In January when I started my Wildlife through the year “project” I said I intended to make 2010 the year I learned how to identify mosses.
Well, I have tried, and now the year is turning to summer and the weather is too dry for mosses to luxuriate, I am taking stock.
I have been studying my new guidebook – Grasses, Ferns, Mosses & Lichens of Great Britain and Ireland by Roger Phillips – and I believe now I have identified four or five mosses, although I identified some wrongly in January and February and I still get confused when I see the same moss in different conditions.
The pictures have been taken with a compact Olympus C-765 camera, so they don’t have the professional quality of a genuine SLR macro lens, but at least they are all my own work…
Firstly here is a bit of information about mosses – or skip straight to the gallery below…
Mosses reproduce by spores. They have stems and leaves but no roots, only modified stems forming root-like structures called rhizoids. The leaves are arranged in spirals or sometimes flat rows.
Botanically they are in a group called Musci and together with the liverwort group (Hepaticae) make up an order called Bryophyta.
Mosses produce spores in capsules. In most of them the spores are released through an opening or a mouth when the lid of the capsule drops off. A few mosses (Andreaea) release them through four slits and in sphagnum mosses the spores are ejected forcibly through a small opening when ripe.
The spore develops into a new plant, which contains male and female parts which are usually hard to see but occasionally obvious (as in Polytrichum species). A bit like sperm and egg in humans, the male cells move through a water film on the plant’s surface to reach the female parts, which give out a chemical to guide them. When fertilized, the female receptacle develops a capsule which produces the spores.
Rough-stalked feather-moss (Brachythecium rutabulum)
I misidentified this in January, but now I have been following it for a few months I am pretty convinced that this is indeed Brachythecium rutabulum…
Wall screw-moss (Tortula muralis)
This is so very common on all the walls of the city. I have grown to recognise it by the slender capsule and pointed calyptra (lid – actually from the Greek “kalyptra” meaning “a veil”)…
Grey-cushioned grimmia (Grimmia pulvinata)
I looked out for this for weeks and saw only one or two small patches of it on walls in the city. But on the day I went out to photograph it, there had been rain and suddenly it looked like all the moss was Grimmia!
Of these pictures, one is definitely Grimmia but I think the other is either mixed in with Tortula muralis or it IS a strangely grey Tortula muralis?
Nodding thread-moss (Pohlia nutans)
Oh the joy of this huge clump of Pohlia nutans, which I pass every day. It sits atop a brick wall and the vivid red stalks and green capsules are particularly beautiful after rain…
Capillary thread-moss (Bryum capillare)
This is just a single piece I found loose on the garden – perhaps thrown from a roof by a rummaging bird.
Unidentified moss #1
I toyed with the idea of this being common hair moss (Polytrichum commune), but I doubt it. I will only know if it throws up distinctive male and female structures in summer.
This grows on a small palisade of dark logs built around a woodland border and is very bright green and small in size.
If any expert out there can put me right, please do go ahead!
Unidentified moss #2
I’ve toyed with the idea that this is silvery thread moss (Bryum argenteum). Any takers?