Field of Science

Identifying Japanese Mosses

I have been walking around Japan for the past three weeks looking at all the amazing plants and having no idea what they are called. Ok I am exaggerating a little, I do have some idea. I can identify most of the flowering plants to family. For the ferns and bryophytes I can get down to a genus. So I asked Dr. Hasebe if there are any Japanese field guides that are in English. I have learned some key Japanese phrases but am in no shape to read full sentences composed of Japanese characters. He pointed me toward the many books that line the walls in the tea/lunch room next to the labo (that is the shortened form of laboratory in Japanese, I think that name is really fun!). Two of them are small field guides in Japanese: a Field Guide for Bryophytes and a Yama-Kei Field Book entitled,しだ・こけ. Both of them are filled with great color pictures and the former has the species names written out in roman letters, which is quite helpful. There is also the Flora of Japan (1965) that covers the vascular plants of the country. This book is in english, but unfortunately there are no drawings and only a few black and white images. This book is quite large and definitely not for the field. I will probably start snagging pieces of plants while I am in the field and bringing them back to the labo to figure out what their names.

But the books that I am the most excited about are the
Illustrated Moss Flora of Japan. This is a five volume set that covers all of the ~900 mosses growing in Japan. It is written in English and has keys start at the genus level and end at the species with description of each taxon. There are line sketches for many of the species that show all of the little details that are needed to confirm an identification. This flora is published by the Hattori Botanical Laboratory and is available for purchase online.

Up to this point I have just been taking photos of the bryophytes without identifying them to species. For example I knew that this was a species of Leucobryum, but I had no idea whether they have the same species in Japan as those in the USA or if they have entirely different species. There are two species of Leucobryum in the US (L. glaucum and L. albidum). However in Japan they have six species, including one overlap with the US, L. glaucum. Unfortunately I just took a photo of this little patch and did not collect any, but now that I have the Japanese Moss Flora at my disposal I will be doing some collecting!

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