 153
37 Orthotrichum diaphanum * 153
38 Plagiomnium undulatum * 153
39 Pleurozium schreberi 153
40 Polytrichastrum formosum * 153
41 Polytrichum commune var. commune * 153
42 Pseudoscleropodium purum * 153
43 Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus * 153
44 Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus * 153
45 Thamnobryum alopecurum * 153
46 Thuidium tamariscinum * 153
47 Tortula muralis * 153
48 Zygodon viridissimus var. viridissimus * 153


This collection is now fully submerged until further notice. Looked good before the deluge though

Orthotrichum porn, part I

pulchellum - beautiful

The scientific name dictionary

Scientific names are a horrible combination of mostly, but not exclusively, Greek words and bits of words which have been Latinised based on religion-influenced current practice of the 18th century and then pronounced in English - in the UK at least. We should maybe be thankful that at least it's not Swedish. The binomial/quadronomial system and the species concept also have hints of the quaint notion that all species arrived fully-formed and immutable from the hand of God and are static, but that's a whole other topic.

Still, it kind of works, especially in theory. In practice for one "common" name you might have an apparently endless succession of scientific names as taxonomy is shuffled around, so some of the alleged benefits are gobbled up over time. Still, it is how we do things. No two people pronounce everything the same but at least when you read it you should be able to make some kind of sense of it. This list will grow as I grapple with trying to make the obscure obvious, especially to myself. Sometimes understanding the scientific name is very helpful with identification.

Note - endings can be variable as they are in most languages, notably Greek and Latin. Declension of classic languages is beyond the scope of this dictionary :)

Science bit What it means Example
a- lacking Atrichum - lacking hairs (see trichum)
acro- high Acrocarps fruit from the top - mostly
bi- two Bidentata - two-toothed
brachy short Brachythecium - short capsuled
chaetal of or related to chatae (setae/hairs) perichaetal - around the seta
crassi- coarse, rough Crassipilum - rough haired
denta tooth Bidentata - two-toothed, plural dentata
diplo- in pairs Diplophyllum has pairs of leaves (see "phyllum")
erythro- red Bryoerthryophyllum genus - has red leaves
gymno- naked Gymnasium, Greek athletes competed naked
hetero- different Heterophyllum - the leaves ain't all the same
hygro- relating to moisture Hygroamblystegium
mnium moss It's Greek for moss. Simple!
muralis wall Tortula muralis
peri- around Peristome - around the mouth (see "stoma")
phyllum leaf Diplophyllum - double-leaved
pilum hair (Lat) Crassipilum - rough haired
plagio- oblique, leaning Plagiomnium
pleuro- side Pleurocarps reproduce from their sides, like Adam
rutabulum spatula ehhhhhh...
stoma mouth, opening Peristome - around the mouth (see "peri")
scopa broom Dicranum scoparium
stramineum straw-like Orthotrichum stramineum
ortho- straight Orthotrichums have stiff hair, or bristles
Poly- many Polytrichae have many hairs (see "trichum")
thecium capsule, container Brachythecium (see "brachy")
trichum hair (Grk) Polytrichae have many hairs (see "poly")

A collection of Bryo pics from Cullaloe LNR, fife

Conocephalum conicum, Great Scented Liverwort
BBS FG page


Diplophyllum albicans, White Earwort

BBS Field Guide page


Frullania tamarisci, Tamarisk Scalewort

BBS field guide page

Lophocolea bidentata, Biphid Crestwort

L. bidentata is delicate and translucent, pale green, with conspicuously bilobed leaves (about 2 mm long). Shoots are 2–4 mm wide, and may grow several centimetres long. Its leaf lobes are long and drawn out into a narrow point. The underleaves are also bilobed, with an additional lateral tooth on each side. It is strongly aromatic, and often fertile, with toothed perianths (BBS Field Guide).

underside close-up
overlapping leaves

Metzgeria furcata, Forked Veilwort


Pellia epiphylla, Overleaf Pellia

Male parts
Radula complanata

Scapania undulata, Water Earwort



Atrichum undulatum, Catherine's Moss

BBS Field Guide Page

Aulacomnium anrdrogynum

Brachythecium rutabulum, Rough-stalked Feather-moss

Bryum capillare, Capillary Thread-moss

BBS Field Guide page

Calliergonella cuspidata, Pointed Spear-moss

One of our commonest and most recognizable mosses. It is medium-sized and grows mixed with other bryophytes, or it forms green, yellow-green or occasionally orange-brown patches. Shoots are commonly 3–8 cm long, but sometimes more. The main stem is usually erect and has side branches that are more or less pinnately arranged, the whole shoot having a flattened appearance. The most distinctive field character is the shape of the shoot and branch tips: the leaves are closely rolled-up to form a smooth needle-like or spear-like point.


