Hennediella macrophylla

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Identification notes

Hennediella macrophylla was described from England in 1988 as Tortula brevis, although it had been collected as the very similar H.stanfordensis (then Tortula stanfordensis) since the 1960s . The identity of the plant as H.macrophylla then became apparent. Since then it appears to have spread quite widely in suitable habitats across SE and Southern England, and there are also populations in Scotland. It is characteristic of trampled bare soil at the edge of paths, often close to watercourses and in urban areas. It seems to like pockets of soil between exposed tree roots which give some protection. The plants are winter ephemerals and H.macrophylla fruits in the spring.

The two challenges are spotting it in the first place and then telling it apart from H.stanfordensis.  It often forms bright green patches that at first glance might be passed over for Barbula unguiculata but vigilance in the appropriate habitat will often be rewarded. The leaves are spathulate being broadest about 2/3 way up and there is a short apiculus.  The leaf shape is similar to the common Tortula truncata which has a more translucent appearance. Under the hand lens, a border and a few small apical teeth can usually distinguished but can sometimes be difficult to see. Under the microscope it is usually clear that one is dealing with one of this pair of species. Both species have tubers and a partially bistratose border of elongated cells. The teeth around the leaf apex are often not as long or jagged as in H.stanfordensis.

H.macrophylla tends to have broader leaves, with a more acute apex and a stout excurrent nerve over 100µm. The cells near the leaf apex tend to be larger, over 20µm wide. The laminal cells are also wider but in practice it is the combination of leaf shape, apiculus length and location that assist an identification to be made.

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Distribution in Great Britain and Ireland

The two species have a rather disjunct distribution, with H.stanfordensis known from the catchments of the Wye and Severn, and H.macrophylla from elsewhere. Inevitably this will be a factor when trying to name a plant.

H.macroophylla seems to be spreading faster than H.stanfordensis. Both are likely introductions.

View distribution from the BBS Atlas 2014

Resources you may find useful

Blockeel, T.L. 1990. The genus Hennediella Par.: a note on the affinities of Tortula brevis Whitehouse & Newton and T. stanfordensis Steere. Journal of Bryology 16: 187-192  
Whitehouse, H.L.K. & Newton, M.E. 1988. Tortula brevis sp. nov. and T. stanfordensis Steere: morphology, cytology and geographical distribution. Journal of Bryology 15:1 83-99

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