Oxyrrhynchium schleicheri

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Identification notes

This beautiful pleurocarp will probably be initially overlooked as the commoner O. hians and can sometimes be confusing even to the experienced.  Look for it, for example, on sloping banks by the footpath through a wood on chalky soil.  It will catch your eye as a hians lookalike, but with denser branching and more crowded leaves.  This can make it look a bit like a mini Eurhynchium striatum when you pick it up.  Most critically, now look at the stem leaf shape through your hand lens.  O. hians has leaves which are almost always heart shaped like this:

while those of schleicheri are consistently more narrow and pointed:

If your eyes are good, you might also see that some leaves of schleicheri have the tip twisted through 180O.  For confirmation you might try lifting up plants of O. schleicheri and noting that some of the stems creep underground.  Identification can be tricky though, because O. hians sometimes has some leaves shaped like those of schleicheri (especially on the branches), although the vast majority will be the heart shaped ones.  O. hians can sometimes have quite dense branching and crowded leaves, noted in the var. rigidum (Boulay) Duell and as for the subterranean stems, when your specimen is covered in soil, were those stems underground or not?  Until you get the hang of it, the trick is to take home samples that fit the bill and check them out under the microscope to be sure.  You will see the twisted leaf tip and most importantly, the narrower mid-leaf cells – 3-5µm in schleicheri, 6-9µm in hians.  That clinches it.

Read the Field Guide account

Distribution in Great Britain and Ireland

View distribution from the BBS Atlas 2014

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