Where I live in Wales it is soon apparent that if you don’t know anything about mosses and the like you are going to miss out on a lot of the local flora. When I walked up on the mountain tops earlier in the winter it is apparent they make up a very large proportion of the ground cover. In fact there is so much moss the sheep seem to spend most of their time stood next to the road as this is one of the places where the grass grows well.
So in order to address my ignorance I purchased the British Bryological Society field guide to mosses and liverworts. The guide seeks to attract
‘.. many to bryology for the first time, and in doing so transform a backwater of natural history into an accessible and popular interest’(Atherton et al)piii
It provides a number of galleries of illustrations to compare with the found specimen and point to the photographs and descriptions that form the main part of the book. There is also a more detailed key. However the book recognises that the mosses cannot be identified to species level just with a hand lens and the guide alone
‘If you wish to identify every moss and liverwort you find, you will need to use a microscope in order to see such small features, and a Flora in order to identify these species.(Atherton et al) p3
So armed with the field guide the first likely plant I came across was this,
Of course it didn’t appear in the first gallery pages and although I had a hunch it was a liverwort there was little in the field guide to point me in the right direction. Luckily the British Bryological Society produces a number of resources on its website such as the usefully titled ‘What is a bryophyte’ and ‘Sorting the mosses from the liverworts’ by Sharon Pilkington.
Most of the time mosses look like mosses and liverworts look different enough to place them in the correct dichotomous key. (Field Bryology Number 103 Feb 2011 p50)
Which basically says they look different! This was more useful from Scottish Natural Heritage
Mosses have stems with leaves and, with the exception of the bog-mosses (Sphagnum), have a superficially uniform structure which masks a considerable complexity and variation.
There are two very different forms of liverwort. Like mosses, leafy liverworts have stems and leaves but the leaves are arranged differently on the stem, often with two leaves placed laterally and a row of smaller ‘underleaves’ below. There is a much greater variety of leaf shape and ornamentation than in mosses and a very different fruiting body.
The other group of liverworts lacks the differentiation into stems and leaves and consists of a strap of green tissue. These species are usually called ‘thalloid’ liverworts.
I don’t think I’ll even bother with hornworts at the moment!
So I think this is a thalloid liverwort with no distinct stem and as it wasn’t in the gallery I had to try the key. This was actually quite good and I think that is likely to be one of Preissia quadrata or Reboulia hemisphaerica , note the raised pores in the centre of polygonal markings on the thallus surface.
Any way it inspired me to make this small drawing, following the style of Graham Sutherland who used natural objects to create surreal forms.