Photo: David Wagner

Rare Bryophyte Inventory

California Native Plant Society Rare Bryophyte Inventory.

Hand Lenses

A good hand lens is indispensable in the field. They can be bought in many places and 10X-15X is the power most people use. Certain people feel that the best hand lens available is the Iwamoto 20X, but make sure you are buying from a reliable source. It can usually be found at earth sciences supply sites. The field is unbelievably wide and sharp throughout, unlike the tiny 20X lenses of the past. They are pricey (over $100), but it is a lifetime investment and well worth the money.


Very soon in your bryological studies, you will discover that the finest tweezers you have ever seen are coarse compared to the plants that you are dissecting. The source listed below supplies very good tools properly sized for this job. I recommend the following sizes: ECO B5 SA, ECO B3 SA, ECO B5A SA, ECO B3C SA. These are very fine tweezers, but there are even finer ones. The danger is that when you drop them, or hit your microscope when trying to put them down, the tips bend! It is very difficult to straighten them again. The “B” Grade tweezers are fine enough, and also cheaper than the higher grades, so when you bend them, it is less of a financial disaster. Avoid the ‘C’ grade – the tips are inconsistent.


Microscopes mark the point in your studies where you get serious, because you can’t go very far without them. You either commit to the study and invest in a good pair of microscopes, or you move on to some other field. Yes, you need a pair of scopes: a dissecting scope, under which you examine the whole plant, and dissect it to prepare slides, and a compound microscope, needed to observe the cell structures of your plant. The dissecting scope is cheaper, and more versatile, so we recommend that you start with that. Those worth buying have either a zoom or variable powers that range from 7X to up to 80X, but you can easily get by with a maximum 40X. One of the great used microscope values on the market is the American Optics Cycloptic. They can usually be found on Ebay for about $200. The trick to getting the most out of a dissecting scope is to also buy a fiber optics light.

The compound microscope can be quite expensive, but you generally get what you pay for. Here are several ideas to keep in mind. First, you need to have a mechanical stage. This uses knobs to move the slide around the stage. You also need an internal light source (no lights and mirrors). You also need a substage condenser. This focuses the light below the slide so that your image can be as sharp as possible. You do not need an oil immersion lens. We recommend a reticle in one of the eyepieces that can be used for measuring cell sizes. etc. Figure on spending $800 to $1500 for a decent compound microscope.

To learn more about choosing microscopes you might look at Dave Walker’s Guide to Choosing and buying a microscope.

When you start shopping for microscopes, you need to find someone you can trust, hopefully nearby. Ebay is an attractive option, but unless the seller is local, you cannot test the instrument. If you have a good microscope repair service nearby, that can be a good source. In the Northern California area, we recommend: B & B Microscope Service, Dan Boyer, Campbell, CA (408) 378-2882.

Waterproof Paper

Rite in the rain paper—see the Collections page to learn about this great paper.

mosses on a stone wall

CC BY-NC Neil Uelman