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Getting Started.....

Starting to get to know bryophytes can be a lonely business. Your friends and family may have problems understanding the attraction of these jewels of the plant kingdom. Fortunately, help is at hand from the British Bryological Society, which will welcome you as a member and support you along the way.

The Essentials

  • A Hand Lens is absolutely essential to look at bryophytes in the field. X10 is a useful magnification for scanning a specimen and X20 for looking at detail. X20 hand lenses are available from the BBS librarian.
  • A book. You will need a book to help you to identify what you find. There is a list of useful books that cover the bryophytes of Britain and Ireland on the books page. We recommend our own publication, Mosses and Liverworts of Britain and Ireland. A Field Guide. eds: I.Atherton, S.Bosanquet, M.Lawley. First edition 2010, British Bryological Society. ISBN: 978-0-9561310-1-0. Please click here for details about the book and how to order. You might also like to try our Mosses and Liverworts of Towns and Gardens leaflet.
  • A microscope. There are two types of microscope.
    • The high power compound microscope is the essential one which is used for looking at the details of structure. Many species cannot be identified without such a microscope. The magnification of this type is usually in the range of X40 to X400, and specimens are examined on a glass slide under a cover slip. You will also need some fine dissecting forceps to enable you to remove leaves from stems for examination. The BBS librarian can provide you with these.
    • The stereo microscope is desirable, but not essential. This uses lower magnifications, usually in the range of X20 to X40, and is used to examine whole specimens without preparation. The image seen is in 3D, so manipulation and dissection of plants becomes a great deal easier.


Compound microscope


Stereo microscope


  • BBS Membership entitles you to receive the Journal of Bryology and the Bulletin free of charge, permits you to attend meetings and workshops, and gives you many other benefits.


Now start bryologising

The page on where to find bryophytes is a good place to start. To begin with, the number of different species can appear bewildering, and there is no substitute for going out in the field with someone more experienced. There are a number of ways to meet up with fellow bryologists:

  1. Attend a BBS meeting. Details of forthcoming meetings are given on the meetings page.
  2. Attend a local group field meeting. Is there a local group in your area? Check on the Local Groups page.
  3. Attend a course. A number of courses are run, often by the Field Studies Council, which provide intensive tuition about bryophytes. This is an excellent way of learning quickly.


Finally, why not have a look at Derek Christie's Tortula muralis page to see how much there is to discover, even in a common walltop moss.

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