Field of Science

So You Want to Learn some Mosses

I have had a number of people ask me what field guides are available to learn the local mosses in their area. Ideally there would be a commercially available manual such as the Peterson Field Guide to the Ferns or the Fern Finder. Both of these are great guides to help you learn about the common species of ferns. However there is no such publication for the mosses, thus learning about mosses is a much more challenging task. There are some books out there but they do not ease you into the shallow end and teach you about mosses slowly. They pretty much toss you into the deep end of the pool and you will be in for a struggle. The main book that I am talking about, and I will name names, is How to Know the Mosses and Liverworts. It is sold as an introduction for the novice and it is okay. One of the problems with this book is that the dichotomous key is really long. A dichotomous key is a chain of choices that you make in order to identify something. (example: 1a. moss growing upright or 1b. moss growing flat against the substrate) They are commonly used to identify plants and animals. Another book that you might consider is Mosses of the Great Lakes Forest, but once again it is a bit of a challenge.

As a result of my pondering on this topic, I have emailed the publishers of both the Peterson Field Guides and the Finder Books to suggest that they come out with some books for mosses. I have yet to hear back from either of them, but perhaps if more people sent them emails to demonstrate that there is an audience for moss publications we could convince them to put one together.

If you have a spare moment consider sending a brief email extolling your love of mosses and the need for a comprehensive moss manual. Addresses are below the fold.

Houghton Mifflin Company - Peterson Field Guide Series -
or a form is online for general inquiries.

Nature Study Guild Publishers - Finder Books -

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