Bryophytes

County Bryophyte Recorder Tom Blockeel reports on the status of these plants and records from Woodside.

Bryophytes are small photosynthetic plants. In most species the vegetative plant has branched stems bearing unstalked leaves, but in others it consists of a plate of tissue known as a thallus. They do not have true roots but are anchored to the substrate by hair-like structures known as rhizoids. 'Bryophytes' is a general term for three distinct groups of plants:


• hornworts: (4 species in Britain), the plants consisting of a thallus
• liverworts: plants either forming a thallus or consisting of leafy shoots
• mosses: plants always consisting of leafy shoots.


These groups differ most obviously in the nature and structure of their spore capsules, when they are present. In practice and with a little experience the three groups can be readily distinguished by a combination of vegetative characters.
Bryophytes reproduce sexually, but do not have flowers. The male and female organs are normally inconspicuous. After fertilisation the female egg develops into a spore capsule, which is usually raised on a long stalk. The spores are very small and appear like dust when released from the capsule. They germinate to form a thin green felt known as protonema. Leafy shoots develop from the protonema, and the cycle begins again.


Many species produce spore capsules abundantly, but in others they are rare and in a few cases unknown. For some species an alternative means of reproduction is by vegetative propagation.


Bryophytes are commonly regarded as plants of damp and shaded places, but this is only partly true. Some species demand high humidity, but others grow in exposed places like sunny rocks and tree trunks and can withstand prolonged drought. They resume activity as soon as they are wetted.


Recording in Derbyshire

The first mention of a moss in Derbyshire is in John Ray's Synopsis Methodica Stirpium Britannicarum (1690), in which the common hair-cap moss Polytrichum commune is reported to grow especially in the hills of Derbyshire. However very few named species were recorded until the nineteenth century, when botanists from the Manchester area visited some adjacent parts of the county. Several resident botanists elsewhere in the county researched their local areas. All these records were brought together by William Linton in his Flora of Derbyshire1, and Linton himself recorded bryophytes widely for inclusion in his Flora, his most important discovery being the tiny western liverwort Lophocolea fragrans near Hathersage, where it still occurs. Inevitably coverage at that time was very patchy and large areas of the county were almost unknown.


Recording continued at low levels during the 20th century. Frank Crosland from Derby was one of the few bryologists who recorded between the two world wars, and the British Bryological Society met in Buxton in 1923. The Society visited the county again several times in the 1970s and 1980s. Scattered records were also made both by residents and visitors, but there was no systematic recording.
When I moved to the historic Derbyshire village of Dore (now part of Sheffield) in 1985 I began recording bryophytes widely in the Peak District. Gradually this evolved into a project to record the county systematically on a tetrad basis, with the help of a few other dedicated local bryologists. Numerous species have been added to the county list, and the northern half of the county now has good coverage, but there is still much to do in the south. The Derbyshire database currently consists of over 47,000 records. Of the 750 tetrads within the historic county boundary, about 50% have 50 or more recorded species, and 75% have 20 or more species.
As a midland county Derbyshire has a rich and diverse bryophyte flora. At the time of writing 518 species (not counting varieties) have been recorded in the county over the past 25 years, almost half of the entire British flora, and there are old, reasonably reliable records of a further 25 species. This is in a context where many British bryophytes are confined to the humid west, or to the mountains of Scotland, the Lake District and Wales.

Records from Woodside Nature Reserve
Former industrial sites can be surprisingly good habitats for bryophytes and a number of very interesting discoveries have been made in east and south Derbyshire in recent years. 7 liverworts and 61 mosses were recorded during the BioBlitz. Of special interest were the large conspicuous species Hylocomium splendens and Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus on an old concrete kerb edge under bushes (the Rhytidiadelphus also in secondary woodland). Both species occur frequently in natural habitats in the limestone dales, but in lowland Derbyshire are almost unknown except as colonists of old industrial sites. Even more remarkable was the discovery just outside the Woodside Reserve boundary of Loeskeobryum brevirostre, also in secondary woodland; this is a rare moss in lowland Britain and Derbyshire, with just three sites in the limestone dales, and a further site at Rowsley Sidings.


