Twenty members attended the annual taxonomic workshop held this year at the University of Reading on the weekend of 20-21 November for an introduction to the sexuality of bryophytes. We were extremely fortunate to have Prof. Jeff Duckett and Dr Royce Longton as our tutors.
Saturday was spent in the field and we met at Snelsmore Common, a local SSSI, on a cold and frosty morning (Michael Fletcher wore boots so it had to be well below freezing point!). Common bryophytes were collected from the heathland to study in the laboratory the following day. This site has a nice valley bog and male plants of Sphagnum capillifolium and S. palustre were seen. A Cephaloziella was collected for the more ambitious to play with. At midday the temperature began to rise (Michael removed his boots) and we headed back to the car-park where we were confronted by about two hundred leather-clad motor cyclists holding their own taxonomic weekend.
Royce had arranged for us to have lunch at a local pub where we were able to warm up, and in the afternoon we travelled to Redhill Wood (SSSI) to collect common woodland bryophytes.
Sunday we spent in the laboratory; Royce and Jeff began by explaining the differences between the various positions in which antheridia and archegonia are found, and then the previous day’s collections were examined. Royce went on to demonstrate the paroecious Pohlia nutans while Jeff convinced us that we had collected Cephaloziella hampeana (autoecious). The antheridia were dissected from the Sphagnum species and under the high power of the microscope the biflagellate antherozooids (sperms) were seen to be swimming in the water under the cover slip. We also looked at gemmae on the protonemata of Orthodontium lineare and on Dicranum tauricum. Some of us had brought our own collections. These were identified and it was noted whether they were dioecious or monoecious, etc.
This was a superbly informative weekend for professional and amateur alike and our thanks to Royce for organizing such a splendid workshop.