Bryophyte literature

HomeResourcesBryophyte literature


There is a wealth of literature about bryophytes, as a search of the internet will soon show – and it’s impossible to include it all here. Listed below are some of the most popular and useful books, with brief descriptions to help you find the ones that might interest you.

There are also many scientific papers and monographs that you may find useful, some of which are free to download or published in Field Bryology or the Journal of Bryology and hence available to BBS members. These aren’t covered here, but see the Literature searches section below for help on locating what you are looking for.

Those who are interested in growing bryophytes – either for scientific research or for a garden – should check out Michael Fletcher’s Moss Grower’s Handbook, available to download below.

And Sean Edwards’ English Names for British Bryophytes is a fascinating book to browse through when you have a spare moment. Again this is available to download below.

Details of Local Floras, where available, are given on the relevant vice-county pages.

Details of books and papers dedicated to species groups are included in the Bryophyte identification page or on the relevant species pages.

Literature searches

The Tropicos database – available at – contains details of many thousand scientific publications – book and papers. It can be searched by author, date and several other criteria.

The Biodiversity Heritage Library, is a wonderful resource, especially (but not exclusively) for older publications.

In addition to this, Dr Phil Stanley maintains an index of all BBS publications which is updated regularly and is available to download in the Publications section of the website, here.

General identification


Creed, P., Haynes, T. 2013. A Guide to finding Mosses in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. ISBN: 9781874357568

This pocket guide describes over 200 species of mosses and liverworts that you are likely to find in Berks, Bucks and Oxon. Both groups are described using non-technical language throughout; this easy-to-use book is perfect for the beginner with high-quality colour photographs.

Although advertised as a guide for these 3 counties, many of the species illustrated will be common in most counties throughout the UK and would certainly be very relevant to beginners throughout the south and mid Britain.

Price, D., Bealey, C. 2022. A Field Guide to Bryophytes ISBN: 9781999873226

This field guide covers 133 species of moss and liverwort encountered in most UK habitats, using non-specialist terms to help identify them on over 100 full-colour pages. Twelve ‘flow-charts’ help identify species by the habitat they occur in. The book is bound with a coil spine and acetate covers. All proceeds from the sales go directly to the conservation program of The Species Recovery Trust.


Atherton, I., Bosanquet, S., Lawley, M. (eds.). 2010. Mosses and Liverworts of Britain and Ireland. A Field Guide. ISBN: 978-0-9561310-1-0.

This book is a comprehensive, user-friendly guide to identifying British and Irish bryophytes in the field, with:

  • hundreds of colour photographs and black and white drawings showing what species look like, both as whole plants and with distinguishing features magnified
  • notes on how to identify and to distinguish from similar species, with a field key and picture galleries directing you to the part of the guide featuring the plant you are trying to identify
  • distribution maps and habitat notes, which will help you to decide whether you have correctly identified a plant.

The Field Guide can be ordered directly from the BBS here.

Holyoak, D. 2021. European Bryaceae. ISBN: 9781913994006

This comprehensive guide is based on research carried out over 22 years in the field and in herbaria. It is the first detailed floristic work on the family to adopt the current taxonomy derived from DNA sequence data. Thus it provides a timely review of morphological characters of the species in relation to their phylogeny and species delimitation based on the latest molecular analyses.

Keys are presented to aid identification of all species of the region, so far as it is practicable from plants with and without mature capsules. These new bipartite and multiple-access keys have been revised repeatedly after testing by bryologists at identification workshops.  All species are illustrated, most of them with both original line drawings and field photos.  The text gives detailed new descriptions, along with critically revised accounts of the European and global ranges, ecology and taxonomic history. The comprehensive coverage combined with the revised taxonomic treatment, detailed keys, and reappraisals of identification characters and distributional records make it an essential reference for European Bryologists. It should also be useful elsewhere in temperate and arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere.

Paton, J.A. 1999. The Liverwort Flora of The British Isles. ISBN 0 946589 60 7.

This tour de force has brought Jean Paton international recognition. A substantial book, with very full descriptions and superb illustrations by the author.

Paton, J.A. 2022. A Supplement to The Liverwort Flora of The British Isles. ISBN  9781399908580.

