Field of Science

How many Moss Species are there in Ohio?

After seeing the county by county breakdown for moss species on the Ohio Moss and Lichen Association website, I was thinking about the total number of moss species for the state. How many are there in the state of Ohio?

Fortunately post #19 of the Introduction to Moss Identification covers just this topic. There are a couple of different publications that have assessed the moss flora of Ohio that are mentioned in the post. They list 385 species and 15 varieties of mosses for Ohio. That is a decent number of mosses, considering that there are approximately 1,200 species in North America

You might be thinking, what is the difference between a species and a variety? Well a variety is one of the official categories below the level of species that is recognized by the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature. Yes there are a whole set of rules governing the official naming of plants. (Animals have their own separate set of rules.) However the definition of variety is a pretty vague and might vary depending on who you ask. It could be defined as a local or ecological race or a group or population that has a morphological distinguishing feature that stands out from the rest of the species. Basically it is a category that is up to the discretion of the researcher if they want to use it. Some researchers would just avoid using this category all together and would rather species be the smallest grouping that is used.

Personally I have both proposed that a previously recognized variety be elevated to the species level and that a previously recognized species be recognized only as a subspecies/variety. (For more details on this study check out the reference below.) I think that it depends upon the situation, but I am not opposed to categories below the level of species, as long as they do not get out of hand. Too many varieties per species can make the naming and keeping track of them pretty messy.

Budke, Jessica M., and Bernard Goffinet. 2006. Phylogenetic analysis of Timmiaceae (Bryophyta: Musci) based on nuclear and chloroplast sequence data. Systematic Botany 31(4): 633-641.

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