Campylopus introflexus, Heath Star-moss

and when dried
Cirriphyllum piliferum, Hair Pointed Feather-moss

BBS Field Guide page


 Climacium dendroides, Tree-moss

BBS FG page

29/30/2013, cpt-7a

Dicranum scoparium, Broom Fork-moss

BBS FG page

29/11/2013 - Mossy Barrens, Cpt-7a

Dicronella heteromalla, Silky Forklet-moss

Fissidens taxifolia, Great Pocket-moss

BBS Field Guide page


Grimmia Pulvinata, Grey Cushion Moss

G. pulvinata is a predominantly lowland species of usually base-rich rocks, including walls; rarely it grows on trees and shrubs. G. pulvinata tolerates moderate pollution, so is a characteristic urban and suburban species, growing on wall tops, mortar, tombstones, asbestos roofs and concrete, and is a typical member of the wall community alongside Tortula muralis, Schistidium crassipilum and Orthotrichum anomalum. The neat cushions on wall tops have earned it the alternative common name of ‘Hedgehog Moss (BBS Field Guide).


Hylocolium splendens, Glittering Wood-moss

BBS Field Guide page


Hypnum Cupressiforme, Cypress-leaved Plait-moss

BBS Field Guide page


Kindbergia praelonga, Common Feather-moss

BBS Field Guide page

Mnium hornum, Swan's Neck Thyme-moss

This dark, dull green moss is the commonest species of the genus and one of Britain’s commonest mosses. The upright stems are 2–4 cm tall. Leaves are typically about 4 mm long, but can be as long as 8 mm towards the tip of the shoot, and have a toothed border of long, narrow cells. The nerve usually ends a little below the tip of the leaf. The leaf base at most shortly runs down onto the stem. The lower part of the stem has small, narrowly triangular leaves (the two leaves on the right in the upper drawing). Capsules (5 mm long) are frequently produced, and the lid narrows abruptly into a very short point. The seta is 2.5–5 cm long (BBS FG).

15/11/2013, oak trunk and field layer
Orthotrichum anomolum, Anomalous Bristle-moss


Orthotrichum affine, Wood Bristle-moss

BBS field guide page

Orthotrichum pulchellum


Plagiomnium undulatum, Hart's-tongue Thyme-moss

BBS Field Guide page


Polytrichum commune, Common Haircap Moss
Well-grown, large, hummocks or turfs of this species are unmistakable. They consist of tough, wiry shoots up to 40 cm long (usually about 20 cm). When moist, the 8–12 mm long, narrowly spearhead-shaped leaves spread or strongly curve away from the stem, with a glossy sheathing base, giving a starry appearance viewed from above (BBS Field Guide).

26/10/2013, cpt-6

Pseudoscleropodium purum, Neat feather-moss
This is one of the easiest mosses to recognize in the field. It is a robust, green or yellow-green plant with more or less regularly pinnate shoots to 10 cm or more long, and relatively short branches (the shoots are therefore feather-like). The leaves are erect, loosely appressed and overlapping, only a little longer than wide, and deeply concave. This gives the typically 2 mm wide shoots a stout, fat appearance. The leaves are about 2 mm long, broadly rounded or broadly pointed, and their most distinctive feature is the presence of a small, recurved point at the tip. At the tip of the stem and new branches, the crowded points of the leaves protrude like a miniature crown (older branch tips may become more attenuated). The leaves have a single nerve. Branch leaves are similar to the stem leaves, but a little smaller. Capsules are rare (BBS Field Guide).

26/10/2013, cpt-7a

Racomitrium lanuginosum, Woolly Fringe-moss

BBS Field Guide page

Rhyzomium punctatum, Dotted Thyme-moss

BBS Field Guide page

11/12/2013 (see also Pellia epiphylla pic)

Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus, Springy Turf-moss
The shoots of this extremely common moss are a few to 10–15 cm long, and distinctive in the way the tapered part of the 2–2.5 mm long leaves bend back at a right angle to the base so that they spread out and away from the stem in all directions, giving shoots a star-like appearance. The broad leaf base completely sheathes the red stem so that it is only visible through the leaves. The leaf has lightly toothed margins and a short, double nerve. Capsules are generally uncommon, but frequent in some areas of south Wales, and may be overlooked elsewhere (BBS FG)


Sanionia uncinata, Sickle-leaved Hook-moss

Thuidium tamariscinum, Common Tamarisk-moss

BBS FG page


Tortula muralis, Wall Screw-moss

BBS field guide page

Trichostomum brachydontium, Variable Crisp-moss

This moss forms yellow-green to dark green patches or tufts 1–4 cm tall. Its tongue-shaped leaves are 2–4 mm long and typically have a blunt tip with a shortly excurrent nerve. However, T. brachydontium is very variable, and the leaves can sometimes be slender with a tapering tip. The leaves are held at an angle of up to 45° or are recurved away from the stem when moist, but crisped and incurved when dry. The leaf margins are normally plane, but may be narrowly recurved. The oval-oblong or narrowly elliptical capsules are rare in spring, and borne on a yellow seta (BBS Field Guide).