October 27, 2019

Polytrichous Challenge Accepted

Next month I'm going to be attempting to put together a field ID guide for all North American plants I think look similar to Polytrichum. So mostly Polytrichum, Polytrichastrum, and maybe Pogonatum but not Atrichum. Every year I have people trying goad me into this crazy thing called NaNoWriMo where you're supposed to write an entire novel in one month. Of course whenever I have tried it I give up as soon as it comes time to actualy start writing something. But perhaps I can have more luck if I stick to something I care about like moss.

Trying to identify these mosses on iNat has been really frustrating. All the ones that don't have infolded leaf margins blur together so the best I can do is family. But then occasionally someone comes along and plops down Polytrichastrum ohioense and it makes me super jealous. It doesn't help that I haven't been able to find any of these mosses near where I live to study. Seriously, my state has 0 observations in Polytrichaceae right now even though it's quite possibly the most photogenic family of mosses out there.

But when I went to the Pacific Northwest I found lots of them of course, and have started to get a better grasp of the family while working on identifying them. And what better way to really master the subject than writing about it?

Writing may not be the best word for what I will be doing. What I want to make is a graphical guide. Something along the lines of the stuff at the Northern Forest Atlas or this blog post. I'm picturing a big grid showing side-by-side photos and stylized illustrations of each facet of the plant's anatomy. Perhaps several different examples to showcase the full range of morphotypes, like what diatoms.org does. I don't like the approach of writing out a whole separate thing for each species. You spend at least half the words when you do that comparing the species to others like it anyway. And I really don't like dichotomous keys (does anyone?). And I really, really hate attempting to use specimen-based keys for IDing photos on iNat. This sort of table is exactly the sort of thing I wish I had for every species.

A month might not be realistic considering I have no graphic design skills to speak of and also have to learn how to tell the species apart myself first, but I should at least be able to make some crappy version of it.

Posted on October 27, 2019 10:51 by zookanthos zookanthos | 2 comments | Leave a comment

September 21, 2019

Rehydrating the Quest for Moss

When this year started, I bought a microscope. I thought if I could just pop the plants under a microscope, I'd finally be able to use those keys to ID every little clump of moss I came across. Was I ever wrong about that! Feeling a bit discouraged, I decided to try out my new toy on the water in a nearby pond. This new alien world of diatoms and ciliates was so exciting that I've almost entirely neglected my original mossy mission since that day. That is, until I went on a trip—nay, a pilgrimage—to one of the world's bryophyte biodiversity hotspots: The Olympic Peninsula. As it turns out, my water samples were mostly sparsely inhabited by microbes large enough to see under a microscope. But the ubiquitous mosses never failed me. There was even moss growing on the sidewalk—not just around the cracks between sidewalk blocks, but on the surface of the sidewalk itself.

Before this pilgrimage I had gotten burnt out with not just moss, but iNat itself. A neverending backlog of observations to be uploaded, old water samples sitting around waiting for me to microscopically examine, a million observations to ID, and just as many ID'd ones needing to be revisited. I'm just tossing all that old baggage away now, though it pains me. (But what if that one photo I took at a forgotten location happened to be something special!)

The things I like best are bryophytes and microbes, and that's what I need to stick with from now on. Other things are fun, but it takes too much time to deal with them. I am the kind of person who needs to spend a week camped out in one spot closely examining everything within walking distance instead of going off on some foolish quest to survey an entire peninsula in five days. There is still so much to learn just about moss. Even though I've looked at thousands of photos of moss on iNat, I still didn't recognize some of the common species I came across until I pulled up the photos I took of them on my monitor. There is something about the way typical iNat photos are taken that doesn't present the full story, so the hunt must continue.

Posted on September 21, 2019 08:55 by zookanthos zookanthos | 2 comments | Leave a comment

September 02, 2018

Help Identifying Local Range of Orthotrichum Moss in Salt Lake Valley

Hey fellow iNat addicts!

I am working on a project to understand the reasons for why mosses in the genus Orthotrichum seem to only grow in the northeast portion of the Salt Lake Valley, and could use your help. If anyone happens to notice this moss, particularly in the valley outside of the northeast corner or in the Oquirrhs, I would be thrilled if you uploaded it. It's the only moss I can recall finding above the bases of standing trees in the valley itself, so any moss on trees you find in the area is probably it. It's also really easy to identify to genus in our area, or at least I think so. :)

If you are interested in learning more about this, I posted my hypotheses on Reddit. I also created an iNat project where I will record some of my experiments.

@dprasad @tigerbb @rlawrenz @jay @bfox81 @bryanto @maticus

Posted on September 02, 2018 08:50 by zookanthos zookanthos | 1 comments | Leave a comment

August 10, 2018

List of moss species that have lots of observations incorrectly labeled

Syntrichia ruralis
I've seen other Pottiaceae species, Polytrichum, and Sphagnum labeled as this. I expect a lot of other Syntrichia species get labeled as this as well.
Entodon seductrix
Not sure why this species in particular seems to be a default option for pleurocarpous mosses, but it is.
Sphagnum squarrosum
I'm pretty sure any sphagnum ID'd to species has a decent chance of being wrong, but this is the only one that I notice it with because I can actually ID it myself. Because its one of the few easy to ID sphagnum species it's a frequent AI suggestion which is probably why it is overused.
Ceratodon purpureus
Lots of obs with blurry photos of mosses with lots of sporophytes and small gametophytes get labeled as this. It's hard to verify if they actually are this species or not, though, so I usually just leave them alone. Would only trust research grad obs with high quality photos.
Bryum argenteum
A lot of Bryums that don't look very white at all get assigned this, including a lot of my own obs that I should really get around to fixing.

Posted on August 10, 2018 14:30 by zookanthos zookanthos | 0 comments | Leave a comment

August 09, 2018

List of moss species I know I might get mixed up

Bryum Lanatum / Argenteum
Dendroalsia californica and Bestia longipipes
Atrichum and Plagiomnium undulatum
Polytrichaceae and certain Dicranaceae
Leucobryum and Aulocomnium
Probably only rarely get these mixed up
Pleurozium schreberi and Hylocomium splendens
Especially if plants are not shown in natural habitat. The stairstep shoots confirm it's Hylocomnium.
Grimmia and Pterygonum ovatum
Probably only if dry and without a closeup shot
Kindbergia oregana and Kindbergia praelonga
Apparently K. praelonga can sometimes be regularly pinnate like K. oregana
Polytrichum juniperinum and Polytrichum strictum
Didymodon and Ceratodon purperus
Sphagnum and Leucobryum
Leucobryum was dry and on its side.
Thuidium and Trichocolea

Posted on August 09, 2018 04:17 by zookanthos zookanthos | 0 comments | Leave a comment

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