• Mossin’ Annie posted a reply to kenmoss on ?Ask Mossin Annie 10 months, 2 weeks ago

    ?Ask Mossin Annie

    Hey Ken, There are over 70 species in the Polytrichum genus. The most common in my region are P. commune, P. juniperinum, P. piliferum, and P. ohioense. I’ve learned to identify these few. As you continue to increase your knowledge of moss species, you might want to delve into resources that will help you distinguish important characteristics. While some botanical distinctions can be seen with the naked eye or through a hand-held close-up lens, you might want to learn to “key out” moss species with a microscope. It is fascinating to explore the minute details of moss species. Scientists rely upon the examination of botanical features under microscopic magnification to identify species. One of the primary print references for moss ID is Crum and Anderson’s 2-volume set, Mosses of Eastern North America. Other less comprehensive reference books are available for other regions/countries. I recommend an excellent online resource: Polytrichum in Flora of North America @ efloras.org. To complement these guides, you’ll need to obtain a key which is a critical aid in the process of making determinations leading to genus and species.

    I’ve tried to learn the most common moss species. I’m a mosser not a scientist. My inclination is to use observed nuances of shades of green (juniperinum has a blue tint), height and other specific features related to leaves and spore capsule shape and size. However, I concede the best way is to key out the species. Since I don’t enjoy peering through a microscope for hours, I engage the expertise of trained bryologists to help me identify species. Then, I work at learning them from the confirmed IDs. I can recognize some species — wet or dry– from visual clues. From a distance, I can ID some moss species by the shade of green or the color/height of the sporophytic structures. Also, I use touch for confirmation of species. It’s an ongoing learning process as I expand my own knowledge base.

    Once I found these Dicranum colonies but when I touched them, I realized from the difference in density and relative compactness of the colony that it was a mixed species colony with Dicranum growing on Leucobryum colonies. I was right… cool combination of texture and shades of green with these two living in harmony.

    Taking a closer look at moss species is interesting. If you start using a microscope, it’s possible that you might even see amazing microscopic creatures — tardigrades (common names: water bears or moss piglets).

    So, in conclusion, the best way to confirm ID is using a microscope. Yet, I use visual clues and tactile indicators, too.

    Good luck at learning the differences for yourself.
    –Mossin’ Annie