Mosses new and rare for New York State
P. M. Eckel
Res Botanica, a Missouri Botanical Garden Web site  

Originally published in Rhodora 89: 375-379. 1987.








Weissia hedwigii, Pottia truncata var. major, and Pottia starkeana ssp. minutula are reported as new to the flora of New York State. Pottia starkeana ssp. minutula may be a weedy introduction from the Old World. The occurrence of Desmatodon porteri is confirmed for the State. 


Key Words: Musci, floristics, Weissia hedwigii, Pottia truncata var. major, Pottia starkeana ssp. minutula, Desmatodon porteri; New York


Although mosses have been collected by western New York State botanists throughout the past 125 years, much remains to be learned about the regional distribution of these plants. The following reports represent three additions to the State flora and confirmation of a literature citation. All specimens cited are deposited at BUF.


Weissia hedwigii Crum


A curious specimen of Weissia, found misfiled in BUF, proved to be a moss new to New York State (cf. Ketchledge, 1980). The material was in fruit and demonstrated the reduced capsule mouth of Weissia hedwigii Crum (= Weissia microstomum (Hedw.) C. Muell. of most reports). Crum and Andersen (1981) reported this species as rare in northeastern North America. The gametophyte is much like Weissia controversa and Astomum spp., but the sporophyte is exserted and lacks a peristome.


SPECIMEN EXAMINED. USA, New York, Niagara Co.: Wheatfield, I mile N ofNY 429 on US 62, grassy field, roadside, on clay with grasses. Zander 4819.


Desmatodon porteri James ex Aust.


Specimens of Desmatodon porteri James ex Aust. were also encountered at BUF both as part of collections of bryophytes made in western New York in the 1970's by Ann Glowny, a worker at the Buffalo Museum of Science with a special interest in bryology, and among the collections made in the Niagara River gorge in 1976 by the present curator of botany at BUF, R. H. Zander.


Ketchledge (1980) listed only a literature report for this species in New York State. Crum and Andersen (1981) reported that the "original collections [of this taxon] were made on rocks at College Hill, Easton, Pa. (Thomas C. Porter), and at Niagara Falls (George W. Clinton)," although whether in Canada or the United States was not specified for the latter. This moss is confined to eastern North America where it is infrequent (Crum and Andersen, 1981). I have found it to be locally abundant on limestone boulders in shaded, moist stations in limestone gorges and ravines of the Niagara region in Canada and the United States.


SPECIMENS EXAMINED.  USA, New York, Niagara Co.: City of Niagara Falls, gorge of the Niagara River, below the Devil's Hole, bottom of W-facing slope, rock, with Didymodon rigidulus. Zander 3509a. Erie Co.: Amherst, corner of Millersport and Eggert Rds, calcareous rock in copse. Zander s.n.; limestone of escarpment, Scotland Rd. by Akron Airport, Glowny 11042; limestone outcrop on Scotland Rd. near Akron Airport, Newstead, Glowny 1169; Newstead, Akron Falls of Murder Creek, on Onondaga Escarpment, calcareous boulder. Zander 4233. Genesee Co.: Darien, Colby Rd. and Rt. 20, Glowny 240.


Pottia truncata var. major (Web. & Mohr) BSG.


Pottia truncata var. major was also discovered in the Niagara Gorge. Although P. truncata var. turncata appears in the New York checklist (Ketchledge, 1980), var. major does not. There is considerable difference of opinion whether var. major is best recognized as a variety of P. truncata or as a species, (viz. P. intermedia (Turn.) Fuernr.). Recently Chamberlain (1978) discussed P. intermedia in Europe as a possible hybrid between P. truncata and P. lanceolata (Hedw.) C. Muell., since it frequently grew with one or both species. Pottia lanceolata, however, has not yet been found in North America. Crum and Anderson (1981) maintained the varietal status of this material, citing the intergradation evident in American populations. I recently found both varieties of P. truncata growing in proximity with one another on the Niagara gorge crest on the Canadian side; the typical variety was easily distinguished from var. major with the unaided eye. At this locality the typical variety was growing on thin, dense limy clay over exposed dolomite. This clay has resisted colonization by vascular plants for several years. Variety major, however, grew on loose soil with grasses. Visits to this station in subsequent years produced specimens of var. truncata only on the clay, and no mosses on the disturbed humic soils.


Chamberlain (1978) mentioned that Pottia truncata var. truncata has "Occasional gigas forms, about twice the size of typical plants with larger spores ... encountered either as solitary plants in a normal population or as a pure population." One possibility is that two taxa are involved: P. intermedia may be a European species, and American P. truncata var. major may be the gigas form of var. truncata noted by Chamberlain (1978).


SPECIMEN EXAMINED.  USA, New York, Niagara Co.: City of Niagara Falls, gorge of Niagara River, between steps at Whirlpool Park and the Whirlpool, halfway up dolomite talus slope, with Didymodon rigidulus var. rigidulus, Encalypta procera, Tortula mucronifolia, Echel 522386.


Pottia starkeana ssp. minutula (Schleich. ex Schwaegr.) Chamberl.


