Monday, December 26, 2011


 Hmm...thought it was a little warmer out...went up Catamount again to try and get some pictures of some Dicranum species as well as other ground mosses. However it was a littler chillier than i thought and my battery in the camera said...meh...i'm too i collected a few common species and brought them home and warmed up my battery.
Thuidium icicles - brrr

  Often called ‘Broom’ mosses for the way their long leaves sweep to one side, like an old broom, the Dicranums are one of our largest families. They are found on a variety of substrates which makes identifying them somewhat easier. Several species also have unique reproductive strategies.

Size comparison of some common Dicranum species
Top Row: D. montanum, D. flagellare, D. fulvum
Bottom Row: D. scoparium, D. polysetum

Dicranum montanum - our smallest dicranum, unassuming,
yet gets around! on tree trunks, tree bases, logs and rocks.

Dicranum flagellare (note the stiff, upright brood branches)
loves rotten logs

Dicranum fulvum - blackish green, loves acid rocks

Dicranum scoparium - one of the most common, classic 'windswept' leaves

Dicranum polysetum - One of our largest dicranums, undulate leaves

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Acrocarp vs Pleurocarp

True Mosses are usually divided into two large groupings: Acrocarps and Pleurocarps:

ACROCARPS have capsules at the tips of their branches. they grow erect, simple or sparsely forked and often cluster in tufts or cushions. Acrocarps generally have a single costa, erect capsules and short leaf cells.

Polytrichum commune
Dicranum scoparium

Ulota crispa
PLEUROCARPS have capsules coming off a side branch.  They usually are freely branched and grow in interwoven mats. Pleurocarps generally have long cells, short and double costas, and curved capsules.

Callicladium haldanianum
Hypnum imponens

Abietinella abietina

Callicladium haldanianum

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ground Moss

So, as my next section in the book covers mosses on the ground, i went for a hike up to McLeod pond on Catamount looking at the mosses. One thing you'll notice if you go anywhere in the woods is that under the trees, there aren't many mosses on the ground due to the accumulation of leaf litter. the mosses like to be someplace where they won't get covered...logs, rocks, ledges, root tip-ups, banks, etc.  Up at the pond there's a lot of ledge and this has a nice little mossy group with a boreal flavor to it including lots of Pleurozium, Dicranum polysetum and the liverwort Ptilidium ciliare.

Many bryophytes like disturbed places in the trail edges. One of the most common mosses here is Diphyscium foliosum. If you're lucky you might also find Buxbaumia aphylla, also known as 'Bug-on-a-stick'.
Diphyscium foliosum - has little capsules that sit right on the ground surrounded by hairlike leaves.

Bug-on-a-stick - Buxbaumia aphylla

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Moss Structure and Terminology

Here are some words to know when talking about mosses:

                The sporophyte includes the capsule and seta, the gametophyte is the leafy plant.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Helpful Tips for Beginners

DO:  Go out for a walk and just start noticing the mosses. Look at the colors and textures and see if you can tell that some of them are different from others…look on rocks and trees and on the ground…you don’t have to go anywhere special, they grow everywhere.

DO:  Try to pick out a moss that looks really distinctive to you.... keep walking and see if you can pick it out again. I call this the ‘There it is again’ technique and this will be critical in making your first successful identifications.

DO:  Describe the moss out loud as you’re looking at it, starting with the capsule. Is it erect or curved? Does it have a teeth? Long seta or none? What shape are the leaves? Are they toothed? Does it have a costa? Any vegetative (gemmae) visible? The more you can describe it, the more you have to work with to try to identify it.

DON’T:  Collect the scrawniest, scrappiest moss you can find thinking it’s going to be something rare because usually it’s just a scrawny, scrappy piece of something common that just makes it hard, or usually, impossible to identify.

DON’T:  Automatically assume that the capsules you see go with the moss that you’re looking at! Mosses like to hang out together and grow all mixed up...that capsule might be coming from a moss growing underneath or mixed in the one that you are trying to identify.