Nearly 20 years after publication of The Liverwort Flora of the British Isles (1999), it was realised that there would never be a second edition of such a large and complex work. Thoughts of a supplement began to take shape, to match the accounts and illustrations in the Flora.

The main objective of this Supplement is to introduce species that have been found new and added to the British list since publication of the Flora and to update other species and text. The new taxa included are detailed in the same sequence and illustrated as in the Flora.

The Supplement is A4 in size, hardback, contains 62 pages with 16 black and white illustrations and is available from good booksellers.

Porley, R. 2008. Arable Bryophytes: A Field Guide to the Mosses, Liverworts, and Hornworts of Cultivated Land in Britain and Ireland. ISBN 9781903657218.

A useful little guide to most of the bryophytes you are likely to find on cultivated land, with a species summary table listing key characters, habitat preferences, occurrence and similar species for each. Each species then has a short description and there are some excellent photos of species in situ.

Smith, A.J.E. (2nd ed.). 2004. The Moss Flora of Britain and Ireland. ISBN 9780521546720.

The standard identification guide for mosses. Indispensable for the serious student. Requires at least a compound microscope to use the keys.

Howard Matcham has compiled a list of orthographic and typographic errors in the 2004 printing of the 2nd edition which can be viewed and/or downloaded here.

Download or view corrections as a PDF file
Smith, A.J.E. 1990. The Liverworts of Britain and Ireland. ISBN 0 521 23834 X.

The companion volume to the above and a good starting point for identifying liverworts using a microscope. The keys are much easier to use than those in Paton, with less specialised terminology.

Watson, E.V. (3rd ed.). 1981. British Mosses and Liverworts. ISBN 0 521 28536 4.

This classic volume was for many years the best introductory book on British bryophytes, and covers most of the commoner species. Whilst the nomenclature is rather out of date, it remains a valuable book for beginners with many acutely observed descriptions of both field and microscope characters.

Nice to haves

Damsholt, K. 2002. Illustrated Flora of Nordic Liverworts and Hornworts

In a similar way to Nyholm’s Nordic Moss flora (see below), this is the Nordic equivalent of Paton’s Liverwort Flora. Again it is written in English, with keys, species descriptions and illustrations and is useful to provide another description, or perhaps a different key to try if Paton’s doesn’t work for a particular specimen. Unfortunately though, it is out of print and almost impossible to find second hand. If you see a copy, snap it up quickly!

Flora Briofítica Ibérica. 2006-2018. Bryophytes of the Iberian Peninsula

Published between 2006 and 2018, this 6-volume set covers most moss species found in the UK. It is written in Spanish, but many non-Spanish speaking bryologists like it because of the superbly detailed illustrations. It is expensive, but some of the fascicles are available to download from their website.  You can also order directly from them, usually at a reduced price if you buy all 6 volumes.
Frey, W., Frahm, J-P., Lobin, W. (English edition, revised and edited by T.L. Blockeel). 2006. Liverworts, Mosses and Ferns of Europe. ISBN 9780946589708.

The structure of the book takes the form of an extended key to just under 2000 European species in which families and genera are keyed out mostly as single units. Illustrations include 138 detailed drawings and 28 SEM photographs.

Nationalnyckeln. 2005-2019. The Encyclopedia of the Swedish Flora and Fauna, Bladmossor

This 4-volume set of books was written between 2005 and 2019 as part of a government-instigated project in Sweden to produce a National Key to all Swedish flora and fauna. It covers many moss species found in the UK, and its main attraction for British bryologists is the beautiful photography. It is written in Swedish, although the first 3 volumes have keys and species summaries in English as well. It is possible to order directly from their website.
Nyholm, E. 1987-1998. Illustrated Flora of Nordic Mosses

This 4-volume set of books was written between 1987 and 1998 and again has significant overlap with the species found in the UK. The text is English, and includes keys, species descriptions and illustrations. It is the Nordic equivalent of Smith’s Moss Flora and is often useful to provide another view when Smith is unclear or missing some details. Unfortunately it is out of print now, but it may be possible to locate second hand copies.

Old but worth considering

Dixon, H.N. (3rd ed.). 1924. The Student’s Handbook of British Mosses.

