Field of Science

The Bug Mosses - Buxbaumia sp.

This was one of the interesting mosses that we saw on the Bioblitz a couple of weeks ago. It is a member of the genus Buxbaumia and is most likely Buxbaumia aphylla. There are 4 species in this genus that can be found in North America and this is the only species one of the four that has been found in Connecticut. If you are hiking just a little further north in Massachusetts you might run into both B. aphylla and B. minakatae. The way to tell these two apart are by the following sporophyte features, which are mature in the springtime.

Buxbaumia aphylla
- Capsule glossy/shiny
- Capsule with a ridge separating
the Upper side from the Lower

Buxbaumia minakatae
- Capsule dull

- No ridge. Upper and Lower sides gradually merge.

The shiny capsule can be better seen on the second photo. It looks pretty dull in the first, but I think that is just the lighting. Both of the photos show the lighter upper side of the capsule that is bordered by a ridge that separates it from the lower side.

The common name for mosses in the genus Buxbaumia is the bug moss. This name refers to the off-kilter (asymmetrical) sporophyte capsule that kind of resembles a bug.

Another fact of note about members of Buxbaumia is that they have a very reduced gametophyte. They never form a leafy plant. Instead they have persistent protonema, which consists of thin filaments that may remind you of algae, if only you could see them. These protonema do produce sex organs (antheridia and archegonia). Add a little water to the mix and a sporophyte is produced via sexual reproduction. Since there is no leafy gametophyte for Buxbaumia the sporophytes appear to be sticking out of the bare soil as you can see in the photo below. Most mosses have a persistent gametophyte that is large and the sporophyte stays attached to it through its life. Since it lacks this feature this makes Buxbaumia a bit of an odd-ball.

If you have ever seen insects displayed in a natural history collection or museum they are mounted on pins stuck through their body and then poked into the bottom of a lined box. That is what I think the Buxbaumia sporophytes resemble. Specifically, they remind me of stink bugs, which one of my former office-mates studied for his dissertation. Keep your eyes peeled for this cool moss the next time you are out walking. They are a nice little find.

Corticolous Mosses at Bioblitz 2009

The Bioblitz a couple of weeks ago went well. I think that we counted about 40 bryophyte species and 40 lichen species in the survey area. We were in both Keney Park in Hartford, CT and in a floodplain area of the Connecticut River. I got some good shots of some pretty cool corticolous mosses. A moss that is corticolous grows on tree bark. Many of them had sporophytes peeking out from amongst the green, as you can see from the photos below.

In the floodplain area that we visited there were tons, I mean tons, of mosquitoes and poison ivy. I have encountered worse mosquitoes before. When I went on a field course to the Bahamas as an undergraduate I was eaten alive by mosquitoes over the two week course. I counted and had hundreds of bites on one leg. However the poison ivy on this Bioblitz excursion was more than I have ever seen before. Knee and hip high patches galore. Vines climbing almost every tree. I often went to bush a branch out of my way only to realize that it was not coming from the tree but from the poison ivy attached to it.

Here is a photo of me hiding from the mosquitoes in my rain jacket. Can you spot all the poison ivy in the background?

The poison ivy is above my head and to the right.

Thanks to Dr. Emmanuël Sérusiaux for taking this photo.

British Bryological Society Publications

I recently became a member of the British Bryological Society. They publish the peer-reviewed scientific journal called the Journal of Bryology. They also have another publication called Field Bryology, which includes a variety of articles. There are articles about new species, moss poems, notes on conservation concerns, book reviews, and much more. You can download some of the articles from this publication at the BBS website.

I think that the Field Bryology's colorful photographs and accessible writing style makes this a great publication for interested amateur bryologists. Their website has a large number of other resources. I would highly recommend checking it out if you are in search of additional bryophyte information on the web. They also list the many field-trips that they have to look at bryophytes across the English countryside. The community appears to be really active and I think that it is great that they get out into the field so much.

Speaking of field trips, we will be out in the field this weekend for the Bioblitz 2009 in Hartford, Connecticut. For more information check out the link at the side bar or drop me an email ( if you are interesed in joining us. All are welcome.

Berry Go Round #17

The latest edition of the plant carnival Berry Go Round has been posted at Gravity's Rainbow. Enjoy the latest from the plant blogosphere!

For more about blog carnivals and my posts about the earlier editions of Berry Go Round, click here.