Bryolog 21 (25 August 2020)


As a general policy, check the website for event updates before you walk out the door!

  • Chris Wagner’s bryophyte identification group has gone virtual! Originally scheduled to meet at Mount San Jacinto College, the group will now meet on Zoom, two Fridays per month at 6 p.m. Upcoming dates and topics are:

28 August 2020 – Let’s key a moss! (step by step keying)

11 September 2020 – Common and rare bryophytes of southern California

25 September 2020 – Introduction to liverworts and hornworts

9 October 2020 – Liverworts and hornworts: anatomy and terms

23 October 2020 – Common and rare liverworts and hornworts of southern California

For more information please contact Chris Wagner mossgeek[at]

  • SO BE FREE, our 25th annual foray and chapter meeting, will be held 26-29 March 2021 at the Saratoga Springs Retreat Center in Lake County, California. Read the enticing description and scout report, including a preliminary list of bryophyte species by David Toren and Ed Dearing HERE…

Early bird discount deadline is October 1. Register HERE…

Quarterly Report

  • Now is the time to explore California and conduct systematic field work, by Jim Shevock HERE…

  • Kirsten Fisher and Jenna Ekwealor made national news with their hypolithic moss studies. Read about their big splash in “Moss Rocks!” complete with links to the original study and media reports HERE…

  • Dr. Stephen Rae, newly appointed Chapter Rare Bryophyte Chair, Dr. Brent Mishler, current Chapter President, and Dr. Paul Wilson, former Chapter President, participated in the kick-off session for a newly created North American Conservation Group. The virtual meeting was called by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Bryophyte Specialist Group, and included several other bryologists from Canada and the U.S. interested in conservation. Dr. Scott Schuette, current President of the American Bryological and Lichenological Society (ABLS), was also present, representing that society. The Group will encourage identification of additional North American bryophytes worthy of conservation by gathering pertinent information and developing listing materials. The Bryophyte Chapter will work as the California regional representative in this international group. The group anticipates efforts to enhance recognition of bryophytes at the local, regional, federal and international levels. Chapter members and others interested in bryophytes are encouraged to contact Stephen (stephen.rae[at] and participate in this effort.

Timeless Bits

  • Marisela de Santa Anna shared an excerpt from her recent blog, “Moss Magic in the Plasma Forest.” She is located in Willits and will be co-leading a field trip with Kerry Heise in Mendocino County as part of our upcoming SO BE FREE 25th annual foray. Check out her luscious photos and excerpt HERE…
  • Peruse David Wagner’s beautiful suite of photos illustrating the distinctive characters of Andreaea heinemannii and A. rothiiboth found in California and SW Oregon. HERE…

SO BE FREE 25 Saratoga Springs: Description and Scout Report 

David Toren and Ed Dearing

SO BE FREE 25 will be held 26-29 March, 2021 at Saratoga Springs Retreat Center in western Lake County, about 105 miles north of San Francisco, co-sponsored by the Sanhedrin Chapter of the CNPS.

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Main Lodge, photo courtesy of Saratoga Springs Retreat Center

We’ll be located in the heart of the North Coast Range (NCoR) subregion of the California Floristic Province. All three districts of the NCoR are represented in this area: the redwoods and mixed evergreens of the Outer North Coast Range, the boreal forests and rocky crests of the High North Coast Range, and the savannas, chaparral, oak woodland, and coniferous forests of the Interior North Coast Range. Geologic substrates include deep marine sandstones west of Highway 101 and the vast and varied Franciscan melange to the east with its pockets of sedimentary, serpentine (high in endemic flowering species, low in bryophyte diversity), metavolcanic, and metasedimentary rock scattered throughout the region. The melange is partially overlain with the recent (and still active) Clear Lake Volcanics in the south. Yearly rainfall varies from over 80 inches on the outer ranges and some of the high interior ridges to about 20 inches in the southeast. With Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake within California (and possibly the oldest in North America), two major rivers (the Eel and the Russian), numerous smaller lakes, vernal pools, streams, and mineral springs, we can expect major diversity in aquatic species. With over 300 species of mosses and over 50 species of liverworts and hornworts documented (with more being added regularly), this area promises to make for an exciting 25th anniversary foray.