You may be able to find a second hand copy, however Dixon’s book is out of copyright now and a (rather poor) copy can be downloaded from Better copies of the earlier editions are also available to download.

Access the download from
MacVicar, S.M. 1926. The Student’s Handbook of British Hepatics

MacVicar’s book is also out of copyright and available to download at

Access the download from


Lüth, M. 2020. Mosses of Europe: A Photographic Flora ISBN: 978 3 00 062952 5

Although not strictly speaking literature, one other book is highly recommended to any keen bryologist. For many years Michael Lüth has been photographing bryophytes throughout the world, and finally in 2020, he published his Mosses of Europe: A Photographic Flora. This 3-volume book has a page dedicated to each species, with a habitat photo, photo of a shoot, leaves and microscope photos of cells and other key features such as gemmae, peristome characters. Michael’s book is available to purchase from his website.

It is also possible to purchase earlier versions of some of the species pages on CD-ROM, and to view an online version of these with reduced quality photos on his website.

Browse Michael's website


Malcolm, B. & Malcolm, N. 2006 (2nd ed.). Mosses and Other Bryophytes An Illustrated Glossary. ISBN 9780958222471

An illustrated glossary of terms that are used to describe mosses, liverworts, and hornworts, packed with stunning photos. Expensive, but well worth the investment.

Chavoutier, L. 2017. Bryophytes sl. Mosses, liverworts and hornworts. Illustrated glossary

A useful illustrated glossary of bryological terms compiled by Leica Chavoutier, only published online and free to download from the Quebec Bryological Society website.

Download the glossary

Biology and Ecology

Glime, J. Bryophyte Ecology

Bryophyte Ecology is an ebook comprised (as of January 2021) of 5 volumes written by Janice Glime, Professor Emerita of Biological Sciences at Michigan Technological University. Chapter co-authors include Irene Bisang, S. Robbert Gradstein, J. Lissner, W. J. Boelema, and D. H. Wagner.

The book was started in 2006, and chapters or sections have been published as they have been written, and sometimes edited and added to. The ebook is available to download or read online and contains a wealth of useful information.

Browse the Bryophyte Ecology ebook
Porley, R. & Hodgetts, N. 2005. Mosses and Liverworts. ISBN 0 002 202123 h/b; 0 007 174004 p/b.

This indispensable book is a unique, fascinating and scholarly introduction to the biology and ecology of bryophytes, particularly from a UK perspective. It maintains the high quality of the New Naturalist series from Collins.

Growing moss

Fletcher, M. (2nd edition adapted in 2005 by Sean Edwards for the BBS). The Moss Grower’s Handbook

First published in 1991, this book is a distillation of Michael Fletcher’s unique experience in forming and maintaining a collection of living bryophytes, based around his greenhouse at Reading. As well as being a very practical book, there are also sections devoted to an introduction to the science of bryology, and some of Michael’s bryo-philosophical thoughts.

This August 2005 Acrobat version is based on the text of the last Microsoft Word version (‘2nd edition in prep.’, postscripted ‘spring 2003’) by Michael Fletcher. No substantial changes have been made to this text. It uses the illustrations (including a re-scanned cover) of the printed 1991 first edition, and adheres as closely as possible to that format and its characteristic individualities. The index has been regenerated, using taxa and selected other words largely following Fletcher, although some words have proved impracticable to index and others have been added. The list of contents has also been regenerated, and both are now hyperlinked. This version was edited, adapted and updated (taxonomic names and references) for the BBS website by Sean Edwards, with many thanks to Roy Perry for proof-reading and general suggestions.

Download Michael's book

English names

Edwards, S. (version 5.02, January 2021). English Names for British Bryophytes.

Sean Edwards first published English Names for British Bryophytes in 1997, and has released new editions periodically, keeping abreast of scientific nomenclature changes. The latest edition is available to download here by kind permission of the author. Whereas previous editions were available to purchase as printed volumes from the BBS librarian, this and subsequent editions will only be available in digital format.

Download Sean's book

Sean has also provided an Excel spreadsheet of names from the 5th edition. This simple spreadsheet contains 2 columns: Latin names and corresponding English names, and facilitates searching and filtering of names.

Download English Names as a spreadsheet