We were astonished in the next two hours, despite the covering of snow, to see at least 23 different types of moss (I think I missed a few!) and five different liverworts. The full Corstorphine Hill list is far longer. We had no idea there were such riches to be found in a park in the middle of Edinburgh. Here's the full story...
MossesOur first two mosses were:
1. Bryum capillare (Capillary Thread-moss)
|Bryum capillare and Brachythecium rutulabulum|
We spent some time looking at these because they show the structure of moss very clearly. The green leafy part only has one set of chromosomes (haploid), and can reproduce by spreading sideways. However, the base of the stalks are diploid, and from these spring new haploid spores in capsules. The spores can blow thousands of miles in the wind, so the same species of moss are found all over the world.
3. Grimmia trichophylla (Hair-pointed Grimmia). These show one of the many adaptations mosses have developed to retain water: they have little white hairs that condense water from damp air.
The next few mosses were all 'dendroid', that is, tree-shaped: they look like miniature branches of conifer trees:
4. Hypnum cupressiforme (Cypress-leaved Plait-moss). "This is common as daisies", said David.
5. Eurhynchium hians (Swartz' Feather-moss)
6. Mnium Hornum (Swan's-neck Thyme Moss)
This fork-moss, however, was quite a different shape:
7. Dicranum scoparium (Broom fork-moss)
8. Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus (Springy turf-moss) "This is a nuisance because it takes over lawns", said David.
9. Dicranum Tauricum (Fragile fork-moss) is an example of one of the extraordinary and diverse ways mosses reproduce: the ends of the leaves snap off, blowing away and lodging somewhere. If you touch it, your fingers will be covered in green bits.
10. Dicranoweisia cirrata (Common pincushion) often grows on top of fence posts, and has little points on top of its capsules. I'm sure I've photographed that before, I thought. I'm pretty sure that's it on the Wild Reekie logo, on top of a fence post in Mortonhall.
11. Dicranella heteromalla (Silky Forklet-moss)
12. Polytrichum formosum (Black Haircap) was an amazing, glossy moss that looked like a miniature version of something you might find in the Botanics glasshouses, not up in the snow on Corstorphine Hill.
13. Pseudotaxiphyllum elegans (Elegant silk-moss) grows on the ground. A lot of the English names are usefully descriptive -- and usefully related to the Latin names.
14. Amblystegium serpens (Creeping Feather-moss)
What do mosses grow on? Many grow on both walls or trees, but some are more particular. They grow on the shady north of the tree, but often also on the west, catching the damp winds. Tree-bark, David told us, has a pH which varies from 7 (neutral) to 5 (slightly acidic), and the more acidic it is, the fewer mosses can tolerate it. Conifer trees tend to be acidic and moss-free (although they provide other useful roles in a forest like winter shelter), while elder is one of the most hospitable.
The next two mosses we saw were closely related and growing on the same tree:
15. Orthotrichum pulchellum (Elegant Bristle-moss)
16. Orthotrichum affine (Wood Bristle-moss)
None of the Wild Reekians had hand-lenses, although David and his two apprentice-naturalists all did, and they were keen to lend them to us, and this was where, after several failed attempts, we at last got the hang of them. It was like diving into a magical world, with all kinds of miniature features of the moss world suddenly visible even to those of us who thought our eyesight was good. We could clearly see the difference between these two mosses, which look like different types of miniature heather.
So from this point on we were both gripped with Bryophytic enthusiasm, and beginning to get a bit tired and cold... We rattled through a few more species, eagerly passing round the hand lenses...
17. Ulota bruchii (Bruch's Pincushion)
18. Ulota phyllantha (Frizzled pincushion)
19. Calliergon cuspidatum (Pointed Spear-moss) which looked similar to many of the dendroid mosses we saw earlier but its fronds were decidedly spear-shaped, with a long point on the end.
20. Didymodon insulanus (Cylindric Beard-moss)
21. Cryphaea heteromalla. This moss, sticking distinctively out from the tree trunk in a sprightly way, was, to me, the most exciting of all. David has been recording since 1970, and the list he gave me of 79 different mosses recorded on Corstorphine Hill was made in 2005. But this one was not on it: it is new since this list was made, and was able to re-colonise the hill thanks to air quality improving. All that hard work campaigning by charities like Friends of the Earth has meant this little soul has been able to move back into Edinburgh, and quite quickly. With even better air quality, more would join it.
22. Grimmia pulvinata (Grey-cushioned Grimmia). I'm sorry I didn't photograph this, as the grey haze of white hairs was very striking. Like the other Grimmia we saw at the start, it can create its own moisture which condenses on the cobwebby hairs.
23. Tortula muralis (Wall Screw-moss)
The last moss we saw was my first identification, because it was also the first moss we saw: Bryum Capillare, flowering like anything along a fallen branch. I've noticed these for the last few springs and I always think they're better than snowdrops...
|Pellia epiphylla (in bad light!)|
|Jew's ear fungus|
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