Lodging at Saratoga Springs consists of five main cabins with a mixture of bedrooms, all with bathrooms. There is also lodging in the Main Lodge with bathrooms, and eight single-room tent cabins with power but without private bathrooms. Although bunk beds are in some rooms, we believe we can avoid use of upper bunk beds, depending on enrollment. All bedding is provided by Saratoga Springs. Guests should not bring their own bedding. An exception may be for personal pillows. If you bring your own pillow, you will be issued a special encasement and pillowcase. Do bring your own bath and wash towels.

Alternative lodging can be found at motels in nearby Upper Lake, Nice, and Lakeport. Also, tent camping is permitted on the grounds.

The Saratoga Springs Retreat Center is situated in a narrow secluded valley at the confluence of three finger-like canyons which have running water in winter. The ridges surrounding the area rise over 400 feet in elevation. It lies at the interface of several of California’s plant communities and the dominant woody plants include several species of oak, chaparral shrubs and Douglas fir/madrone stands. Numerous mineral springs are located upslope from the compound, and the main spring has a sizable ‘Didymodontolith’ formation. Although the Ranch Fire of 2018 burned across the ridges of the property, the canyon bottoms were left largely intact. Maps will be available for the numerous hiking trails on the grounds, all of which will be available for botanizing, including the century-plus old stagecoach road to Witter Springs.

There are several other other localities for us to bryologize during our stay. Kerry Heise and Marisela de Santa Ana are planning to lead a group in Mendocino County near Ukiah and Willits. Mendocino Forest botanist Japhia Huhndorf will lead a group in the Lake Pillsbury area. David Toren and Ed Dearing will lead another group to the Lake County-owned Bridge Arbor area north of Rodman Slough (a birder’s paradise) and the Highland Springs Recreation Area, the site of another historic mineral spring resort which is now a large reservoir.

We made a scout visit and made the preliminary list below. More species will certainly be added at the time of the event.

Saratoga Springs Bryophytescompiled by David Toren and Ed Dearing, July 2020


Amphidium californicum

Antitrichia californica

Bartramia aprica

Claopodium whippleanum

Dendroalsia abietina

Didymodon brachyphyllus

Didymodon tophaceus

Didymodon vinealis

Fissidens crispus

Funaria hygrometrica

Grimmia laevigata

Grimmia lisae

Grimmia trichophylla

Homalothecium nuttallii

Homalothecium pinnatifidum

Isothecium stoloniferum

Nogopterium gracile

Philonotis capillaris

Polytrichum juniperinum

Pseudocrossidium obtusulum

Pulvigera lyellii

Scleropodium julaceum

Scleropodium obtusifolium

Scleropodium touretii

Syntrichia laevipila

Syntrichia princeps

Timmiella crassinervis


Frullania bolanderi

Porella sp.


Please join us at this event; the site is beautiful and the rustic accommodations are spectacular with plenty of room to spread out. 

For more information and photographs, visit the Saratoga Springs Retreat Center website.

To register for SO BE FREE 25, see:

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Heart Lodge, photo courtesy of Saratoga Springs Retreat Center


Now is a very good time for exploring and conducting some systematic field work in California (and elsewhere)

—Jim Shevock
California Academy of Sciences

Back in January I was already planning to conduct several international bryological expeditions for 2020, but all too soon everything came to screeching halt. With the ongoing pandemic I soon came to the realization that I would be home this summer and fall for the first time since 2002. For the past 18 years, summers meant being in mainland China, Taiwan, Philippines or even in tropical West Africa (São Tomé and Príncipe), climbing mountains, camping in bryophyte-draped cloud forests, making herbarium collections to enhance bryophyte diversity inventories, discovering taxa new to science and getting names for them officially published. So very harsh realizations soon set in that I would need to find some other challenging field work here in California during all of 2020 to replace these amazing international adventures. I quickly requested several National Forest special use permits for making botanical collections. But where should I go? Where could I do some more rugged exploring away from roads and make collections that would fill in some bryophyte distributions? 

