In the field, this new member of our moss flora has a strong resemblance to Dicranella varia and in many cases shares its habitat of basic, often calcareous, soil. Differences are subtle but typical D. howei can often be recognised by the rather stiff way it holds its leaves and their complete lack of sheen. Under the microscope, D. howei has a wide, poorly defined nerve, contrasting with the narrower, well-marked nerve of D. varia. Leaf sections are required to confirm the identification (see Tom Blockeel’s excellent article linked below for details). These are fiddly but can be achieved by slicing dry plants with a new, ultra-sharp razor blade.