100 Years of the British Bryological Society

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The following text was written by the President, Liz Kungu, for the BBS’ Centenary Year, and was featured on the website Home page for most of the year.

100 Years of the British Bryological Society

Please join us in celebrating the centenary of the British Bryological Society. The BBS was inaugurated on the 1st January 1923, as the successor to the Moss Exchange Club which was formed in 1896. As the name implies, this late Victorian group focused on accumulating specimens in private collections many of which now reside in institutional herbaria. The modern BBS has an entirely different focus on bryophyte conservation, recording plant distributions, supporting and disseminating scientific research, teaching the next generations of bryologists, and spreading the message of the environmental value and significance of the bryophytes to landowners, conservation bodies and the wider general public.

The BBS supports the publication of peer reviewed international scientific research in the Journal of Bryology, published from 1972, and preceded by the Transactions of the British Bryological Society (1947-1971). Members also receive two copies a year of Field Bryology, which was instigated in 2003 by Marcus Yeo to publish popular and accessible articles on bryophytes with an emphasis on subjects of interest to the field bryologist.

Over the century the BBS has produced a wide range of publications from the series of Census Catalogues, the most recent in 2021 incorporating the changes in the new 2020 British and Irish Checklist, to the Atlases of British and Irish Bryophytes (1991-4, 2014), a series of Special Volumes, and The Field Guide (2010). The Society has also supported a number of members in the publication of taxonomic books.

As well as the widespread recording by members that provided the data for the Atlases and Census Catalogues, several research projects proposed by members have been supported over the years, with members contributing the necessary field data and this research resulting in papers published in Field Bryology or the Journal. Recent examples include SBAL, the survey of bryophytes of arable land, (Ron Porley), garden bryophytes (Des Callaghan), and BRECOG, the Bryophyte Ecology Group survey (Jeff Bates). The Tropical Bryophyte Group was active for many years and arranged several field meetings and workshops in East Africa and Reunion.

The BBS arranges at least two field meetings a year, usually in Britain and Ireland, with occasional European meetings. These are very popular with members, and the spring meeting particularly is usually very well attended. We are always pleased to welcome new participants, including beginners, so do come along and join us. If you consider yourself a complete beginner why not see if there is a recording group near you that you can join for some local days out and the chance to learn field identification. The first local bryophyte meeting was of the Cambridge Group held on 5 February 1938. We now have 25 local groups with more planned, and you will find a friendly welcome and the opportunity to learn from other bryologists. There are regular courses and workshops, some suited for those just starting to learn and other specialising in the taxonomy of specific problematic genera or families.

Over the years the BBS has evolved as times and technology changes, but the heart of the Society remains with the science, beauty and wonder of mosses, liverworts and hornworts.

Liz Kungu, President, January 2023

Published: 3 December 2023