While sheltering in place, I had time to study a lot of forest maps. Based on the herbarium records, where have bryologists infrequently ventured into mountainous California? Most collections residing in herbaria were obtained along roads. Where could I find places off the beaten path? It did not take long for me to focus on the northernmost reaches of the Trinity Alps Wilderness and the Russian Wilderness in the Klamath National Forest in Siskiyou County that can only be reached by foot or horseback though most areas can be done as extended day hikes. On the other hand, the Marble Mountain Wilderness (also within the Klamath NF) is so large and expansive that the only way to get deep into this wilderness area is via multi-day backpacking or pack train trips with horses and mules. At 70 years of age, carrying all of the camping and collecting gear on my back is basically over, so I primarily prefer to do car camping while conducting long day hikes into the wilderness. The only drawback is the long 7+ hour drive from the Bay Area to get there. 

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Fish Lake, Trinity Alps Wilderness. Large fen area surrounding the shallow lake where Bruchia bolanderi was discovered. Photo by Emily Magnaghi

The first field trip as part of my field adventures to ‘Re-discover California’ began in mid-June. Since then I have done five multi-day trips with more planned throughout the fall. A few trips have been solo events but others have been with Emily Magnaghi (CAS botany curatorial assistant) and Jason Brooks from Ashland, Oregon. I have set a goal to make at least 100 bryophyte collections during each trip. So far I have met this goal. Both the Trinity Alps and Russian Wilderness areas have proved to be bryological gold mines. Rugged and beautiful subalpine forest scenery with many alpine lakes have been visited. This appears to be the first time that any bryophyte collections have been obtained from many of these areas.

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South Fork Lake, Trinity Alps Wilderness. The fen across the lake is covered with Ptychostomum weigelii and Roellobryon roellii. Photo by Emily Magnaghi

One species I knew little about was Hymenoloma crispulum (=Dicranoweisia crispula). In Norris & Shevock (2004), Dan and I speculated that it would likely be discovered in the northern Sierra Nevada and it would therefore be an exceedingly rare moss in California. Part of the problem was our understanding at the time of Dicranoweisia contermina as presented in Norris & Shevock (2004) and the confusion separating this taxon from D. crispula. Turns out that Hymenoloma crispulum is fairly common in the Klamath Range in the Salmon and Scott Mountains but one needs to get into higher elevation coniferous forests of northernmost California with lots of exposed rock outcrops to find it. So now there are many collections of Hymenoloma crispulum from Siskiyou County.

Another moss, Cynodontium jenneri, Dan and I reported only a single California collection but that specimen later on turned out to be misidentified. Now we have an occurrence to document this moss for California from the Russian Wilderness.

While there are about 23 species of Sphagnum in California, reports of Sphagnum from Siskiyou County have been few and far between. Evidently, the ultramafic geology common in the Klamath Ranges lacks Sphagnum entirely. So far I have found one Sphagnum patch in the northernmost Trinity Alps and one occurrence in the Russian Wilderness, both on granite geology.

Mielichhoferia mielichhoferiana was known only from a single occurrence in California from the Marble Mountains Wilderness on metamorphic rocks. Now we have a second occurrence many miles to the south, also on metamorphic rock.

The Russian Wilderness is rather small, only 49 sq. km or about 12,000 acres across the crest of the Salmon Mountains. There are over 20 named lakes and most of them are in cirque-like basins. The Pacific Crest Trail bisects this wilderness for 18.5 miles and several trailheads offer day hike opportunities by which I can access large portions of this area. The Russian Wilderness is reported to contain nearly 100 miles of trails, although some of these trails are used infrequently, so it takes a bit of effort to follow them over rugged and rocky terrain. The Duck Lake area has 17 different conifer species within a square mile, and it is believed to have the greatest concentration of conifers in the world. And yes, the wildflowers on these treks have been spectacular too.

