Field of Science

Moss Identification Success

Introducing Jaffueliobryum wrightii! Finally I finished up my moss identifications from my field trip to Missouri and Kansas back in March. This is why I don't do much collecting. My collections tend to sit around for quite a while before identifying them makes it to the top of my list of things to do. And unless I have time for identifying them the mosses are best left growing in the wild. 

So Jaffueliobryum wrightii is in the moss family Grimmiaceae. A telling feature is that the leaves have long, white awns at the tips. Thus, I jumped directly to the Grimmiaceae for my identifying. The genus Jaffueliobryum is usually found on calcareous rocks. This population was growing on sandstone. It doesn't really have a common name, but the genus was named for Félix Jafuell, a clergyman who collected plants in South America. There are only 3 species in North America. One only in Mexico and the other two are widely distributed across the western United States. So once I identified it to Jaffueliobryum there were only two species to choose from. The other species, Jaffueliobryum raui, has keeled leaves (the same idea as the keel on a boat, they look folded or have a ridge down the center), which can be easily seen after making a leaf cross-section. Since this sample did not have keeled leaves, it was Jaffueliobryum wrightii.

It was a really fun plant to identify and I'm glad I got the chance to spend some time with it under the microscope. Now off to the herbarium this sample goes.  
Identification and species information in this post is from the Bryophyte Flora of North America.  


  1. Hi Jessica,

    I'm trying to identify some mosses for a project I'm working on. Your blog came up first in a search for "mosses of connecticut." Do you think you can you point me in the direction of a good field guide for connecticut mosses? I tried using the one at, but I'm not an expert on mosses (or plants in general), so I'm looking for something a bit simpler. Appreciate any help you could give me!

    - Paul

    BTW, I noticed you're in the EEB department at UCONN. Do you know Kat Shaw?

  2. Hi Paul,
    There really aren't any field guides specific to Connecticut. A couple of books that will assist in identifying some of the common genera are

    - Davison, P. G. with M. J. Pistrang. 2008. A Trailside Guide to Mosses and Liverworts of the Cherokee National Forest. Published online <>

    - Munch, S. 2006. Outstanding mosses and liverworts of Pennsylvania and nearby states.

    Both of these books have a large number of photos and descriptions that help with identifying the mosses and liverworts to genus.

    However, if you are interested in a dichotomous key that will help you identify the plants to species you might try the Bryophyte Flora of North America online.

    BFNA =

    Also this book has a good key to many of the common North American Genera that are found in Connecticut. - Crum, Howard. 1983. Mosses of the Great Lakes Forest, 3rd edition. University of Michigan Herbarium: Ann Arbor, Michigan.

    I also use Crum and Anderson's Mosses of Eastern North America two volume set a lot.

    It just depends on what level of detail you are looking for. Hope that was helpful. And yes I know Kat Shaw. She is a PhD student in the department studying stickleback fish.

    Best - Jessica

  3. Thank you!

    Based on the Davison Trailside Guide, I think I've got our first sample narrowed down to an Atrichum species, perhaps A. undulatum. I never realized that there were so many kinds of moss!

    Kat and I TA'd BIO107 together when I was at UCONN. I used to know a bunch of other EEB folk, but I don't remember most of them anymore.

    Thanks again!
    - Paul


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