I appreciate that mosses and liverworts probably don’t have the same appeal as birds or bees, so it wasn’t that surprising that we had a smaller group on our bryo walk. It was also on a Sunday morning, and the weather didn’t look that promising, but it did mean that we could have a focussed exploration of one of our local bits of ancient woodland.
Walking over to Alder Wood we paused to stop at the stream to look at a couple of thalloid liverworts on the brickwork: the very common Pellia epiphylla and the much larger Conocephalum conicum, though neither were that accessible (or, if we had got in the stream to look at them we probably couldn’t have got out again).
Once we reached the wood I circulated a small handout which detailed about twenty common woodland species, and meant that we could easily focus on various woodland habitats, from banks and trees (epiphytes) to path edges and wet places. The first oak we looked at was host to eight species, including the small liverworts Radula complanata and Metzgeria furcata, as well as Orthotrichum affine, with its capsules almost hidden by the leaves (in contrast to Ulota species, where they are borne above).
Moving along the track we also found a few species that weren’t on the handout, such as the fragrant liverwort Lophocolea bidentata, a frequent inhabitant of rotting tree stumps, and the tiny Cephalozia bicuspidata on the sandy banks.
The banks were also a good place to show other common woodland species, such as Mnium hornum and Polytrichastrum formosum. The latter could be contrasted with the related Atrichum undulatum on the woodland floor, and the somewhat bigger Plagiomnium undulatum which tended to be in some of the wetter spots.
In all, we notched up 21 species, which wasn’t bad for a small wood, and there were no doubt several smaller species we missed.