Saturday, 21 November 2015


It was good to finally meet Charles - and to catch up with Barry, Mark and other folk I've not seen for a while - at the SEWBReC forum in Cardiff today. The talk on Glamorgan bryophytes seemed to go down well. The most surprising thing was the number of people who chatted to me afterwards and admitted to having tried to get into bryos in the past, but had found them tricky and hadn't looked at them for years. Several people even had an archive of samples from the past which they'd got stuck with. There are certainly people out there who are enthusiastic about bryo recording, if only they can be helped over those initial hurdles which mostly stem from lack of familiarity with the common species.

Afterwards I called in briefly at Cyncoed, a small urban woodland which gives its name to this district of Cardiff, and in fading light found some Diplophyllum albicans on a soil bank. This abundant acidophile seems to be largely absent from the capital; indeed, this is the first Cardiff record in my copy of MapMate.

George fyi (Barry)


  1. Yes is was good to meet up with folks I've not seen in ages and well done for giving an excellent talk George. Perhaps it's time we held a field visit to help and encourage those interested in recording?
    The Diplophyllum is an interesting local record

  2. Thanks Barry - and I take your point about making the photos bigger on the slides!

    Thanks for the map too - so today's record in ST17Z is a little bit of an outlier.

  3. It was an excellent presentation George and people were obviously inspired to get into (or back into) bryophytes after listening to it. Job done!
    Dave Slade's request for a bryophyte species suitable for 'species of the month' was an interesting one. Perhaps we should all give this a bit of thought. It has to be common, easily found and something that someone without much experience could identify unequivocally. I thought your suggestion of Thuidium tamariscinum was a good one. Others possibilities are Frullania dilatata, Tortula muralis, Grimmia pulvinata, or Atrichum undulatum,

  4. All those are good suggestions. Most have at least one possible confusion species, but I can't think of anything that fruiting Grimmia pulvinata could be confused with, so perhaps we should go with that?

  5. It was great to see you all and meet Charles. I enjoyed your talk, George and speaking as one of the potential bryo recorders who find it difficult to become familiar enough with the common species to be able to spot the uncommon amongst them, I feel that to a certain extent, this is a field where a degree of mentoring may be required and unfortunately, in my case, a good memory for details. Personally, I used to have less difficulty with them when I dabbled ten years or so ago, than I do now. Last winter I spent hours peering down the microscope at specimens I'd collected, seemingly getting nowhere. In the few cases where I was able to confidently identify a specimen, I found that this is all I had done: identify a specimen. I couldn't then relate that to any living plant in the field. I can't really see a way of making the jump from specimen to live plant in the wild, which is a huge problem.
    Training workshops are part of the answer, but only a small one, as they mainly provide an introduction to the techniques used and a few field identification tips, which may or may not be remembered. I used to find Bryos relatively easy and quite entertaining, but now I find them beautiful to be sure, but also mostly difficult, time consuming and frustrating, and I am sure that is how many other potential recorders must feel too.

  6. A few minor thoughts: if you/we do decide to select a Bryo of the Month for SEWBReC we will need to make a note on records that they result from that process. This isn't because of ID worries (because we'd need to chose distinctive species) but because distribution maps would show those selected species as disproportionately widespread compared with other non-selected (but equally common) species. That's no problem, but would need to be explained in a county Flora.

    As for learning, I think a few outings where field ID characters are explained would do a great deal to help, but ultimately it does take a lot of one's free time to learn a big new group like the bryophytes. Once one gets to a certain level, Bryos offer a great group for study because so many species (common and rare) are IDable in the field, but getting to that level is difficult. Collecting "blind" by gathering a bag of moss is unlikely to produce anything other than common stuff - learning field ID really is essential for the budding bryologist. Having The Fieldguide available certainly should make learning easier for current beginners than it was "in my day" when I struggled through Watson and Smith. I recently sorted through specimens from my first few months, and found numerous misidentifications (eg Homalia as Plagiochila, Rhynchostegum confertum as many different species of Brachythecium, Rhynchostegiella tenella as Dicranella sp etc), but regular solo recording got me familiar with these species in the field, and days out with Roy Perry, Graham Motley and then the BBS boosted me up the levels.

    One option is to focus on an ecological group, eg Orthotrichum (download the British Wildlife article on Bristle Mosses from the BBS website) and other epiphytes; another is to focus on a "home patch" and learn the field appearance of the common species there.

    And finally, don't despair if you don't learn everything at the same time. I couldn't find any Orthotrichum apart from O affine for a couple of years, and didn't learn Didymodon/Barbula/Pseudocrossidium/Bryoerythrophyllum for 4+ years!

  7. Thanks for the comments Mark, and for the response Sam. It does feel to me like there are a lot of people out there who, like Mark, would like to do more bryo recording if only they could get started. Maybe taking the bull by the horns and setting up a Glamorgan Bryo Group is the best way forward? I guess even a few half day field visits in the autumn-spring period would be beneficial.

    Personally I found going on two multi-day courses at the beginning very helpful, particularly with techniques and getting to know a few of the commonest species, but it's really taken a couple of winters of field recording when time allows and slogging away with the microscope several evenings a week to get to a stage where I feel familiar with the commoner species and confident at identifying them. And this is just the species found locally - I'm not too bad with the Didymodon/Barbula/Pseudocrossidium/Bryoerythrophyllum types, but if you put me in a bog I wouldn't know where to start! This is just a function of where I live and because I do most of my recording close to home.

  8. I think getting to know your local patch well is a great way to proceed, so a field visit to a typical home patch might be less daunting and the best way to kick-start new recorders?
    I'm now in my 5th year of pretty regular recording and still find several common species (particularly pleurocarps) challenging, having constantly to take material back for checking. I can't imagine how slow my progress would have been without the field guide, which is so well thumbed now I'll probably need to buy a new copy soon!

  9. Thanks for the advice, all of you. Ultimately, is seems to boil down time spent working at it, but that is what I never seem to have much of, these days. I agree with Sam about narrowing the field of interest and focussing on a smaller group. In my case, I find Liverworts more interesting than Mosses, so perhaps that might be the way to go.

  10. Re the state of the Field Guide - mine completely fell apart in the spring. I've glued it back together and it is bearing up ok, but I tend not to take it out in the field now...

  11. Mine fell apart too.It seemed to be a problem with the binder's glue, so I bought some book binding PVA and stuck it all back together, having first removed as much of the original glue as possible.