Finding out more about mosses and liverworts

Most people can recognise ‘moss’ when they see it, and a few can recognise a liverwort, but beyond this has usually been seen as the realm of the expert.  Mosses and liverworts are small and have the reputation of being difficult to identify, but while a few species will always need a microscope to confirm identification, many can be identified at a glance and most can be identified with the aid of a hand lens.  Unfortunately, the learning curve is steep at the beginning but, with a little persistence, the most common mosses and liverworts can be readily identified after just a few weeks.  The British Bryological Society, a largely amateur society, has an excellent website which can offer assistance and encouragement and this society holds field meetings in Scotland on a regular basis.  The website has lots of pictures and can provide links to many more.  The Botanial Society of Scotland has a section devoted to lower plants and the Scottish Field Studies Council runs at least two courses on mosses and liverworts each year at its Kindrogan Field Centre, Perthshire.

The following books are all useful at different levels.

Crawford, C.L. 2002.  Bryophytes of native woods.  A field guide to Common Mosses and Liverworts of Scotland and Ireland’s Native Woodlands.  SNH, Native Woodlands Discussion Group, Natural Resource Consultancy, and Eamonn Wall and Co.  (Suitable for beginners)

Daniels, R.E. and Eddy, A. 1985.  A Handbook of European Sphagna.  Institute of Terrestrial Ecology.  

Hill, M.O. Hodgetts, N.G. and Payne, A.G. 1992. Sphagnum:  A Field Guide.  Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

Paton, J.A. 1999.  The Liverwort Flora of the British Isles, Harley Books.  (The standard liverwort flora)

Perry R.A. 1992.  Mosses and Liverworts of Woodland:  a guide to some of the commonest species.  National Museums and Galleries of Wales.  (Suitable for beginners)

Smith, A.J.E. 2nd edition 2004.  The Moss Flora of Britain and Ireland.  Cambridge University Press.  (The standard moss flora)

Watson, E.V. 3rd edition 1981, reprinted in 1995.  British Mosses and Liverworts:  An Introductory Work.  Cambridge University Press.  (Suitable for beginners-intermediate)


Hodgetts, N.G. and Porley, R.D. (in press) Mosses and Liverworts.  New Naturalist Series, HarperCollins.

Hill, M.O., Preston, C.D. and Smith, A.J.E. 1991, 1992 and 1993.  Atlas of the Bryophytes of Britain and Ireland, Vol 1, Liverworts and Vols 2 and 3 Mosses. Harley Books.

Richardson, D.H.S. 1981.  The Biology of Mosses. Blackwell. (A general introduction to the biology of mosses)

Useful Addresses

British Bryological Society
91 Warbro Road

Botanical Society of Scotland
Royal Botanic Garden
20a Inverleith Row

Kindrogan Field Centre
PH10 7PG