Pacific Northwest Moss and Liverworts

Bryophytes have always fascinated me, and growing up in that part of the country Pacific Northwest Moss and Liverworts especially have captured my interest. I’m always a bit horrified when the springtime moss-killing-chemical ads come on the radio at the beginning of every year. This stuff looks better than grass to me!

pacific northwest liverworts step moss

After a recent hike in old growth forests, I felt the urge to find a place where I could collect some native mosses and see if any of them will adapt to the conditions of dart frog tanks. Many native Pacific Northwest mosses require a dormant period each year, so this experiment could be a complete failure. But if the experiment is successful, it could yeild some pretty cool plants for frog tanks.

This is Badge Moss, scientific name Plagiomnium insinge. It appears more “leafy” than the other Pacific Northwest moss I saw, almost like a tiny ground cover vine. It is considered a “true moss”, however, and will develop clusters of 3 to 6 sporophytes at the tips.

badge moss pacific northwestbadge moss step moss sphagnum peat

This is Step Moss, Hylocomium splendens, my favorite out of the bunch. This moss grows world-wide in cooler climates or higher elevations. The name “Step Moss” comes from its growth pattern, where each new year’s growth starts from the middle of the previous year’s frond, forming a new “step” each year. In different parts of the world, the speed of growth and age the plant reaches will vary, but the new step per year is typically true for this part of the world.

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It’s a bit blurry, but a new frond is starting to grow out of this one.

pacific northwest step moss

Comb Liverwort, scientific name Riccardia multifida, a small-ish liverwort. To the right is another liverwort, even smaller than the Comb Liverwort. I belive this is Yellow-Ladel Liverwort, or Scapania bolanderi.

pacific north west comb liverwortliverwort identification moss washington state

A close up of the Comb Liverwort, complete with hemlock needles and dog hair. Spring is in the air, after all, and by that I mean shedding dog hair!

liverwort up close macro identification

This appears to be Spread-Leaved Peat Moss or Shaggy Sphagnum, scientific name Sphagnum squarrosum. There are several Sphagnum species that look very similar, so I’m not 100% sure on this ID, but best matched the photos in the guide book and online.

Spread Leaved Peat Moss Shaggy  Sphagnum squarrosum

These plants were identified with the help of Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast and the internet.  Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast is a really great book, with entries for every plant I’ve tried to ID so far, including the Pacific Northwest moss and liverwort in this post. I highly recommend it to anyone in the Pacific Northwest. However, if you think I identified any of the plants incorrectly, please let me know!

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