Neckera smithii

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Identification notes

A highly unusual and distinctive looking pleurocarp, until 2021 known as Leptodon smithii. Its flattened-looking, pinnately branched shoots grow away from the substrate (usually bark or masonry) and desiccate very rapidly, so you are only likely to find hydrated plants just after rain. But the dried shoots are easier to identify anyway as they curl up tightly like little fists. A mass of these on a shrub deep in a winter hedge is quite easy to spot because of their characteristic drab dark green to black dry colour.

N. smithii likes sheltered, places out of the wind, hence its favoured retreats deep in hedgerows and on trees growing at the foot of a slope or in a valley.

Few other large pleurocarps have leaves like this, with isodiametric mid-leaf cells and a rounded apex. Unmistakeable.

Read the Field Guide account

Distribution in Great Britain and Ireland

Its need for a relatively warm and mild climate mainly restricts it to the southernmost counties of England and in particular Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Hampshire where it is locally common. Ash Dieback is likely to affect some epiphytic populations of N. smithii, although it appears to be relatively indifferent to which species of tree and shrub it grows on.

View distribution from the BBS Atlas 2014