Bryophyte character lists
Bryophyte identification by character lists
The goal of these pages is to assist in the correct identification of mosses and liverworts.
The main issue I’ve encountered in trying to determine species, is that there does not appear to be an obvious hierarchical approach, founded on evolutionary affinity, to reaching a conclusion on the species at hand. While artificial keys are useful in bryophyte identification, unlike the situation with flowering plants and the families they belong to, a knowledge of a bryophyte’s position in the taxonomic hierarchy does not necessarily lead to refinement down to the correct species.
To date, I’ve generally attempted to learn the bryophyte species as atomic entities, observing a specimen and attempting to arrive directly at the correct species name. This appears to be the approach that experts like David Chamberlain and Liz Kungu adopt. But with my current level of familiarity with the British bryophyte flora, I often struggle to come up with likely candidate species, nor can I reliably eliminate unlikely species. This is what these character list pages are aimed at helping with.
About the author
In addition to graduating in Botany from the University of Glasgow, I've had a life-long fascination with the living world, and I've found myself particularly attracted to the less familiar groups, such as the mosses and liverworts. In the past few years I've endeavoured to improve my skills in identifying bryophye species, and I could hardly have been more fortunate than to meet local experts David Chamberlain, Liz Kungu, Gordon Rothero and David Long.
From 2010 to 2012, I accompanied one or more of these experts on field excursions in various parts of Scotland, part of the Britain and Ireland-wide survey being undertaken to provide recent inventories of species for the new Bryophyte Atlas. Similar expert-led surveys continue, and they are an excellent opportunity for me to improve my identification skills.
These Bryology pages are part of my effort to increase my familiarity with bryophytes, and I decided to share my knowledge here for others to learn from. Of course, this is always going to be a work in progress, and I'd be very happy to receive any feedback you may wish to offer.
Stephen Buchan, Edinburgh. March 2014.