Winter Mosses (2009-2010)
Every winter, as the cold grip of dormancy overtakes our vascular flora, my attention is turned from phanerogams to cryptogams: bryophytes to be specific. While I am still a fogged in amateur, I am starting to hear voices in the mist. I’m seeing patterns and struggling less. Here is an example of how tricky moss identification can be. The two moss specimens below were collected from the margin of my driveway.
Accustomed to the macroscopic, my eyes failed to pick up on the subtly dramatic differences. What I assumed to be one “thing” was indeed two, each as evolutionarily relevant as a Blue Whale or a Dawn Redwood. Here is a closer look.
The specimen on the left is Weissia controversa. Barbula unguiculata is on the right (they are reversed in the first photo). Notice how much narrower the leaves of Weissia are compared to those of Barbula. The capsules of Weissia are also shorter. Having trouble seeing the leaf differences? Here they are after being wetted.
Both species are abundant throughout the Midwest and common in dry habitats on soil or occasionally rock.
Here are some photos of other mosses I encountered this winter that are common enough to keep an eye out for.