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Duck Lake, Russian Wilderness. Subalpine coniferous forests with granite geology. Photo by Dave Starman

So, how diverse is the bryoflora within the Russian Wilderness? It is hard to predict at this time, but with each hike I encounter mosses not documented previously. I think 125+ moss species and a dozen or so liverworts are possible for the Russian Wilderness. This seems amazing for an area that geologically is rather uniform of granitic rock and the elevation relief not more than 3,000 feet from the lowest boundary elevation to the top of Russian Peak (8,196 ft). Each stream examined so far has a different suite of rheophytes. Why is this? I have been fascinated with rheophytic bryophytes for some time now (Shevock et al. 2017) but many mysteries remain. Here in California, the greatest species diversity per unit area surveyed will occur within riparian corridors. Some species I expect to encounter have so far eluded discovery but as more areas are explored additional subalpine taxa are then collected as permanent records and accessioned into the CAS herbarium. The goal of this activity is to have a checklist manuscript for the Russian Wilderness drafted by late winter. So far I have been to 6 of the named lakes; I only have about 14 more to go. Some species lie just outside the wilderness boundary, while others appear to be restricted to lower elevations of the Salmon Mountains. Common species at lower elevations like Antitrichia californica and Dendroalsia abietina will not be encountered within the boundary of the Russian Wilderness that has a prolonged snowpack. Snow patches about the crest were still fairly common into mid-July on north and northeast slopes even in a drought year.

Obviously, there are numerous places in California that await a detailed bryophyte survey. To me, the greatest way to really learn a flora is to study a small geographical area and determine how the various bryophytes partition that habitat. It takes initially many herbarium collections to figure this out, but in short order one can begin to recognize species on sight while in the field. This clearly is the take home message I want to share with Bryolog readers. I have recently had the opportunity to examine the bryophyte collections that Jason Brooks has made over the past few months (now permanently housed at CAS) from the BLM administered Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. This Monument is primarily in southernmost Oregon but a small portion of the Monument is across the California border in Siskiyou County. Jason continues to add bryophyte taxa as first records for this Monument. One species, Orthotrichum euryphyllum, is ‘rare’ according to herbarium specimens, yet Jason has concluded based on his collections that the Monument is the center of the distribution for this Pacific slope endemic where it is relatively common along intermittent stream channels on volcanic rocks where plants are seasonally inundated to submerged. Great work Jason!

I encourage Bryolog readers to seriously consider taking on a special place and study it well with the acquisition of high quality voucher specimens and have them accessioned in public herbaria. I can guarantee that you will make new discoveries, you will fill-in the distribution range of many taxa, determine the preferred microhabitat for each species, and conclude which species are exceedingly rare for that area. These are the kinds of data we need. And if you need assistance with IDs, I can help as long as ‘gift for identification specimens’ arrive with good draft labels so your collections end up quickly as a permanent record, housed in a major herbarium with extensive bryophyte holdings. CAS is such a growing herbarium with nearly 900 new bryophyte specimens accessioned per month for the past decade. Now that is an accomplishment of an active herbarium! The CAS herbarium now has 143,000 accessioned bryophyte specimens from all over the world. It is definitely a research-grade collection. There also are a lot of specimens in the CAS backlog yet to process including the most recent acquisition of the Horton-Jamieson bryophyte herbarium estimated to contain over 40,000 specimens that arrived at CAS through their joint estate in October 2019. 

With this ongoing pandemic, the best mental health care package available and at a very minimal cost, is to get out in the woods and explore! If we had a handful of persons willing to initiate focused floristic inventories with voucher specimens in a relatively small geographical area then the bryoflora of California will be much better documented. And if we had another 3-4 bryofloras ready for publication then another special bryophyte issue in Madroño could be initiated.

Literature Cited

Norris, D.H. & Shevock, J.R. 2004. Contribution toward a Moss Flora of California: I. A specimen-based catalogue of mosses. Madroño 51(1):1-131.