DON’T: When collecting mosses to bring home to identify - don’t take the entire patch! Bryophytes take a long time to grow and you only need a tiny piece for identification. An inch square is more than ample for a specimen.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Not Mosses

More Log Mosses

Three drawings today to complete my Logs & Stumps section:

Brachythecium rutabulum - a large moss, non-plicate leaves, chubby capsule with a papillose seta.

the leaves are toothed almost all the way around, long flexuose median cells, small decurrencies

Oncophorus wahlenbergii - an uncommon species of logs in swampy places. It's leaves are crisped and curly when dry and have a sheathing base.. the most distinctive feature of this moss is the 'adams apple' at the base of the capsule.

And lastly, Plagiomnium ciliare: a common moss which grows not only on logs,
 but on the ground especially in wet areas. It has wide leaves with multi-cellular teeth all around the edges.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Moss Art

I'm always interested in moss art, because i see so little of it (other than line illustrations in keys)...
one of my all time favorite pieces is by Ernst Haeckel done in 1904 entitled Muscinae

i also really like Robert Muma's paintings of mosses:

Here's my latest moss art project, a moss mosaic:

and i thought taking photographs of mosses was difficult!!
 this is supposed to be a Diphyscium capsule on the left and a fruiting Fissidens on the right.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Plagiothecium latebricola

 Drawing this moss unusual moss of rotten logs and occasionally tree bases in swampy areas is one i'm always happy to find. It's a fairly small moss, but once you have a search image, you can often pick this out due to its small size, leaf shape and the tiny brood bodies clustered at the leaf tips.

Plagiothecium latebricola leaf showing brood bodies clustered at tip and leaf decurrencies at base.

How is a Leafy Liverwort different from a Moss

(This is a page from the book project i'm working on)

Microscopically, most liverworts also have things called 'oil bodies' in their cells and mosses do not;
and mixed with the spores are spiral shaped structures called elaters which help in dispersal. These are not found in moss capsules either.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What is a liverwort?

  Liverworts and hornworts are also small, green plants grouped together with Mosses as part of the Bryophyte group due to their similar life cycles. Liverworts have two different growth forms: thallose, which is basically a flat plate of green tissue without any leaves, and leafy. Hornworts are similar to the thallose form of liverwort, but instead of the normal liverwort type of sporophyte, they have a hornlike structure.

A Hornwort - Notothylus orbicuarlis - growing on the bare soil in my flower garden

A simple thallose liverwort - Pallavicinia lyellii

A complex thallose liverwort - Conocephalum conicum
 The most abundant type of liverwort are the 'leafy' liverworts:

Bazzania trilobata

Nowellia curvifolia  - lover of rotten logs

Calypogeja muellariana

Plagiomniums and new capsules

yesterday i was looking for Plagiomnium ciliare to draw and thought i might find some just around the house. All i could find was its relative Plagiomnium cuspidatum  or more commonly known as 'Woodsy Mnium'. The difference between the 2 species is not that striking...they both have wide leaves with teeth, P. ciliare however has long (often several cells long) teeth that go from the tip to the base, whereas P. cuspidatum has shorter teeth that end at the middle of the leaf.  What i noticed about the plant that i found, however was the very new capsules growing which will continue to grow throughout the winter and become fully mature the following spring. i'm interested in when the capsules mature for different species and do you find old capsules along with new ones? sometimes you do...ulota and orthotrichums have that. Some species mature their capsules later in the summer such as the brachytheciums, others in the spring....

Plagiomnium cuspidatum Dec 7, 2011 - note the very new capsule spear

capsules on march 24, almost mature

Plagiomnium cuspidatum leaf,
note that the teeth stop midway down

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Entodon cladorrhizans

As i'm working on the 'Log' section of my project...i am in the middle of illustrating. Just finished Entodon cladorrhizans...a verrrry flattened moss with a cylindrical erect capsule. I also find this moss on rocks. Under the microscope it has a bunch of very square cells at the base, with long skinny cells in the middle.