A patch of moss with a reddish cast growing on the margin of a lawn where thin soil lay upon the exposed dolomite bedrock at the crest of the Niagara River Gorge proved to be a population of Pottia starkeana ssp. minutula (Schleich. ex Schwaegr.) Chamberl., new to New York State (cf. Ketchledge, 1980).


Pottia starkeana ssp. minutula has been frequently discussed (as P. davalliana) by Canadian bryologists, since this moss is fairly common in Ontario (C. Williams, 1966; H. Williams, 1959, 1961; Ireland & Cain, 1975). Three stations in Michigan were noted by Crum and Anderson (1981). The present reports for western New York State seem in keeping with the association of this species with calcareous, disturbed soil derived from limestone or dolomitic bedrock at or close to the surface. This substrate is common to all stations cited in the literature.


A study of species of Pottia with erostrate opercula by Chamberlain (1969) led him to the conclusion that two North American species, Pottia davalliana (Sm. ex Drake) C. Jens. and P. texana Wareh. were P. starkeana ssp. minutula and ssp. cornea, respectively. Crum and Anderson (1981) considered these taxa (P. davalliana and P. texana) distinct, with stations of P. davalliana in Michigan and Ontario, and P. texana in western and southern regions.


There is a lack of consensus on the distribution of Pottia davalliana from P. texana. Floristic treatments, such as that of Mahler (1980) for Texas mosses, have treated P. texana as synonymous with P. davalliana probably following Williams (1961). Williams (1961) could find examples of Ontario collections with intermediate morphology. Crum (1969) indicated that P. texana was both morphologically and geographically distinct from P. davalliana. Stations reported as P. davalliana or P. texana have been given for California, Texas, and Baja California in Mexico (Williams, 1961). Two publications cite collections of P. davalliana from Nebraska (Koch, 1971; O'Keefe van der Linden and Farrar, 1983). All the collections made outside of Michigan and Ontario may instead be P. texana (note the citation from Nebraska "on soil of floodplain, sand-pit lakes" by Crum and Anderson, 1981). Zander (1986, in preparation) recognized only Pottia starkeana ssp. conica (= P. texana) as occurring in Mexico, further emphasizing the southern and western distribution of this taxon.


It is significant that Pottia starkeana ssp. minutula (= P. davalliana) occurs in Michigan, Ontario and New York on immature and disturbed soils associated with limestone pavements, an area north of the glacial boundaries. There is a possibility that P. starkeana ssp. minutula is not endemic to the North American moss flora, but is instead a weedy introduction from the Old World where the subspecies occurs throughout north and central Europe (Smith, 1978). The weedy character of this species (as P. davalliana) was hypothesized for Australia by Catcheside (1980).


SPECIMENS EXAMINED.  USA, New York, Niagara Co.: City of Niagara Falls, gorge of Niagara River, Devil's Hole, upper pavement in dolomite caprock overlooking the river, Eckel 631685; Genesee Co.: Alabama, bare soil in wasteland, N side of West Shore RR, E side of Morgan Rd., S of Rt. 63, west of Alabama-Oakfield town line, immature with calyptra, Glowny 932.




I thank Richard Zander for making specimens available for this report. Permission to collect in the Niagara River Gorge was kindly granted by the Niagara Parks Commission, Ontario, and the Niagara Frontier State Park Commission, a division of the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. This research was funded in part by a grant from the Niagara Frontier Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club.


CATCHESIDE, D. G.  1980.  Mosses of South Australia. State Information Centre, Adelaide, South Australia.

CHAMBERLAIN, D. F.  1969.  New combinations in Pottia starkeana. Notes Royal Bot. Card. Edinburgh 29: 403-404.

______.  1978.  Pottia. In: A. J. E. Smith, Ed., The Moss Flora of Britain and Ireland. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

CRUM, H. A.  1969.  Nomenclatural Notes on North American Mosses. Bryologist 72:240-246.

_____ AND L. E. ANDERSON.  1981. Mosses of Eastern North America. Columbia University Press, New York.

IRELAND, R. R. AND R. F. CAIN.  1975.  Checklist of the Mosses of Ontario. National Museums of Canada Publications in Botany No. 5. Ottawa.

KETCHLEDGE, E. H.  1980.  Revised Checklist of the Mosses of New York State. New York State Mus. Bull. 440. Albany.

KOCH, R.G.  1971.  Pottiaceae in Nebraska. Bryologist 74: 206-207.

MAHLER, W. F.  1980.  The Mosses of Texas. Computer-generated text from the Herbarium of the Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas.

O'KEEFE VAN DER LINDEN, J. AND D. R. FARRAR.  1983.  An ecological study of the bryophytes of a natural prairie in northwestern Iowa. Bryologist 86: 1-13.

SMITH, A. J. E.  1978.  The Moss Flora of Britain and Ireland. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

WILLIAMS, C.  1966.  Pottia intermedia new to North America. Bryologist 69: 235-236.

WILLIAMS, H.  1959.  Phascum floerkeanum in Ontario. Bryologist 62: 55-57.

______.  1961.  Pottia davalliana in Ontario and elsewhere in North America. Bryologist 64:47-50.

ZANDER, R. H.  1986.  Pottiaceae. In: Moss Flora of Mexico, A. Sharp, H. Crum & P. Eckel, Eds. In preparation.