Species Recorded During the Woodside BioBlitz
Conocephalum conicum sens. str. Great Scented Liverwort
Frullania dilatata Dilated Scalewort
Lophocolea bidentata Bifid Crestwort
Lophocolea heterophylla Variable-leaved Crestwort
Metzgeria furcata Forked Veilwort
Metzgeria violacea Blueish Veilwort
Pellia endiviifolia Endive Pellia
Amblystegium serpens Creeping Feather-moss
Cratoneuron filicinum Fern-leaved Hook-moss
Hypnum cupressiforme var. cupressiforme
Leptodictyum riparium Kneiff's Feather-moss
Brachythecium rutabulum Rough-stalked Feather-moss
Eurhynchium striatum Common Striated Feather-moss
Homalothecium sericeum Silky Wall Feather-moss
Kindbergia praelonga Common Feather-moss
Oxyrrhynchium hians Swartz's Feather-moss
Oxyrrhynchium speciosum Showy Feather-moss
Pseudoscleropodium purum Neat Feather-moss
Rhynchostegium confertum Clustered Feather-moss
Bryum argenteum Silver-moss
Bryum capillare Capillary Thread-moss
Bryum dichotomum Bicoloured Bryum
Bryum mildeanum Milde's Thread-moss
Bryum pallescens Tall-clustered Thread-moss
Bryum pseudotriquetrum var. pseudotriquetrum Marsh Bryum
Bryum ruderale Pea Bryum
Calliergon cordifolium Heart-leaved Spear-moss
Cryphaea heteromalla Lateral Cryphaea
Dicranella staphylina Field Forklet-moss
Dicranella varia Variable Forklet-moss
Dicranum scoparium Broom Fork-moss
Ceratodon purpureus 
Fissidens bryoides var. bryoides Lesser Pocket-moss
Fissidens taxifolius Common Pocket-moss
Grimmia pulvinata Grey-cushioned Grimmia
Schistidium crassipilum Thickpoint Grimmia
Hylocomium splendens Glittering Wood-moss
Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus Springy Turf-moss
Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus Big Shaggy-moss
Calliergonella cuspidata Pointed Spear-moss
Hypnum cupressiforme Cypress-leaved Plait-moss
Isothecium alopecuroides Larger Mouse-tail Moss
Campylopus introflexus Heath Star Moss
Pohlia melanodon Pink-fruited Thread-moss
Mnium hornum Swan's-neck Thyme-moss
Orthotrichum affine Wood Bristle-moss
Orthotrichum diaphanum White-tipped Bristle-moss
Orthotrichum lyellii Lyell's Bristle-moss
Orthotrichum pulchellum Elegant Bristle-moss
Orthotrichum striatum Shaw's Bristle-moss
Ulota bruchii Bruch's Pincushion
Ulota crispa Crisped Pincushion
Ulota phyllantha Frizzled Pincushion
Plagiomnium undulatum Hart's-tongue Thyme-moss
Atrichum undulatum Common Smoothcap
Polytrichastrum formosum Bank Haircap
Barbula convoluta var. convoluta Lesser Bird's-claw Beard-moss
Barbula convoluta var. sardoa
Barbula unguiculata Bird's-claw Beard-moss
Bryoerythrophyllum recurvirostrum Red Beard-moss
Didymodon insulanus Cylindric Beard-moss
Didymodon rigidulus Rigid Beard-moss
Didymodon tophaceus Olive Beard-moss
Syntrichia montana Intermediate Screw-moss
Syntrichia ruralis var. ruralis Great Hairy Screw-moss
Tortula muralis var. muralis Wall Screw-moss
Dicranoweisia cirrata Common Pincushion
Thuidium tamariscinum Common