Trip Report: Mosses along the Woodpecker Trail

bryophytes-cartoonMosses are non-vascular plants. Mosses and Liverworts are Bryophytes. (Hornworts are no longer classified as Bryophytes.) Mosses have leafy green shoots that lack both a complex vascular system and roots. They are small and live where there is enough moisture: their rhizoids are simply holdfasts. A moss, if it reproduces sexually, produces spores in stalked capsules.

The BC Conservation Data Centre currently lists 810 moss species and varieties in British Columbia.   To see the Squamish area moss species that have been collected and deposited in the Herbaria of the Pacific North West,  search by location: search for the taxonomic group Bryophytes – Mosses and draw a polygon around the area on the map that you would like to search. On E-Florasee photographs and descriptions. See also Plants of Coastal British Columbia by Pojar & MacKinnon.

“Amateurs can make valuable contributions to an understanding of the flora by assembling well-documented and processed specimens for a particular region.”: from W. B. Schofield, Some Common Mosses of British Columbia, p.11. This is an excellent reference! Based at UBC, Schofield was very knowledgeable about the bryophytes of the Sea to Sky Corridor.

If you would like to figure out the name of a moss that interests you, it is usually necessary to collect a small specimen (with sporophytes if possible) and record some of the following while you are in the field right beside your moss. Moss species have habitat niches. This information provides clues for identification and the data would be entered as a label on the package enclosing your dried specimen.

  • Habitat – the substratum (eg on rock face, ground, rotten log, tree base, epiphytic on tree), exposure (eg shade, light shade, open), moisture (eg moist, wet, submerged), nature of surrounding vegetation (eg floodplain forest, coniferous forest)
  • Collector’s name
  • Locality collected (eg. Squamish, BC., floodplain forest adjacent to Crescent Slough) & if possible take UTM’s (GPS), or latitude/longtitude & elevation (Google Earth on your computer), or photograph your moss with your phone using the free iNaturalist app which automatically records location.
  • Date collected 

When the specimen is identified, you can record the scientific name on the label.

Even professional bryologists usually take time to carefully look at the details under magnification using a hand lens or a microscope.   For the most part, accurate identifications do take a great of attention to detail, patience, time and experience. Even the same species can look different depending on its stage of growth, if male or female, and on the conditions in which you find it.

Submitted by Judith Holm, following the November 27, 2016 Nature Outing

Plant List

Banner photo: UPDATE: The mystery moss has been identified as YELLOW CURL-MOSS (Homalothecium fulgescens), with the help of UBC Herbarium staff. The moss is shiny, golden-green, fuzzy, and coarse. It forms spreading mats on trunks and branches of alder, cottonwood, and maple.