Twentieth century floras often refer to B. velutinum as ‘common’ or ‘frequent’ in a range of habitats. It may well have been so in the past, but in many districts today it has declined significantly and is a scarce or even rare species. Many inexperienced bryologists unwittingly confuse it with the ubiquitous Rhynchostegium confertum, although in reality the two species are not that similar. To be safe, B. velutinum should only be recorded when it has sporophytes, for then it can readily be distinguished from R. confertum by two main characters. Like many Brachythecium/Brachytheciastrum/Sciuro-hypnum species, B. velutinum has a roughened (papillose) seta and its capsule lid lacks a beak. In contrast, R. confertum has a smooth seta and a lid with a long beak.
Often, B. velutinum has leaves that are curved to one side, something that becomes more pronounced when plants are dry (there are some good images showing this in the Gallery below). This can be a very useful field jizz character. Sciuro-hypnum populeum, a similar sized species, has narrower leaves which lie more or less straight, never curved to one side. Its costa extends right up to the leaf tip, another difference from B. velutinum where the costa rarely goes beyond mid-leaf.
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