Monday, 28 January 2008


Last year I decided to bite the bullet and 'get into' mosses. Being in North-west Ireland, we have more rainfall than most areas and mosses are very numerous in every type of environment. The initial phases of moss study are very slow indeed, with a great deal of time being spent hunched over keys and microscopes. Slide preparation takes ages, too, with a low-powered (x 40) microscope being used to make the initial leaf prep, followed by much higher power (x 100 - x 400) for the leaf cell analysis. Having said that, once the initial identifications have been carried out, the mosses themselves are quite easy to identify in the field

Racomitrium lanuginosum grows on rocks and develops a rather grey look as the season progresses:

Pleurozium schreberi is a very attractive, low-growing moss in damp areas. The central stem is distinctly red:It took me quite a while to confirm the id for this one: Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus is said to prefer lime or neutral areas. In fact, I find it everywhere I look. I'm told that it can grow in 'sheltered areas on acid', but this shot is from one of the most exposed places I know. Having repeatedly keyed it out and then rejected the id based on the ecology described in the books, I had to get the id confirmed by a proper bryologist.

The very closely-related Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus is the one very often found in lawns.This is a top-down shot:

If mosses in general seem like a daunting subject, then don't go near Sphagnums. The references are in conflict, and they admit that classification is 'fluid and contradictory'.

Sphagnum squarrosum (I think):
And Sphagnum subnitens - one of the hummock formers:
The green bits growing through the above Sphagnum are new growth of Polytrichum formosum, a very photogenic species that will feature strongly as the season progresses. Eagle-eyes will spot the heather shoots to the top left.

Most of my identification work was carried out in February and March last year. It's a good time of the year for mosses, but some work has to continue later in the year when the fruiting capsules are required to separate some species.

The Philonotis fontana specimens are just pushing their heads above water. It will be a few weeks before they show properly.


Peter Archdale said...


I have been a browser of your old site for quite a while now, so thought I'd kust post a comment that then new blog format is excellent. Keep up the good work.

Dragonstar said...

I've just found your blog, so I hope you don't mind me dropping in.
I love your plant pictures, and I'm delighted you've posted about mosses - it's a subject on which I'm totally ignorant!
So thank you for an attractive and informative blog.

Stuart said...

Peter & Dragonstar, welcome.

I intend to use the blog as a stimulus for discussion and information exchange, so post away..:)



Henry Walloon said...


Wonderful photography. What camera equipment are you using?

Delighted to meet a fellow moss blogger.


Stuart said...

Henry, welcome...

I use a Canon EOS 350 with the Canon 60mm USM macro lens, which gives 90mm effective.
Are you a bryologist, or a moss hunter or photographer?


dawrosblogger said...

Are you taking part in the Lichen Ireland project, Stuart?

Henry Walloon said...


Thanks for the info. - I'm looking to make an investment in a decent camera.

In answer to your question: "moss hunter" comes closest. I'm an amateur naturalist with an interest in moss. My blog ( ) has the details.

Leif said...

The moss you call Pleurozium schreberi is in fact Hylocomium splendens.
The Sphagnum is definitely not squarrosum. Can't tell you what it is, though.