Sematophyllum substrumulosum

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Identification notes

This small pleurocarp requires deliberate searching.  You’re in a mature conifer plantation, with some old trees, fallen logs and stumps, in not too sheltered a position, maybe near the edge of the wood, so spores can easily blow in on the wind.  It’s time to get out the hand lens, get the knee pads on and scrutinize the sides of old logs and rotting stumps. What you are looking for is something that looks very like Hypnum resupinatum, and often grows with the liverwort Lophocolea heterophylla as an indicator of the correct degree of rottenness of the wood. Look carefully for horizontal capsules with a strikingly long beak.  They look a bit like those of Rhynchostegium confertum, but are only about half the size and on a very short seta (10-15mm, usually at the shorter end of this range).

H. resupinatum has vertical capsules with a shorter beak and a longer seta (10-25mm long).

Initially, take any such material home, although with the eye of faith and a really good lens, you might just be able to make out some suggestively large alar cells, not typical of Hypnum.  These will be clear under the microscope:

very different from the small clump of tiny quadrate alar cells of H. resupinatum.

Fortunately, this species fruits regularly, as spotting it when sterile is very tricky, even for the experienced, largely a matter of taking home likely material from stumps and logs.  Those who have their eye in for it can spot it by the very glossy yellowish flattened patches among greener species.  If you can find it, take a moment to take a deep cleansing breath and glow warmly within – you have reached the next Zen level of mossy expertise.

Read the Field Guide account

Distribution in Great Britain and Ireland

View distribution from the BBS Atlas 2014

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