Shevock, J.R., Ma, W.Z. & Akiyama, H. 2017. Diversity of the rheophytic condition in bryophytes: field observations from multiple continents. Bryophyte Diversity and Evolution 39(1):75-93 (open access).

Moss Rocks!

—Kirsten Fisher
California State University, Los Angeles

About six years ago, Jenna Ekwealor and I were in the Sheep Creek Wash a little below Wrightwood doing fieldwork for her master’s thesis project on Syntrichia caninervis. I wasn’t being very helpful, and had retreated to the ‘shade’ of a yucca, looking at pretty rocks while Jenna conducted her transects. I picked up a particularly lovely piece of quartz and was surprised to find moss growing happily in the depression below where I had removed it. It was Tortula inermis, which, until then, we’d never seen growing at the Sheep Creek site. Flipping over a few more quartz rocks in the vicinity revealed several more mosses hiding underneath (either T. inermis or S. caninervis), so Jenna and I got systematic about things and ran some additional transects to record the frequency of these species under quartz rocks (and regular rocks, as a control). 

Fast forward to the end of last summer: Jenna was finishing up a field experiment in the Mojave for her dissertation, and would be retrieving some environmental data loggers that she’d been using for a year. We thought, what if we re-deployed the temperature and humidity loggers under quartz rocks and on the soil surface adjacent to the quartz, to see how the two microenvironments compared? So, we did, and retrieved our data loggers the following February. Then the pandemic happened. With time on our hands and no lab access, we revisited our quartz moss data, and got our study published in PLOS ONE

The poetic cachet of moss growing under quartz crystals in the desert wasn’t lost on the media, and Jenna got a journalist for the UC Berkeley News interested in our story. He wrote a nice article, which got the attention of a journalist for the New York Times, who also wrote a lovely piece on the study. Jenna and I are delighted that Syntrichia and other desert mosses are getting the admiration they deserve – a jazz musician even dedicated a composition to quartz mosses, called “Hypolithic.” 

Excerpt from Moss Magic in the Plasma Forest

—Marisela de Santa Anna 

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Photo: Marisela de Santa Anna

As I walk through the woodland admiring the green carpets of mosses everywhere, I begin to see that the variety is astounding. On some of the older large valley oak trees there are three very distinct mosses growing. The first one is a common associate of oak trees that is called Tree or Feather moss, Dendroalsia abietina. This moss is a large feathery moss that covers the bark of trees like a gown, slowing rainwater as it streams down the trunks of the trees. This enables the water to gather nutrients as it passes through and eventually reaches the soil below. 

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Photo: Marisela de Santa Anna

Right next to this feather moss is another bright green moss with shiny undulate leaves that also grows on valley oaks and rock walls. The leaves are fun to look at with a hand lens because they reflect an iridescence like tiny rainbows. This moss is Neckera menziesii. See if you can find it next to the feather moss. These two mosses are called pleurocarpous mosses because they produce sporophytes from the side of the main stem. 

The third moss I want to point out is an acrocarpous moss because it produces sporophytes from the apex of the main stem. This moss is called Orthodicranum tauricum. This species has a feature that helps me identify it, and that is that the tips of the needle-like leaves break off easily, an asexual reproductive mechanism. The leaves can easily be observed with a hand-lens.

To read Marisela’s blog in its entirety and see her photos of Orthodicranum tauricum and other mosses, please go to

The distinctive characters of Andreaea heinemannii and A. rothii

David Wagner
Northwest Botanical Institute

Andreaea is characterized by spores showing precocious germination, meaning cells divide before the spore coat is ruptured. Because spores showing precocious germination are swollen, they should be discounted when measuring for keying purposes. Note in particular the scales in the spore pictures; these are normal spores before germination; use embedded scale for measuring.

The identity of these photographs is based on study of a large batch of specimens and has been confirmed in discussion with Barbara Murray, leading expert on the genus. These will be a useful companion to the eFlora of California Mosses.

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