Drepanocladus polygamus

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Identification notes

Drepanocladus species – known affectionately to some as ‘dreppy jobbies’ – have a well-earned reputation for being challenging to identify. Like other hook-mosses of places where water levels fluctuate frequently, they can be very morphologically variable. D. polygamus takes this one step further by having straight leaves and therefore not even resembling our other species of Drepanocladus.

However, once known it is not easily forgotten – its very shiny, golden green shoots are spiky-looking and its leaves spread widely, giving it a very characteristic look shared by little else except perhaps Campylium stellatum.

Unless you know this rather scarce species well, it’s always advisable to confirm it microscopically. Good characters to check for include: alar cells inflated, clearly differentiated from other leaf cells and extending across much of the leaf base in a large triangular group; a long, channelled leaf acumen (best seen in transverse section) and porose cell walls of basal cells. It has much longer mid-leaf cells than C. stellatum and also has a longer, though narrow, nerve.

Beware confusion with straight-leaved forms of the ubiquitous D. aduncus, which lacks the channelled acumen and porose basal cells.

Read the Field Guide account

Distribution in Great Britain and Ireland

When it occasionally behaves as a bit of a weedy opportunist and turns up on paths, colliery spoil and in landfill sites its identity can be even more of a mystery.

View distribution from the BBS Atlas 2014

Resources you may find useful

Hedenäs, L. 2003. The European species of the CalliergonScorpidiumDrepanocladus complex, including some related or similar species. Meylania 28: 1-116

This article from Meylania looks at European mosses of wetland habitats, and includes a key and detailed descriptions of many of these species which are difficult to identify in the field. It is available as a PDF download.

Access the download from the Meylania website

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