Brachythecium rutabulum

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Identification notes

It is helpful to understand some of the distinguishing characters of the common members of the genus Brachythecium to get to grips with this unremarkable but ubiquitous species. You can however take comfort from knowing that most bryologists will have collected this moss many times over before finally becoming comfortable with its identification in the field.

This, and other large common Brachythecium species, is usually a robust species. Its branching is irregular and variable, and this is often what leads to field misidentification. Its habitat preferences are not helpful either, as it grows in many different kinds of habitat. However, it is most at home in the lowlands and prefers quite enriched places, such as woodlands, lawns and hedge bases next to intensively managed arable fields. You are not likely to encounter it in upland areas much.

Brachythecium rutabulum and its near-relatives (B. rivulare and B. mildeanum) are yellow-green in colour and glossy. They have concave stem leaves that are broadly triangular-ovate, widest close to the base and tapering to a narrow, acuminate tip. In the field, typical forms of B. rutabulum can be recognized by its pale glossy shoot tips, which some say look a little like fairy lights. B. rutabulum frequently has capsules and these develop on a coarsely papillose seta, which looks dull and rough through a hand-lens. The capsule always has a conical lid, never beaked.

Read the Field Guide account

Distribution in Great Britain and Ireland

View distribution from the BBS Atlas 2014

Similar Species

Brachythecium rutabulum is very variable and can be mistaken for many other Brachythecium species as well as other pleurocarps, but here are the main contenders: